Pop music and politics too rarely mix in any meaningful way these days. But a daylong festival geared to opposition of Prop. 187 (the so-called "Save Our State" initiative) at the Olympic Auditorium on Saturday--headlined by the rappers of Cypress Hill--usually managed to focus on its pro-immigrant and pro-Latino messages.
The biggest exception was the headlining set by Cypress Hill. In spite of compelling beats and effects, the rappers had a hard time communicating a message against the measure, which would deny education, non-emergency health care and other social services to undocumented immigrants. Legalization of marijuana remains the bigger issue for this Los Angeles trio.
For much of the other talent gathered on two outdoor stages in the Olympic parking lot, angry messages leveled against Prop. 187 and Gov. Pete Wilson mixed with rhetoric about issues facing indigenous American peoples. Rap-rock band Rage Against the Machine brought out Native American activist Russell Means before launching into a typically frantic reading of its underground hit "Freedom."
Earlier, radical political rap group Aztlan Underground implored in Spanish, "My blood is red / I am human," before sitting down to beat traditional drums.
By nightfall the crowd was mainly made up of fans in their late teens and early 20s. But earlier in the day, veteran activists and families with baby carriages helped crowd the open lot, listening to the more than 20 musical acts of rap and rock and milling around booths selling posters of Cesar Chavez, books and jewelry and promoting the United Farm Workers union, the American Indian Movement and other groups.
Culture Clash--the Latino comedy troupe that hosted the event--and UFW vice president Dolores Huerta gave speeches urging people to cast ballots in the November election. And Huerta's son, who calls himself Kool-Aid, was responsible for one of the day's high points with an impassioned a capella rap against the present anti-immigrant environment.