On Monday, Kanye West and Russell Simmons stopped by to show support for the Occupy Wall Street protesters. But they weren't the first hip-hop celebs to lend their time to the cause. Last week, Talib Kweli also made a surprise appearance, which included a performance of his new song "Distractions."
And it was two of the forces behind the podcast "Citizen Radio" who were responsible for bringing Kweli to New York's Zuccotti Park, where the activists have set up camp for nearly a month. Shortly before the Brooklyn rapper's performance, MTV News caught up with Jamie Kilstein and Allison Kilkenny, co-hosts of the free and independent podcast. Kilstein, a political comedian, performed two charged stand-up pieces for the Occupy Wall Street assembly before introducing Talib as his surprise guest.
"I know a lot of these kids are bored," Kilstein told us. "So I thought I would perform. And then I was like, 'Well, a lot of people don't know who I am, so what if I call all my famous friends?' and Talib was like the first one who signed on."
The duo have done more than just entertain the young protesters, however. They've also been covering the Occupy movement from the start. Kilkenny, a reporter for The Nation, has been there since day one. "It was supposed to be a march but day by day, I've been more impressed by how it's grown and how it's become much more diverse. It's not just white, wealthy college students, it's kids who have been buried in student loans. It's people who have lost their jobs; it's union members, you know, nurses, teachers. So it's really becoming a force to be reckoned with."
Citizen Radio has been interviewing and broadcasting directly from the Occupy site in downtown Manhattan, talking to a broad spectrum of supporters, from nurses, teachers and electricians. As the movement spreads beyond Wall Street to spots around the country, increased media attention has followed, but the Citizen Radio hosts said their mission is to spotlight what they see as the most important aspects, including the diversity, the cooperation and the level of organization.
Kilstein said some journalists have mistakenly played up a freak-show aspect of the rallies. "A lot of the mainstream media, what they're doing is they go there and they find the craziest person they can that may not even be a part of it."
Still, Kilstein and Kilkenny are careful to keep a good sense of humor about the Occupy movement. That approach has earned them new followers, including Kweli, Sarah Silveman, Robin Williams and Noam Chomsky. "Liberals talk a lot of sh--," Kilstein joked. "We're really good at going to a bar and being like, 'We got to take down the man, and here's what we're going to do! Not tomorrow, because I'll be hung-over, and probably not the next day because we're going to go out drinking again, but one day, we'll get 'em.' This was people finally putting it all on the line."
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