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Exploring the Nation of Islam's influence in entertainment

By Jesse Muhammad -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Apr 5, 2010 - 8:48:38 AM

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Most young people today may have heard of the song "Juicy" by the late rapper Notorious B.I.G. but very few may know whose music he sampled to produce that hit track. It originated from legendary jazz musician James Mtume, who was personally invited by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan to present this week during the three-day conference.

“There has been a breakdown in the generational transfer of music,” said Mr. Mtume, who has produced jazz albums for decades. Mr. Mtume's band (named Mtume) is best known for their 1983 R&B hit song “Juicy Fruit” which was sampled by Biggie Smalls, Warren G and even Jennifer Lopez.

“Many of the young people today don't understand the history and a lot of it involves my generation,” said Mr. Mtume. “There is a need for the older and younger generations to come together.”

During this workshop, titled “The Influence of the N.O.I. in Entertainment,” Mr. Mtume examined how our people have been introduced to the knowledge of self through poetry and music stemming from the Teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad. At last year's convention, a panel spoke on the N.O.I.'s impact on Hip-Hop and Minister Farrakhan wanted this seminar to expand to other genres.

“The N.O.I. had a programmatic influence on entertainment. Meaning you had many artists who followed Elijah Muhammad just not in bow ties and suits or headpieces,” noted Mr. Mtume, who first heard the Teachings of the N.O.I. as a teenager.

According to Mr. Mtume, to the surprise of many in the audience, the names of legends influenced by the N.O.I. included John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and even the Mtume band.

“We all supported the conscious movement. You can support things in different ways. That's what I mean by the Nation having a programmatic impact because it touched many that were not members,” said Mr. Mtume, who once recorded with the great Duke Ellington.

He then fielded questions from conference goers regarding the state of the music industry, the need for more conscious music, the lack of originality over the airwaves, and the growing need for unity.

“I don't know if you all got the memo, but the record industry is just about dead. We're in a crisis artistically. All of the music is starting to sound the same. All of a sudden being original has now become a drag,” said Mr. Mtume, who is also an on-air personality for New York's KISS 98.7 FM.

“We need more consciousness coming out of movements like the Nation of Islam. Nothing talks better than an example,” he said.

Mr. Mtume further encouraged the strategic building of stronger networks amongst conscious artists.

He then announced that he is working with the chancellor of New York schools to open a school in honor of Miles Davis, with whom he worked with in the 1970s. The school will open in 2012 to teach academics and music to students up to the 8th grade.

“Our kids don't have enough examples. The Nation has a great opportunity now more than ever to have more influence in entertainment,” said Mr. Mtume.