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New Orleans rapper gives a "State of the City" report
From Davey

New Orleans has long been a music capitol here in the US. It has been home to all sorts of jazz and blues greats ranging from the Meters to the Neville Brothers to Louis Armstrong to Wynton Marsalis to Fats Domino . Yes indeed New Orleans has always spoken to us through her music.

In recent years New Orleans has reached out to us through Hip Hop. there's been a long list of rap stars that have continued in the tradition of bringing attention to New Orleans' music heritage. Among the more notables are Juvenile , Lil Wayne , Master P , Silk the Shocker , Mystikal , Mia X the Cash Money Millionaires with Baby , BG , Manny Fresh Turk and many more.

Like most areas that have a roster of superstars there are those who are lesser known as far as the mainstream is concerned yet very popular amongst the common folk in the hood. In New Orleans that would include acts like Truth Universal , DJ Jimi, 54th Platoon and the man who lead the big march to kick off the historic International Tribunal for Hurricane Katrina and Rita- Sess4-5

Coming straight outta of the ravaged 9th Ward Sess 4-5 brings energy, a strong sense of conviction and determination to the table when he walks in the room. He's seen a lot and lost a lot over the past two years but like most people from New Orleans, he's focused on moving forward. We sat down with him the day during the second day of the Tribunal and he gave us some keen insight into the ins and outs of the Big Easy.

We kicked things off by talking about Sess' home base the 9th Ward. He talked about the type of communities that existed there before community. He said in spite of the poverty the NO's largest and most populated ward was thriving. There was a strong sense of family and culture. He noted how the upper 9th Ward was full of apartments and had two public housing units while the lower 9th ward contained thousand of home owners. Two years after Katrina houses remain in shambles for the world to see in a place that is pretty much a ghost town.

Sess explained that new Orleans folks have a spirit that helped them cope with the disaster they all face. Many of the people he knows have lost loved ones to the floods on top of losing all their possessions, however, for most people its about picking up the pieces and moving onward and upward. This is happening in the face of outrageous government neglect.

"There's no time to mourn", noted Sess when you have oppression all upon you". People in New Orleans are about the business of survival.

During our interview we talked about the role some of New Orleans rappers played in the ongoing repair efforts. Sess noted that we can't expect people like Master P or Baby to shoulder the entire load. Many of them have family and friends that they been helping out. However, Sess noted that he wished they used their celebrity more effectively. He looked at the efforts that David Banner put in the rebuilding of Mississippi and wished that some of the big names could've done newsworthy projects that would've better shined a light on those left out of the rebuilding efforts underway within New Orleans.

Our conversation expanded beyond rap stars as we discussed the types of contributions or lack of contributions put forth by those parent companies that distribute artists like Master P or Cash Money. It was noted that record labels have made billions of dollars off the music coming out of this region. The question that was raised was how much money did any of those major labels put towards recovery efforts? What sort of big events did these labels put together?

For example David Banner worked tirelessly and with little outside help to put on huge benefit concerts for Mississippi. Did we see anything similar being put forth by big time executives and label owners like Clive Davis , Jimmy Iovine , David Geffen , Lyor Cohen , Rolf Schmidt-Holtz , Doug Morris and others who may own huge catalogues of artists coming from New Orleans? How much money did these companies give? What have they done to help restore the region's musical heritage and was it comisserate to the type of profits they made over the years?

Our discussion than switched to the role of established Black leaders. Sess 4-5 eloquently addressed the question as to how such catastrophe could take place in a city that is pretty much Black run. N.O. has a Black mayor, Black police chief and other key individuals who run the infrastructure of the this city. How could the aftermath of Katrina happen on their watch?

Sess 4-5 noted that many of those in power see their position as stepping stones to bigger and better things. Getting down and dirty to help uplift the people could be a career killer for many of these Black elected officials who tend to cater to white and corporate power bases. Sess concluded that many of those in office were about the business of looking out and protecting their own interests versus the interests of those most in need. The real heroes of the day were young brothers who stuck behind risking life and limb.

Our conversation next focused on the relationship between the police and poor Black folks in New Orleans. Sess broke down the politics behind how the police department works. It has long been corrupt. He said they have quotas that need to be met in terms of arrests. Officers have an incentive to go out and put cuff people because if they meet a certain number they get bonuses. The end result is New Orleans having one of the highest incarceration rate in the world. In addition it has the highest percentage of people with misdemeanors getting locked up. He noted that any little thing including littering or expired tags can get you jail time in new Orleans.

Sess 4-5 went on to add that the city's economy is based upon tourism and incarceration. He then went into detail as to how one person getting arrested in a family can quickly drain resources while fattening the wallets of those who run the city. He talked about how residents have to pay for drug tests, court costs and every other service connected to their punishment.

Sess noted that up to 80% of Black males sooner or later will get arrested in New Orleans. The cops make it their business to enegage young brothers and make their presence felt. He himself has been arrested more than 30 times. You will get popped sooner or later for any little thing.

We then discussed the classism and ethnic heirarchy that exists in New Orleans and how even to this day in 2007, there is still a ruling class that rallies around skin color, with light skin Blacks or Creoles dominating the top echelons of political and business arenas. Its almost like New Orleans has a caste system that dates back to slavery.

Sess broke down how Katrina and the large scale displacement has impacted electoral politics. With so many Blacks removed from the city, the GOP for starters now have a fighting chance and a much stronger influence in city politics. Sess 4-5 also gave a run down of the Presidential race. he notes that none of those running have really made their presence felt and even if they did at the end of the day Black people would lose because all of them including Hillary and Barack are carrying out agendas for a power base that doesn't have the best interest of poor Blacks.

We concluded our discussion by focusing on Black-Latino relations which have intesified during the reconstruction efforts. Sess noted that many of the immigrants arriving from Mexico are getting played by white developers who are paying them below market low wages in an attempt to lock out Black folks who have long been unionized and staples in the construction industry. On top of that these immigrants are getting abused. He also noted that many Latinos are now subject to being new targets for an aggressive police force that works on quotas. He said it would be best if Black and Brown came together and fought for a living wage.

Sess-4-5 is currently finishing up his new album called 'The Louisiana Purchase'. He has his own record label called 'Nuthin But Fire' and he owns a record store. His video Blackman has caused a buzz.




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