Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, joined by Russell Simmons and other prominent hip-hop figures, called on rap artists to move away from explicitly violent lyrics.
Farrakhan, who also condemned the U.S. war on terrorism, told a receptive, sometimes raucous audience Thursday that rappers owe poor and minority communities more than many of them have given.
"From the suffering of our people came rap," Farrakhan said. "That should make you a servant of those that produced you. That should make you a servant of the 'hood."
Children "can't read Dick and Jane, but they can recite your raps," he continued. "The question is, what are you feeding them?"
More than 300 people, including rappers Boo-Yaa Tribe, Kurupt and DJ Quik, packed into a hotel conference room for his speech, and Simmons and others seconded the message.
Simmons organized the Hip Hop Summit as an opportunity for rappers to reassess an industry that draws millions of fans worldwide but is widely blamed for violent and sexually explicit lyrics. It was one of a series of regional gatherings that are to lead up to a national meeting this summer.