In the wake of Hurricane Katrina's swift devastation and the government's seemingly sluggish response, many artists have spent the past two weeks writing — and in some cases recording and releasing — music inspired by the events.
Mos Def is leading the charge with a song called "Katrina Klap," which finds the rapper/actor rhyming and singing over an instrumental of "Nolia Clap" by New Orleans' Juvenile. A spokesperson for Mos confirmed the song was recorded at the beginning of this week and leaked to mixtape DJs and to the Internet.
On "Katrina Klap," Mos displays everything from anger to empathy, living up to his reputation for being politically and socially outspoken, taking President Bush and others to task for the slow reaction to the disaster that affected many poor communities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. "Mr. President, about that cash/ Policy for handling the n---as and trash," Mos raps. "You better off on crack, dead or in jail, or with a gun in Iraq."
Also among Mos' targets is U2's Bono, who has spent considerable time rallying for causes like fighting poverty and erasing Third World debt. "It's enough to make you holler out/ Like where the f--- is Sir Bono and his famous friends now?/ Don't get it twisted, man, I dig U2/ But if you ain't about the ghetto, than f--- you too/ Who cares about rock and roll when babies can't eat food?"
(Bono and his bandmates, coincidentally, have signed on to play MTV's disaster-relief special, "ReAct Now: Music & Relief"; see "U2, Coldplay, Pearl Jam Added To MTV Disaster-Relief Show.")
Meanwhile, Texas hip-hop group K-Otix have released a song called "George Bush Does Not Care About Black People," playing off of Kanye West's now infamous outburst from a live Hurricane Katrina telethon (see "T.I., David Banner Get Behind Kanye's Bush Comments"). The group's two MCs rap over an instrumental of Kanye West's "Gold Digger," criticizing Bush throughout the song: "Five damn days, five long days/ And at the end of the fifth, he walkin' in like, 'Hey'/ Chillin' on his vacation, sittin' patiently/ Them black folks gotta hope, gotta wait and see/ If FEMA really comes through in an emergency/ But nobody has a sense of urgency."
Russell Simmons is working with his Hip-Hop Summit Action Network to put together an entire album — The Hip-Hop Summit Action Network Presents: Forces of Nature — to benefit the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Simmons said the idea came to him two days ago but that already the number of songs pledged is "mind-boggling."
"The outpouring of heart from the community is unprecedented," he said. "I'm getting a record from Mariah Carey. Puffy has said he's working on one, I hope I get that. He's has a gospel record I'm trying to get him to give me. ... Snoop. Kanye West. I got a Reverend Run record that will knock your brain out. ... Most of the songs are about healing. Everybody has been supportive. No one has turned us down. It's a wonderful feeling to see this kind of outpouring."
Simmons said a major ensemble has recorded a track as well. "One record I got, Denise Rich made and Sharon Stone is paying for the video," he elaborated. "It's got like 20 artists on there already. Everybody from Celine Dion to Game."
Simmons said Rich's record was originally started in the wake of the Asian tsunami tragedy but definitely applies to what happened with Katrina.
"It's a big pop ballad, it's got everybody on the whole world on there," he reiterated. "Everybody you can think of, and it's called 'We Are One.' Denise Rich produced it. She's been working on it for six months and she just mixed it today. They filmed every recording, so every place they flew for Jadakiss or Game or Chingy to rap, they filmed every artist doing their part. She wants to put that out right now."
On Thursday, Brooklyn, New York's 2005 Shortlist Prize winners TV on the Radio released a free download of a new song, "Dry Drunk Emperor," also inspired by the Hurricane Katrina aftermath, via their record label's Web site. Also coming out of Brooklyn is DJ Kay Slay's artist Papoose, who has gained notoriety with mixtape records so strong that radio has no choice but to play them. Poose just released a record called "Mother Nature," giving his thoughts and analysis of the Katrina catastrophe with singer Razah. And last Friday night, Prince recorded a song, "SST," inspired by news accounts, that he is selling for 99 cents via his Web site to benefit relief efforts.
And "American Idol" rocker Bo Bice has written a song called "We Can't Change This World," which he'll perform at the finale of the American Idols Live Tour (see "Bo Bice Returning To 'Idol' Tour With Song Inspired By Katrina").
On Saturday, be sure to watch "MTV News Special: After the Storm," which premieres at 7:30 p.m. ET. And immediately after, stay tuned for "ReAct Now: Music & Relief," MTV, VH1 and CMT's Hurricane Katrina benefit concert special. The show will run from 8-11 p.m. ET and will feature Usher, Green Day, Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Ludacris, the Rolling Stones, David Banner and many more.
To find out what you can do to help provide relief to victims of Katrina, head to think MTV's hurricane relief page.