ATLANTIC CITY — The Hip-Hop Alliance recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Screen Actors Guild — American Federation of Television and Radio Artists during the 113 th annual NAACP convention that some hope will be a new beginning for those in the rap industry.
Chuck D., of legendary group Public Enemy, said the idea of Hip-Hop artists unionizing was born some 15 years ago, but it never took shape.
“It’s long due that we’re looked upon as being serious,” said Chuck D. “Hip-Hop is 50 years going in.”
Kurtis Blow, one of the first rap artists signed to a major record label, said union affiliation would bring “respect and power and unity” to the industry.
Grandmaster Melle Mel, said unionizing might also have a different benefit.
“If we could define what Hip-Hop is, that’s a massive success,” Mel said.
Scot X. Esdaile, NAACP Connecticut State Conference President who is also a member of the Hip-Hop Alliance, said union representation could result in better compensation and benefits not only for artists but even those who work behind the scenes. It could also be a tool to help artists recover lost wages, Esdaile said.
Dr. Bob Lee, of 107.5 WBLS in New York, said affiliation with SAG-AFTRA could help artists address issues such as fair wages, health care and pension plans.
“Education is the big thing,” said Lee.
Janice Pendarvis, the SAG-AFTRA national vice president for recording artists and singers, who is also on the board of directors of the Hip-Hop Alliance, said rappers have always had a union, they just didn’t know it.
“There’s a secret in our industry that should never have been a secret,” said Pendarvis. “SAG-AFTRA is the Hip-Hop union. We already represent every artist signed to a major record label, the primary subsidiaries and any artist that does union-covered work.”
Pendarvis said SAG-AFTRA welcomes many who don’t know they’re eligible to join.
“We welcome all content creators across all platforms from influencers to broadcast journalists, from commercial actors to podcasters, stunt performers and DJs and everything in between,” Pendarvis said. “We are the content creator’s union and like the NAACP our fight for equity for all never wavers and never ceases.”
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