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A simple concept: Spruce up Bushwick or Red Hook or any other Boost Mobile volunteer service hot spot for four hours, get one ticket to see Young Jeezy rap about how much coke he pushes. “Even press has to do their community service to be admitted,” they said—as if writing isn’t community service! “Well, I never thought of it like that.”

While Live 8 performers struggled to articulate how they fit into the world hunger equation, these stars wanted nothing more than to reward their young audience’s tangible social consciousness. That’s not to say the celebration didn’t contradict itself. At the height of the gas crisis, Houston rapper Paul Wall drove out onstage in an old purple Lincoln—definitely not one of those enviro-friendly hybrid jobs. After cleaning 1,000 pounds of trash off a local beach, audience members thought nothing of littering the five blocks surrounding Radio City with the event’s complimentary hats and posters on their way out. Travis Barker, the Mohawked trapper of Blink-182, drummed over DJ AM’s lame-ass laptop mash-ups—hardly a service to anyone.

No knocking Wall though. The People’s Champ set the bar impossibly high when, during car-culture ode “Drive Slow,” the almighty Kanye West rushed out to drop his verse, shaking the candy-painted crowd out of its codeine cocoon. West went right into “Gold Digger,” the No. 1 song in America, with effects on the crowd inferable. Ten minutes into the show, six-plus performers to go. Lots of luck, Jadakiss!

West and Wall gone, the crowd now buzzed with Jay-Z premonitions. Who else could top West? Hov had two chances for a live co-sign, first when the gruff, staid Slim Thug threw back “I Ain’t Heard of That,” second when the summery horns of crowd fave Young Jeezy’s “Go Crazy” blew out the mezzanine tweeters to the delight of dope boys and, apparently, high school girls who think Jeezy’s snowman bling is sorta cute. No dice. As artists’ “cop my shit!” shouts loudened, the show seemed less a thank-you for giving back, more an advert for havin’ thangs. Of course, that rags-or-riches tension drives the game. Said T.I., whose name had the fewest letters of any rapper on the bill: “If you don’t help yourself, ain’t nobody gonna help.”

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 27, 2005

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