Through all their success, their dedication to social justice has never wavered. They have a large local fan base who have been inspired by their commitment to building and supporting community. They have donated thousands of books to local students, and taught free classes to youth. Their videos address important issues and they lift up local voices.
So it was shocking and disappointing when Tom Joyner, host of one the most popular nationally syndicated urban radio programs in the US, used the platform of his show to launch an ill-informed attack on the group.
It started positive. "I'm always looking for creative ways to teach our children. Here's a guy in New Orleans who wants to take hip-hop music to teach kids to read," began Joyner. But the popular radio host soon turned negative. "He made a video parody of Lil' Wayne's Every Girl," said Joyner, dismissively (while also confusing the collective efforts of the group with one member, Brandan "B-Mike" Odums). After playing a clip of Every Girl, seemingly unaware that 2-Cent's video involved changing the words to the song, Tom Joyner mocked the efforts of 2-Cent, implying that his work was shallow for making use of Lil' Wayne. "Go back to DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince. Parents Just Don't Understand. Start with that one," he said, ending with a condescending, "Go back in the lab, keep working on it."
The unwarranted attack brought so many angry calls and emails from 2-Cent's fans from across the US, the Tom Joyner Morning Show was forced to invite Odums on to respond. In a conversation on the show with Joyner and co-hosts Roland Martin and Sybil Wilkes, Brandan eloquently defended his positions.
"You guys have stirred a little bit of controversy," began Martin, who asked most of the questions on the segment. "What is the motive of taking these popular songs and trying to focus on literacy?" Throughout the interview, Odums brought wisdom to the hosts, explaining the ways in which 2-Cent uses popular art forms to reach young people with positive messages. "Our elders instilled in us a responsibility to make things better," said Odums. "By taking that inheritance that they gave to us, we sort of had to do things differently. We can't use the same tactics as the past, we need to find new ways to reach kids."
As a final lesson to Tom Joyner not to mess with New Orleans, 2-Cent have premiered their new video, Tom Just Don't Understand. They are also pushing Joyner's popular show to financially support community projects in New Orleans, like 2-Cent's upcoming Literacy and Arts Festival, called LISTEN! scheduled for May 21 at Community Book Center, 2523 Bayou Road. If you want to add your voice to those writing to Joyner to ask him to make amends, you can write to him at tomjoyner@blackamericaweb.