XXL celebrates 50 years of hip-hop with this moment:
Aug. 31, 2006: The 2006 MTV Video Music Awards, which took place at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, was a year of small gains for hip-hop in terms of recognition of its musical contributions. However, on this day in 2006, the event was overshadowed by the arrest of Yasiin Bey, then known as Mos Def, for performing his song “Dollar Day” (aka “Katrina Clap”) outside the awards ceremony in a guerrilla-style performance.
The Brooklyn rapper pulled up to Radio City Music Hall on a flatbed truck around 10 p.m. while the awards show was happening inside the venue. From there, he began performing “Katrina Clap,” a politically-conscious remix of a UTP song by the name of “Noila Clap.” UTP was a group comprised of Juvenile, Wacko and Skip, three Louisiana-hailing rappers. “Noila Clap” was a shoutout to New Orleans’ infamous Magnolia Projects.
With the background of “Noila Clap” in mind, it makes sense that Bey would use that particular instrumental to address the aftermath of Katrina, of Hurricane Katrina, a horrific natural disaster that swept across Louisiana and surrounding states in late August of 2005. At the time, the President George W. Bush’s administration was criticized for their perceived failure to adequately assist those affected by the storm. Yasiin’s “Katrina Clap” highlights those complaints.
After Bey’s arrival, a crowd began to gather around the rapper’s truck and sing along to his social justice tune. Even though he had a public performance permit with him, Bey was arrested by the New York Police Department within a few minutes after he started his performance. Check out how it all went down in the video below.
“[Yasiin Bey] was not out to break any laws,” said Bey’s then-publicist, Carleen Donovan, in a statement the next day when he was released from jail. “His only goal was to heighten the awareness of a serious situation that still exists in our country. He does not want people to forget that although it’s one year later, the people and cities hit by [Hurricane Katrina] still need the help of the American people.”
In the end, it was Yasiin Bey who brought truth to power at the VMAs despite objections from the NYPD. The message he delivered was a powerful reminder of our responsibility to help those in need.
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Author: Sidney Madden