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
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
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
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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