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'RAP UP THE VOTE' A MISGUIDED MESS <br> SOCIAL AWARENESS ABSENT IN SHOW THAT PURPORTEDLY AIMED TO MOTIVATE YOUTH

By most accounts, this year's election is one of the most important of our lifetime. So now, more than ever, voting is no joke.

Unfortunately, the "Rap Up the Vote" tour is.

HSBC Arena played host Friday night to an unorganized, visionless, mess of a concert that shamefully masqueraded as an event to inspire communities to rush to the polls on Election Day.

Although it had been reported that the tour was concentrating on registering students to vote at the beginning of its five-week run, the tour finale that Buffalo hosted offered an appalling absence of community awareness.

Sure, it may be too late to register, but you'd think there would be information tables about candidates on the local and national levels, and perhaps educational material about the propositions on Tuesday's ballot. If that information was there, it was hiding awfully well.

How about some sort of emcee to discuss social issues and encourage involvement? Not a chance.

Instead, various WBLK 93.7 personalities wasted loads of time trying to figure out one of today's most important dilemmas: "Are the people on the left side runnin' this joint! . . . Where's my people in the middle? . . . Make some noise, right side!"

It was quite a compelling forum.

The night was billed as an all-star lineup of some of hip-pop's hottest acts, featuring Fat Joe and the Terror Squad, Lil Flip, Akon, Twista, Ma$e, and Lloyd. But as the show hit the two-hour mark, an anxious and annoyed crowd of about 4,000 turned to booing and heckling the seemingly endless procession of warm-ups.

First, it was a few local step teams, and that was kind of fun. The half-hour fashion show tested everyone's patience, despite including the spectacular DFC B-Boys breakdance troupe.

After local high school student Johnny Walker read his winning essay on the importance of voting -- an oasis of inspiration in a desert of disenchantment -- a handful of five- to 10-minute musical showcases turned the crowd against the organizers.

The hosts attempted to calm the crowd, but the patrons remained hostile until the appearance of Atlanta's newest bedroom crooner, Lloyd, who proclaimed "I'm a G," serenaded teenagers in "Hey Young Girl," and invited a WBLK personality onstage for a lap dance. He mentioned nothing about voting.

After 20 minutes of technical difficulties, Twista emerged to the sound of an all-too-ironic sped-up distortion of Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come." During his half-hour set that included his Kanye West-produced hits "Slow Jams" and "Celebrity Overnight," he concluded each song with the sound of gunshots -- a wonderfully positive message for the community.

For a moment though, it seemed as though maybe he did care, as he asked to pay tribute to our fallen soldiers.

But he and his crew then spat verses from dead rappers Soldier Slim, 2Pac, and Notorious BIG. Oh well.

The joke was on those who paid $35 to $55 for this sham. Hopefully, it's Johnny Walker's message that echoed at the end of the night.

Otherwise, change surely ain't gonna come.

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