Busta Rhymes to rap for peace on London's streets...
... but will he be allowed to enter Britain?
Thursday 10 July 2008
Having been fined $100,000 (£50,000) for attacking a fan, warned for drink-driving offences, accused of keeping a machete in his car and sentenced to three years' probation for beating up his driver, Busta Rhymes knows about modern urban life.
So the American rapper might seem a strange choice to help boost the credentials of those, including the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, who are trying to combat the surge in gun and knife crime in the capital.
But Rhymes, real name Trevor Tahiem Smith Jnr, is coming to Britain to lend his weight to the campaign. He has promised to perform at the Royal Albert Hall on 26 September, in a concert organised by Orange RockCorps, a social enterprise.
"I want to do something productive that will help convince kids on both sides of the Atlantic to stop killing each other," Rhymes told The Independent.
"We are seeing a generation of children who are lost and in need of support. Their families are breaking down around them. They're turning to gangs and violence. We need to tell them that is not the right answer."
Tickets for the concert will not be available for sale, instead being awarded as prizes to young people who have taken part in volunteer projects. The RockCorps enterprise, which has already enlisted 100,000 volunteers in America and hosted 20 concerts, will be making its debut in Britain.
Mr Johnson said: "I am hugely impressed by the Orange RockCorps initiative, and by the willingness of big names like Busta Rhymes to take part." He added that the concert would be "a great example of how music can have a profoundly positive effect on society".
Stephen Greene, one of the co-founders of RockCorps, said Rhymes was an inspirational performer and had "proved his commitment to volunteering over many years".
But doubts have been raised about whether or not his criminal record will prevent him from entering the UK. Three weeks ago Martha Stewart, the US television host, was barred from entering Britain as she had been jailed for a federal offence. Others who have been banned include the Islamic preachers Louis Farrakhan and Yusuf al-Qaradawi, as well another rap singer, Snoop Dogg.
Busta Rhymes, 36, is prominent in the urban music scene in America, his fast, abrasive delivery giving him a distinctive style. Two years ago he was fined $100,000 after beating up a fan who spat at his car. Two months later he appeared in court accused of possessing weapons and keeping a machete in his car. He was cleared. In March this year he was given three years' probation and 10 days' community service, and fined $1,250 (£630), for assaulting his former driver. A spokesperson for the UK Border Agency said: "We continue to oppose the entry to the UK of individuals where they have been found guilty of serious criminal offences abroad."
Mark Stephens, of the law firm Finers Stephens Innocent, said: "If we are to have equality before the law, and this man is a repeat, violent offender, clearly he should not be allowed in. Martha Stewart was convicted of lying to federal agents, which we don't even recognise here. The crimes for which Busta Rhymes has been convicted are of a different nature. They seem clearly to fall into the category that requires the Home Office to exercise discretion."
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