NEW YORK — It was brief, rare, to the point and for a righteous cause: Dave Chappelle got onstage at B.B. King's at around 2 a.m. Tuesday and encouraged fans to support the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
"Thank you, everybody," he said after one of the event's organizers, Dead Prez's M-1, introduced him as a comrade. "I just want to tell you guys real quick: I got back from Mississippi today. All these images you see on the news — don't let it desensitize you. Things are real. These people are real. Don't forget why we are here. We love the music, but we love these people. Don't forget them, because they're gonna be suffering for a long time unless you do something."
The comedian, who has made very few public appearances in recent months, was in town before picking up his fall tour (see "Dave Chappelle Is Back Onstage"). He was part of a myriad of mostly hard-core rap acts who were called upon by M-1 to perform at Monday night's concert, including David Banner, Memphis Bleek, Saigon, Styles P from the LOX, Q-Tip, Remy Ma, Dead Prez, Smiff N Wessun and the Beatnuts. All the show's proceeds will be donated to hurricane relief.
"It's only right," Bleek said. "In a time of need, the hip-hop community are the first ones there, but we the first ones who get ridiculed in the media. It's only right we show we got a heart."
"I wasn't even on the bill — they just called me 45 minutes ago," said Saigon, who has risen to a measure of mainstream popularity since his recent appearances on HBO's "Entourage." "I was in the midst of doing something else, but I made a U-turn and came right down. It helps our people. It shows that in the worst of times we're there for each other. A lot of times, people don't see that. It's sad that it takes tragedy to make it happen, but better late than never."
"We came to rock for the serious cause," Styles P said. "I said, 'Count me in.' It shows that despite everything, when it's a serious cause, people can get together and take care of their own."
Styles had an especially gripping set, highlighted by the anthem "I'm Black." Bleek stuck to his street and club bangers like "Is That Your Chick," and Remy Ma garnered "oohs and ahhs" with her freestyles.
Chappelle's stint onstage was brief. After he spoke, he stayed to watch Dead Prez perform, then hopped himself right out of the building. He had remained in his dressing room for most of the night prior to hitting the stage. Backstage was busy, though: You could see people like Lords of the Underground's Doitall shaking hands with Jeru the Damaja while David Banner took pictures with the Beatnuts.
Banner has been especially engrossed in relief efforts over the past few weeks. On Saturday in Atlanta, his Heal the Hood Foundation spearheaded a charity concert in Atlanta where acts like Young Jeezy, Nelly, T.I., Jermaine Dupri and 112 performed for 10,000 people at the Philips Arena (see "David Banner, Nelly, Busta Call On Atlanta Crowd To Heal The Hood"). Proceeds from that event go to Katrina victims as well.
"[The South] is home for me," T.I. — also known as the King of the South — said on Saturday in Atlanta. "But even more important, I felt obligated to get involved. Me being the king and putting that title on myself, I should be the first in line to do the most."
"It's more or less a unity thing," Nelly said Saturday in the ATL. "I think everybody wants to do something. Nobody knows exactly what to do, so everybody is doing a little bit of everything."
On Monday night, Banner was reflecting on his surreal experience with the hurricane-relief efforts.
"September 17 will go down as one of the proudest moments of my life. The Heal the Hood concert: 17 major artists. This is probably one of the biggest urban relief concerts of our time. Whether it was a small part or a big part, it's a blessing to be a part of it. To see all them people out there, I was losing my breath. I know people are hurting right now, but we have to be proud of ourselves. To say that we are urban artists and we pulled something together with no help from corporations — come on, that's something to be proud of."
To find out what you can do to help provide relief to victims of Katrina, head to think MTV's hurricane relief page.