iPhones, Twitter, green-screen technology, BlackBerries, Facebook … and hip-hop acts. Those are some things that were not around for the recording of the original “We Are the World” in 1985.
Stars including Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Cyndi Lauper, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and dozens more — even actor Dan Aykroyd — joined in for the superstar collective. They created a great song — one that to date has raised and distributed more than $63 million to 18 countries in sub-Saharan Africa in emergency relief and development projects. Granted, at the time, hip-hop was in its early days. But Run-DMC, the Fat Boys, Whodini and Kurtis Blow were certainly worthy of getting the call.
However, hip-hop was definitely in the building on Monday night, when Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie united the stars again for “We Are the World — 25 for Haiti,” which will benefit earthquake relief in the country through the newly created We Are the World Foundation. Lil Wayne, Kanye West, T-Pain, Wyclef Jean, Kid Cudi, LL Cool J, Snoop Dogg, Drake, Bizzy Bone, Nipsey Hussle, Busta Rhymes and Swizz Beatz were all on hand, with more artists lined up to be added later.
“Everything was dealing with the 21st century,” Jones said about the large hip-hop contingent. “That’s the way you go. All you gotta do is wake up. Let’s hear ‘em! Young, old whatever.”
“As hip-hop artists, we’re the voice of the young generation,” Nipsey said. “So it’s very important we speak our opinion and give our feeling as to what’s going on in Haiti and contribute our celebrity and voices to the disaster. It’s necessary.”
“It was great because we all make music, in one way or another,” R&B singer Anthony Hamilton said about performing with rappers. “It was a great surprise. It was great to see Lil Wayne, Kanye and [everyone else] in the room doing something. Everyone was focused on one goal: to make a difference. Rap makes a lot of noise. It brings a lot of attention. It’s a powerful form of music. People are watching. It will influence somebody.”
“What’s going on inside, I feel like a kid in a candy store,” Wyclef Jean said. “Between the younger artists and older artists getting together, I feel that this new version of ‘We are the World’ … When you have a classic, you don’t wanna touch it. But, being that we grew up with that record and we love it so much, it’s incredible to see every kid, every genre coming in and singing that song.”
“I think we all turned to groupies,” Hamilton added. “Everybody had a camera out and was filming. Even Tony Bennett had a handheld and was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s Lil Wayne.’ I’m serious! It was so powerful.”
Wayne is actually singing Bob Dylan’s famous part on the new version of the song.
“I was like, ‘You guys are real good comedians,’ ” Wayne laughed when telling reporters about his assignment. “After I did Bob Dylan’s part, it kind of hit me that I guess this is way more important than I could ever imagine.”
“We are harmonizing with one another,” Bizzy said about the recording process. “A bunch of artists in the same room with no ego. It’s captivated in just this emotion and feeling of what they are telling us to produce and put forward. We have Barbara Streisand, Celine Dion and a few others who are doing the solo things — that’s leading the way for us because they are still who they are [and we're] the hip-hop generation and the young ones. We’re being guided by the same generation that started it from the beginning.
“We all already knew the song,” Bizzy added. “Everybody knows ‘We Are the World.’ It’s bringing it to another level. It’s showing the other young ones — our little 7 year olds, our 10 year olds, on and so — what it actually means with the disaster in Haiti.”