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Hip-hoppin' Kwame

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A funny thing happened at 7 a.m. Friday at St. Andrew’s Hall. People showed up. For a hip-hop conference announcement, of all things. Who in the entertainment world is awake at 7 a.m.? Apparently not Eminem, the summit’s star attraction. He’ll sleep through anything. In his absence, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick turned out to announce the event, dubbed, “The Remix: ReBuilding, ReFocusing, ReInvesting, ReSurgence.”

Multimillionaire hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons (Phat Farm, “Def Comedy Jam,” etc.) was on hand with summit co-sponsors WJLB-FM 97.9 and NAACP President Wendell Anthony to promote the event, scheduled for Saturday, April 26, at Cobo Hall. Eminem is slated to be a co-host. Press materials say the city expects 13,000 kids to show up; they say the summit will be the largest of its kind in the nation. Similar events have already been held in New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere. The event is part of the NAACP’s Freedom Weekend, a series of symposiums and workshops focused on rebuilding communities.

Simmons says the music is all about empowerment, while the summit hopes to teach kids how to harness that power. He and Kilpatrick downplayed the controversy sparked early in the week when Mildred Gaddis, a morning talk show host on gospel station WCHB-AM 1200, protested the announcement taking place at Murray-Wright High, as was planned. Eminem’s lyrics are too incendiary for high school, apparently. Parents and the righteous got whipped into a frenzy, effectively getting the 7 a.m. announcement moved.

Kilpatrick says Detroit’s “Bible Belt” is a powerful constituency, as is its hip-hop culture, and he thinks the summit may provide a bridge of understanding between the two. For his part, hip hop is a method to reach out to youth, he explained.

“There’s a generational divide in this city that generates a lot of ignorance,” says Kilpatrick.

A gaggle of Parisians were on hand to witness the event, lining up to snap photos of Kilpatrick and various local rappers on hand. The French smoked butts in the corner — a beautiful sight. The group had won a call-in contest on NRJ, a major French radio station, to travel to Detroit for five days “just for Eminem,” said Oliver Conti, 25. “And all the rappers in Detroit,” added Hassan Zarfaivi, 19. One of the women in the group was 48, another not far younger. “Everybody loves Eminem,” says Sophi Michel, the group’s leader. We didn’t tell her to go to Warren … we hope nobody else did either.

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