Rap legends Maestro Fresh Wes, The Sugarhill Gang, Naughty by Nature and Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock come together at the ROM for… the United Jewish Appeal?
Some of old-school hip-hop’s greatest legends came to town Saturday night to give props to the United Jewish Appeal—even if they weren’t exactly sure what it was. The event, entitled TOgether 2012, brought performances by the likes of The Sugarhill Gang, Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock (pictured below), Naughty By Nature and Young MC to the Royal Ontario Museum to help raise funds for an annual campaign aimed at “building Jewish identity” and “supporting Israel and the Jewish world,” according to the UJA’s website.
Over 800 of the “young up-and-coming leaders of Toronto’s Jewish community” got down to classics like “Bust a Move,” “Rapper’s Delight” and “O.P.P” in the ROM’s ritzy environs for a princely $100 admission cost, plus a minimum $100 donation. Canuck rap godfather Maestro Fresh Wes (pictured below) was MC for the evening, which also featured guest appearances from East Coast wordsmith Classified and local R&B heartthrob JRDN.
“I don’t know much about the organization,” admitted Maestro, while enjoying the open bar. “I’m just here to host the event; they put together everything else. Obviously, this is a philanthropic thing altogether, but my perspective is strictly from the entertainment angle.”
As with all the other artists at the event, Maestro was tapped to appear at TOgether by Mandell Entertainment, a UJA donor and the ne plus ultra of bar mitzvah and sweet 16 gigs.
“Well, we found out about [UJA] through our management,” said The Sugarhill Gang’s Master Gee, who was actually celebrating his birthday this evening. “So we’re just learning more about it as we go, you know what I mean? But anything that has to do with helping people, man, we’re down with it. We do stuff for diabetes, cancer and all kinds of things. We’re down with everybody.”
According to UJA rep Dave Goodman, the big-ticket rappers were used as bait to lure in donations from young Jewish professionals. “This is part of an organizational strategy to attract the next generation of donors—those who are in their 20s, 30s and 40s—to United Jewish Appeal,” he explained. “This event has all the different amenities and attributes to entice this demographic, from the social components to the musical performances from the pioneers of hip-hop from this demographic’s upbringing. It’s a platform they can leverage to further engage their peers to get more involved in not only giving to the campaign but creating awareness for it and showing others how important and vital it is to the Jewish community in Toronto.”
The recent commercial successes of certain Hebrew hip-hoppers gave the event even more relevancy, Goodman added. “Drake, Matisyahu, Mac Miller—they’re all getting pretty huge. To be on the cusp of what pop culture is producing these days is a cool thing.”