In the last decade, rap artists focused on money and partying have set the genre's core image. It's almost surreal to watch the music industry divide rap into two categories: smart ("conscious") rap and everything else (but mostly the bling). In this climate, veteran New Orleans MC Truth Universal gets indelibly stamped with the conscious tag. To a lesser degree, so was young, accomplished New Orleans rapper Bionik Brown, who died in a car crash in Denver last year. Truth Universal, MC Jimi Clever and DJ EF Cuttin' will include a tribute to Brown in their Jazz Fest set.
Truth's professional biography drops as many notable names as the liner notes of a Dr. Dre album: He's opened for rap royalty like Mos Def, Taleb Kweli and The Roots, to name just a few. He shared a stage at Austin's most recent South by Southwest festival with Mr. Lif. Truth's self-released album Self Determination features guest spots by legends Doodlebug from Digable Planets, Wise Intelligent of Poor Righteous Teachers and Stic Man of Dead Prez. In 2006, Bay Area MC Paris worked with him to put out Decolonization.
Truth's recent Move the Crowd mixtape addresses New Orleans' post-Katrina dilemmas, and it proves there's no better place for a political MC than a city plagued by corruption. Two of Truth's biggest contributions to New Orleans' hip-hop scene have been the open-mic night "Grassroots," which he hosts on the first Saturday of every month at the Dragon's Den, and the "Soundclash" beat battle on the second Saturday of each month at Blue Nile.
Expect to hear the voice of dissent from Truth as well as a Bionik Brown tribute song written by and performed with Clever, plus a special appearance by DJ EF Cuttin'.
Truth Universal and Jimi Clever
12:45 p.m. Fri., May 1
Congo Square Stage