Artists in every genre of hip-hop, from gangsta rappers Kurupt and Eightball & MJG to mainstreamers Def Squad and Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott to old-school giants Whodini, Run-D.M.C. and Slick Rick, will share a bill for perhaps the first time on Sept. 26 when the Hip-Hop Unity Festival takes place in Los Angeles.
"We wanted to bring East Coast, West Coast and the South together," said Wilson Ebyie, president and CEO of concert promoters Edgewater Entertainment, which is organizing the first-ever gathering of rappers from all walks of life.
"We're doing this to honor Tupac, the Notorious B.I.G. and Eazy-E, to raise money for charities and to bring everyone together in the hip-hop nation," Ebyie added.
When Ebyie says he's putting together "the world's biggest hip-hop and rap music concert," he's not talking about the 100,000-capacity Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where the event will be held. He's talking about the big-name rap artists whom he has already lined up to perform.
Among the chart-topping and acclaimed artists set to participate in the show are Fugees rapper Wyclef Jean, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Brandy, Ice-T, Def Squad, Busta Rhymes and Aaliyah, all of whom will join a lineup of 26 other hip-hop and R&B artists from every geographical location and rap genre on the map.
"Putting this kind of event together has been a matter of perfect timing because right now [hip-hop] is all about peace and unity and showing that they don't have any rivalries," Ebyie said, adding that he was able to book almost every artist he wanted.
The organizers expect 50 percent of the event's net profit to be split among varied charities, including AIDS Project Los Angeles, the Thurgood Marshal Scholarship Fund, the Los Angeles Mission and El Nido Family Centers.
Speaking weeks after a recent appearance at a Miami benefit concert for the Wyclef Jean Foundation, rapper Peter Gunz (born Peter Pankey), who will be performing with partner-in-rhyme Lord Tariq at the festival, said charity shows are more meaningful than others.
"We'll always be down to do shows like that," Gunz said. "We're very thankful for our success and were always happy to give back."
Ebyie said he is counting on other rappers to feel the same way and that he wants to make the festival a yearly event.
His tentative plans are to move the gathering to Central Park in New York next year. "New York is where hip-hop was born, so it only seems right to celebrate it there," he said. "We will once again be inviting artists from all over and we will celebrate unity in hip-hop."
This year's six-hour extravaganza will be cybercast on the World Wide Web for $9.99 at www.hiphopunity.com in association with the Internet Entertainment Group.
"We love IEG," Ebyie said. "They're cutting-edge and hip-hop is cutting-edge. We just want to get this message out all over the world. We want people in Australia to hear it and we want people in Japan to hear it."
"Hip-hop is the most popular music right now and we're putting together a big show to celebrate that," he said.