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Local Hip-Hoppers Decide to Give Back

Let's face it: Rappers don't have great reputations when it comes to community accountability. The image of a rap star on television involves a nice car, nice clothes, lots of jewelry, but not much substance beyond that. That's not to say that rap artists don't ever donate to charities or help out (of course they do), but it's not as common to hear or actually see them giving back. I could go on about rock stars or entertainers in general, but that's a whole different subject. When I drive through certain neighborhoods, I can't help but think there's enough money hanging off of Flo Rida's neck and wrists alone to feed the homeless here for half a year.

Call me a man of unrealistic standards, but when you begin seeing things in that fashion, it can sour you on the genre as a whole. One local rapper admits that he's started to feel the same way. Based in Plantation, Brian Friedenthal, better-known as Cynic, would also like to see more accountability from rappers. He's not making a fistful of cash from his rhymes, but he does manage to give a dollar here and there to homeless individuals he encounters on the street. One day last month, something inside of him clicked.

"I was driving to work getting off the freeway at Commercial and I-95, where I see these homeless guys every day," he begins. "I always give them something when I can, but as I drove past them on that day, it just hit me. I said to myself, 'I need to put on a benefit concert and give 100 percent of the proceeds to a charity.' I basically just wanted to make a real contribution."

Knowing that he couldn't do it all by himself, he started reaching out to friends in the music industry to see if they'd be interested in performing or donating their time to make it happen. One by one, almost everyone he asked to be a part of his benefit concert agreed. Of course, some people said they wouldn't be able to perform for free, but without naming names, those are the same types of entertainers that Cynic would rather not deal with in the first place.

And like that, Hip-Hop Helps was born. Taking place on Sunday, June 29, it's an evening-long extravaganza with 13 performances geared to raise funds for two key charities important to Cynic: the Miami Rescue Mission, principally because Cynic has built a relationship with the homeless, and Stand Up for Kids, a national organization for abused children with branches in Fort Lauderdale and Miami. The latter is of special significance to Cynic, because he had an abusive childhood himself. He's able to talk about it freely now and, coincidentally, credits hip-hop as a major factor in why he's been able to cope with and rap about the abuse he suffered as a kid. Without getting into specifics, the kid had it bad. Now that's he's 27 years old, he hopes things are beginning to come around with the event he's throwing.

"My goal is to fill the venue to capacity," he says. "We're charging $5 admission, but we're also accepting a variety of donations, from extra funds to shoes, socks, bookbags — I mean, whatever people can bring. We're going to split the proceeds 50/50, and all of it is going to people that really need it."

It's a noble idea. When I spoke with Tiffany Paramore, community development associate at Miami Rescue Mission, she was appreciative that someone, technically without much status as an entertainer, would step up to make all of this come together.

"I think that we need more of the hip-hop guys and rappers to come together and show that they can fight for good causes too sometimes," Paramore said in a phone conversation. "I don't know too many rappers that would do it. We really need financial donations right now. We're actually in a deficit, behind where we need to be financially. The bottom line is, money runs the center. So regardless of what he can raise, it's going to be appreciated by a lot of people here."

Cynic says making this event hasn't cost him a lot of money, since the 10,000 flyers he got printed up were donated by Jpeg Graphics in Fort Lauderdale. More than anything, he's just happy to get the word out. That got me to thinking: Wouldn't it be great if more rap artists could get together, pick a charity of their choice, set a financial goal, and begin to make donations to that institution quarterly? It wouldn't have to be much, but the idea of giving back would certainly spread. That alone is more important than the dollar amount itself. If everyone gives a little, it can add up to a lot. If nobody gives anything, well, that sum is where we're at now.

It's just a thought, but it wouldn't hurt if local rappers and musicians as a whole started doing it more often. Many of us write words all the time, but it's actions that speak the loudest.

Hip-Hop Helps takes place Sunday, June 29, at Club Bluster, 115 NW 21st Ave., Hollywood, at 9 p.m. $5. Call 754-214-4043, or visit www.myspace.com/only1cynic.

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Jonathan Cunningham