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Bill Cosby and hip-hop artists unite for "Emergency"

 Comedian Bill Cosby waves as he arrives for the Apollo Theatre
Comedian Bill Cosby waves as he arrives for the Apollo Theatre's 75th anniversary gala in New York, June 8, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
— image credit: Reuters

By Gail Mitchell

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Bill Cosby doesn't rap or sing on his latest project, but he gathered together people who do. "Bill Cosby Presents the Cosnarati: State of Emergency" is a socially conscious hip-hop CD that focuses on the critical issues affecting young people. The independent project will launch Monday (October 19) during a virtual town hall meeting in New York.

Presented in association with Ustream, the town hall (7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT) will air on urban radio station Web sites across the country, on Cosby's Facebook page (http://facebook.com/billcosby ) and on BillCosby.com.

Hosted by comedian/actor/educator/author Cosby and the Cosnarati Band, the event will include the band's first public performance of several songs from "Emergency." Those songs will be available at digital retailers Tuesday (October 20); the album's physical and digital release is November 24.

"Emergency" is the aural companion to "Come On People," the 2007 book co-authored by Cosby and Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint. Produced by Cosby's longtime musical colleague William "Spaceman" Patterson, "Emergency" enlists the skills of guest rappers and community activists Jace the Great, Brother Hahz and Supa Nova Slom. Frustration, incarceration and respect for females are among the tracks' themes.

Cosby, who conceived the songs' story concepts, says the artists' lyrics hit upon much of the anger and frustration many people feel. "I came up with ideas and asked them to think deeper, but I didn't have to push. It was like, 'Thank you, Dr. Cosby. We want to do this.'"

Supa Nova Slom adds, "Dr. Cosby offered his elder wisdom, then we brought our young swag and interpreted it into hip-hop. Our generation and society at large are at a real crossroads for survival; the times demand that we reopen this chapter of hip-hop."

Noting the backlash he's experienced for controversial comments about the African-American community, Cosby stands by the album. "People who don't want it to succeed will say I'm a curmudgeon who doesn't like poor or young people," he says. "But these rappers are young males running down the truth about the urban side of life. It's time for a change."

(Editing by Sheri Linden at Reuters)

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