On Tuesday evening, talk of “pretty boy swag” and staying in school — and away from the streets — filled the Liberty County Armed Services YMCA.
To conclude Black History Month, Exclusif Entertainment hosted its first rap concert. The show was titled “From Struggle to Freedom.”
The event, which included a spaghetti dinner fundraiser to benefit the production and promotions company, was designed to allow youth to get involved by using their talents in a constructive way, Exclusif Entertainment CEO Denise Joyner said. The company encompasses many fine arts mediums, including publishing, performing and recording to allow all aspects of the artistic realm to be produced, Joyner said.
Cedric Robertson, emcee for the evening, introduced the rappers who performed only original songs. “We need to support our youth … not all our youth are bad,” Robertson told the audience who replied with an “Amen.” The participants, a three-boy group called Genesis; Rachel Johnson, known by her rap name, “Rainmaker;” and Messenger, also known as Darnell Williams, all performed separately and, a few times, together.
The performers rapped about everything from the drama of the streets to girls with pretty smiles to the famous civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr. They talked about fighting to stay away from the drugs on the street and the sweet forgiveness of Jesus.
“We’re all about sending the message,” Genesis’ Stormey Jarrett said. “We’re not like other rappers. We’re trying to do a positive for our friends and family.”
Group members and brothers Courtney and Xavier Baker both agreed.
“Genesis, we’re here on a mission,” Xavier Baker said. “We’re on a mission to save the community … it’s time for the black community to stand up. Like MLK said, we have dreams.”
Courtney, a Lewis Fraser Middle School student, and Xavier, a Bradwell Institute student, have been rapping together for the past four years.
“People say it’s [Black History month] all about who created what and black Americans back in the day. Black History Month is about people who survived and how to be real,” Courtney Baker said. “To me, it’s a family get-together.”
Between clapping and hollering, the audience slurped up homemade spaghetti, garlic bread and side salads and washed it down with sweet tea.
Candace Baker, the mother of two of Genesis’ members, sat in the audience to watch her children rap and dance with their friend, Jarrett. She said they were singing in a park when they caught the eye of Exclusif staff, who asked them if they would be interested in performing.
“I used to get excited. Sometimes I just think, ‘It’s gotta be a gift.’ They don’t care if it’s a small crowd or big crowd — they just go with it. You talk about some happy kids,” Baker said. “As a mother, I’m glad that they do it clean-cut; I’m so glad they don’t have to curse in their music … it just makes me happy to know I have two boys that are going to make it somewhere.”
Although she isn’t sure when the next rap concert will be, Joyner said there will be auditions for a kids variety show at 7 p.m. next Tuesday and Wednesday at the YMCA. Children who want to showcase any aspect of performing arts are invited to try out for the show, which is staged every other month.
“We try to get the young people in there to perform,” Joyner said. “Healthy entertainment is important to a community and that we’re trying to do something through entertainment that is positive … it gives the community an alternative kind of entertainments.”