Last Saturday I attended the 5th Annual Hip-Hop Odyssey (H2O) Awards, held at BB Kings in New York City. Organized by the Hip-Hop Association, the awards ceremony recognized todayâ€™s hottest Hip-Hop filmmakers, industry professionals and pioneers. The event always features appearances and performances by Hip-Hop heavyweights. This year’s event, as usual, was packed with many of the individuals who have played a major part in shaping the hip-hop landscape including, artist/entrepreneur/hip-hop personality Fab 5 Freddy (that’s him in the picture standing in front of me as we listen to DJ Beverly Bond speak about YO! MTV Raps’ late producer Ted Demme), Ice-T (who gave an excellent acceptance speech about staying true to oneself), Dana Dane, Grand Wizard Theodore, (Dr.) Roxanne Shante, Ralph McDaniels (Video Music Box), The Cold Crush Brothers, Chubb Rock and much more.
One thing I’ve always enjoyed about the awards and the preceding H2O International Film Festival, is how the organizers (Martha Diaz, Rolando Brown etc) make a conscious effort to show the influence of African (and international) cultures on the growth of America’s hip-hop/urban culture. A few years back, besides the performance by the Nomadic Wax Global Hip-hop All-stars’ Chosan (Sierra Leone) , Eli Efi (Brazil) , and El Gambina (Korea), the festival grand prize went to Hip-Hop Colony, a film about the African hip-hop explosion – now on DVD. This year Hip-Hop Colony’s Kenyan director, Michael Wanguhu, was on hand to present an award. To further encourage the hip-hop generation to connect with Africa, this year’s awards was sponsored by and involved a presentation by popular DNA lineage identification company African Ancestry Inc. Some of you might remember that African Ancestry Inc. was the company behind VH1′s Spike Lee-directed February (Black History month) spot which promoted a stronger connection between African-Americans and the African continent through DNA swab testing. African Ancestry’s President, Gina Paige, was on hand at this year’s H2O Awards ceremony to present the evening’s host, Paul Mooney, with his personal DNA test results. Upon revealing that Paul Mooney’s lineage goes back to Guinea-Bissau (I don’t remember which specific ethnic group was cited), Gina Paige presented Mr. Mooney with a folder containing the details of the tests as well as a t-shirt with a Guinea-Bissau logo. A very nice touch.
African Ancestry offers a great solution for African-Americans looking to re-connect with their African heritage. With the DNA procedure gaining popularity and support from African-American celebrities like Oprah, Whoopi Goldberg, LeVar Burton, Chris Tucker, Chris Rock, and Isaiah Washington – who also holds a seat on African Ancestry’s Board of Directors -, and media outlets from ABC’s Good Morning America to PBS championing the efforts, African Ancestry has already begun to solidify the link between African-American and African cultures.