ST. LOUIS – It had all the hallmarks of a concert — screaming fans, an emcee warming up the crowd, a DJ breaking beats. But the head of the organization holding Friday's Hip-Hop Summit (search), mogul Russell Simmons (search), wasn't there to play around.
"This is serious business," Simmons said. "These people sit here for three hours and learn."
More than 5,000 people came to the city's convention center to hear a panel of hip-hop stars — including rappers Nelly and Jadakiss (search) — discuss why registering to vote has an impact on their communities. The event was organized by the non-partisan, non-profit Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, led by Simmons and former NAACP president Ben Chavis.
The purpose was to draw on the collective voting power of millions of young people.
"Honestly, what hip-hop is about is poor people," Simmons said. "It's inspiring all different kinds of poor people — black, white. ... They can be part of a voting bloc that is more compassionate."
Volunteers at the America's Center convention center registered people to vote and showed attendees how to use the punch-card system used in most parts of Missouri. They could sign up to receive mobile phone text messages, pages, e-mails or phone calls reminding them to go to polling stations on Nov. 2.
Rapper Jadakiss said he only registered recently, after being encouraged by Simmons, because he didn't feel he was part of the process. "I never was really focused on, never really targeted," Jadakiss said.