Rap pioneers the Beastie Boys and Salt-n-Pepa will be honored Tuesday by Rock The Vote at New York's Supper Club not for their music but for their community service and efforts to raise public consciousness.
"It's activism that takes pieces of culture that move people and connects it to politics rather than leave politics to the droll sphere of Washington, D.C.," said Adam Werbach, the 25-year-old president of the environmental organization the Sierra Club, who will be presenting the Beastie Boys with their award at the annual ceremony. "I think the Beastie Boys best represent the new type of activism and politics."
The fifth-annual awards from the non-partisan, non-profit organization that encourages youth to vote and get involved in politics as well as to raise awareness about attacks on freedom of speech, will bestow the Patrick Lippert Award to the Beastie Boys for their work in fighting for Tibet's freedom and to Salt-n-Pepa for their efforts to promote safe sex.
The award celebrates artists who've made contributions to their communities. "It's for people who have been involved in their communities," said Donna Frisby, acting executive director of Rock the Vote. "But that's not just in a political sense, [it's for people ] who have also been politically active on other issues as well."
The Beastie Boys -- Adam "MCA" Yauch, Adam "Ad-Rock" Horowitz and Michael "Mike D" Diamond -- have devoted countless hours in recent years to help educate and raise public consciousness about the brutal Chinese occupation of Tibet, Frisby said. The crew, with Yauch as the inspiration, was instrumental in organizing two all-star Tibetan Freedom concerts, as well as in releasing a three-CD set of music culled from those shows, which featured sets from such big-time rock acts as Patti Smith, members of Pearl Jam and R.E.M. and others.
Meanwhile, hip-hop pioneers Salt-n-Pepa -- Cheryl "Salt" James, Sandy "Pepa" Denton and Dee Dee "DJ Spinderella" Roper -- have devoted themselves, according to Frisby, to working with teenage mothers in Harlem, N.Y., as well as to promoting safe sex practices. The group's platinum 1990 album, Black's Magic, featured the song "Let's Talk About Sex," which they were asked to turn into a public service announcement for AIDS education, "Let's Talk About AIDS."
All proceeds for both the video and the single were donated to the National Minority AIDS Council and the TJ Martell Foundation for AIDS Research.
Werbach, who at age 23 became the youngest president of the 105-year-old organization that encourages community-based environmental action, said he believes that young people "care mightily" about both environmental and social issues, but are sick and tired of politics as usual. He suspected he was chosen to bestow the award on the Beastie Boys because, like the B-Boys, he's trying to bring the energy of youth to politics. "And nobody does that better than the Beastie Boys," he said.
Joining a list of past honorees that includes rock superstars R.E.M. and Pearl Jam and hip-hoppers Queen Latifah, Chuck D and LL Cool J, both rap crews will be bestowed with the award named in honor of Patrick Lippert, Rock the Vote's first executive director, who passed away from AIDS in 1993.
Piano songstress Fiona Apple will perform at the fund-raising event, which takes place the night before the Grammy Awards ceremony at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The Rock the Vote event is scheduled to be attended by fellow Grammy nominees Paula Cole, Sheryl Crow, R. Kelly, Tony Bennett, Bjork, Sting and Rage Against the Machine. -- Gil Kaufman [Fri., Feb. 20, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]