Hip Hop with Heart
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Hip Hop with Heart

Jaxx Nightclub features Hurricane Katrina benefit concert on Friday.

Ryan Lynch knows he's lucky. The Springfield-based concert promoter and booking agent lost one of his venues in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. One of his business acquaintances, P.J. Horrigan, lost everything.

"He lost his venue, his record label, his apartment. This guy was exactly like me and he's got nothing," Lynch said.

Like countless others, Lynch felt compelled to help and, with a few phone calls, he was able to pull together a benefit concert, scheduled for Friday, Oct. 7 at Jaxx Nightclub in Springfield, featuring some of the biggest names in underground hip hop music.

"The concert will have Jedi Mind Tricks, one of the biggest groups right now, and the Beatnuts, who had a single called 'Off the Books' with Big Pun a few years ago," Lynch said. "Once people found out these two groups were involved, the flood gates opened. We actually had to turn some people away."

Rounding out the concert will be Copywrite, Pumpkinhead, JoJo Pelligrino, PackFM, Remedy of the Wu Tang Clan, and two local acts, Educated Consumers from Maryland and Empuls, a Leesburg resident.

All proceeds from the concert will be donated to the American Red Cross and its Hurricane Katrina relief effort, Lynch said. "We'll also have people walking around with buckets taking donations and they'll be sent to the Red Cross as well."

With a capacity of 480 people at Jaxx, he's hoping to have a full house Friday night.

"We've sent out about 5,000 fliers and put up about 50 posters around the area. We've been canvassing college campuses and going to different bars to get the word out. I want to look out and not be able to see the floor," he said.

Jedi Mind Tricks have agreed to donated all the proceeds from their merchandise sales that night to the Red Cross, a gesture they made following a recent sold-out show at the 9:30 Club in Washington.

In the meantime, Lynch said he's still trying to do what he can to help out his friend and others affected by Katrina.

"As soon as I got off the phone with P.J. and found out that he's all right, I started putting this show together," he said. "We were supposed to do a show together in New Orleans on Sept. 27. He's really excited about the benefit, but he's really just hoping he'll be able to go back to his home," Lynch said.

PLANNING A HIP HOP showcase seemed the most fitting concert to help New Orleans residents. "Hip hop is derived from the blues, which was born in New Orleans," Lynch said.

Jaxx owner Jay Nedry said he's happy to offer his nightclub for the event, which usually features metal or rock shows.

"We had a benefit here for Hurricane Isabel a few years ago and one in January after the tsunami but nothing for Katrina yet," Nedry said.

Giving money to the American Red Cross is the best way to help, said Nedry, because "they know the area best. They do the best job of getting stuff to the people who need it most."

When Lynch approached him about the concert, Nedry agreed to have the benefit at his club because "what happened there was horrible. Natural disasters can happen anywhere and we all need to do our best to help those in need."

Residents of Northern Virginia should be especially generous because "even those of us who are among the less fortunate here are way more fortunate than just about anyone down there right now," Nedry said.

At home in Staten Island following a concert at the University of Pittsburgh, Remedy of the Wu Tang Clan said the timing and the cause behind the benefit were reason enough to get involved.

"America is suffering right now and we need to help out," Remedy said. This will be his first visit to Springfield but he has played in Richmond and Washington on earlier tours.

"It's important to bring people together, whether you're directly effected by it or not," said Remedy. "You've got to keep these people in mind as family."

If music fans take anything from the concert, he hopes the realization that not all rappers are interested solely in money and living outside the law.

"Hip hop comes from the heart and has real meaning behind it. I'm still from that era," said Remedy. "I represent humanity in my music. My nationality is reality."

Taking a break from touring while working on a new album in Philadelphia, Vinnie Paz of headlining duo Jedi Mind Tricks had been looking for a way to help out Katrina's victims.

"Being that the two of us didn't come from families who had money, we've worked for an economic rights union for years. It's second nature to us to be involved in helping people who need it," Paz said.

Performing at a benefit concert should help to curb the widespread stereotypes that hip hop artists receive, he said.

"Our music gets a bad rep in the mainstream culture but we want to show that this generation isn't what they make us out to be," he said. "There's definitely a lot of talk amongst the hip hop culture but not a lot of action. This is a worthwhile cause and I really hope people come out and have a good time."

AS A MEMBER of the last group to perform, Paz said he's looking forward to seeing some of the other acts. "The Beatnuts are legends," he said. "Obviously, we're going to do our best to give the best show we can, but it's hot to be sharing a stage with them."

For Empuls, the other acts on the bill didn't motivate him to sign onto the concert as much as the desire to help.

"We're all under the same sky, we're all brothers and sisters," said Empuls, also known as Derek Summers. "We're only a few hundred miles away from this. I didn't care who else was playing at the show, I just figured it was the least we could do to help."

The drive to help comes from a larger feeling of community and connection to others in need.

"At least in my circle, we all feel personally affected by this, like it happened down the street. In the distance from here to God, it really did," Empuls said.

"If people can see that a so-called 'tough guy' rapper is getting emotional about this, maybe they'll come away from the concert talking about it with their friends," he said. "Maybe we can spark something in people at the show and turn this into something bigger."