Hip-hop CD to benefit Negro Leagues museum

Monday, August 25, 2008

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- A museum dedicated to a baseball league that few thought would last is getting a boost from a musical genre that was expected to have a similarly short existence.

Some of the top names in hip-hop -- Kanye West, Akon and T-Pain among them -- are performing on a compilation CD being released in October to benefit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.

"There are some very stark parallels between hip-hop and the Negro Leagues," said Bob Kendrick, spokesman for the Kansas City museum. "Neither one was expected to survive. But here we are, how many years later, and it's one of the most influential types of music out there.

"Nobody gave the Negro Leagues a chance, but it lasted 40 years."

The CD, titled "True to the Game," is scheduled to be released Oct. 21. It's the first of three that will be made to benefit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, each of them in the urban music genre.

Stadium Entertainment, the company releasing the CDs, was formed two years ago with the idea of producing music and giving a portion of the proceeds to charitable causes.

Camille Barbone, a founding member of Stadium Entertainment, said the company's first project not only will provide a big monetary boost for the museum, but also will give the artists on the CD a chance to "give something back."

"It's important in that the individuals we're asking to work on the projects, they need to see that there's a reason for it that goes beyond ego, goes beyond making money, goes beyond spending for marketing. Everything needs to be multifaceted now," Barbone said.

Along with helping pay operating costs at the museum, much of the money from the CD will go toward the $15 million Buck O'Neil Education Center, Kendrick said.

Until his death in 2006, O'Neil was the museum's chief fundraiser and most popular voice. The former Negro Leagues player was the first black coach in the major leagues and had a knack for charming audiences while remaining an authoritative voice for the museum.

"Buck was a renaissance man," Kendrick said. "When you started talking about Buck O'Neil, here was a man who knew Charlie Parker and LL Cool J. He was excited about this project. For a man well into his 90s, he never lost touch. He was comfortable in any environment and had an appreciation for all art forms. Hip-hop, rock and roll ... in his estimation it was all jazz. All jazz."

"True to the Game" is heavily geared toward young people who might not realize the significant role Negro Leagues baseball had on changing a segregated society and, ultimately, their lives, Barbone said.

"The struggle for rap and urban music to be accepted in the music industry was similar to black players being acknowledged as players and not black people," she said. "There's a big gap between young people today understanding this and understanding how their struggles paralleled."

As for the artists, the CD is an opportunity for them to be recognized for doing something to help others, not the negative things people often hear about the industry, Barbone said.

"We want them to make news based upon good things as opposed to a shootout at a club," she said. "These people are doing good things."

And she notes that there are no explicit lyrics on "True to the Game."

"It's 100 percent bona fide G-rated," Barbone said.

Kendrick said the artists -- some of them relatively unknown but working with big-name musicians on the CD -- will have their own place in the museum because of their participation.

"One of the things we talked about was approaching young people about the project," Kendrick said. "How many times in your life do you truly have a chance to make history?"

Neither Kendrick nor Barbone would estimate how much money the museum would receive through the CDs, saying that depends on how many copies are sold.

Musicians on the CD include T-Pain, Rick Ross and Tay Dizm; GLC featuring Kanye West; Chingy featuring Ziggy Nina; Raiyn featuring Talib Kweli; Young Cash featuring Akon; Sam Christ featuring Big Boi of Outkast; Tone BlacQ, featuring Snoop Dog; and Yung Joc.

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