Tuesday, April 24th, 2007
On The Hip-Hop Summit Action Network’s Language Ban
Here’s that promised piece from Davey D I mentioned the other day. It provides the deep context for the editorial by Dave Zirin and I that ran in the LA Times yesterday, and it’s coming from one of the people who has been at the forefront of this hip-hop media justice movement for two decades.
I should also mention that there is a quote of me apparently going off on the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network’s “recommendation” for a voluntary industry ban on the N-word, the B-word, and the H-word, a “Coalition on Broadcast Standards”, and artist mentoring, and in today’s AM New York.
This quote was taken out of context by the reporter. Last week, reporter asked me how I felt generally about the reaction of activists like the Rev. Al Sharpton. He was not asking specifically about the ban which, when he interviewed me, had not yet been announced. Folks, that’s called shitty reporting.
For the record, my position is simple: radio and TV already have banned these words, so the statement–a “recommendation” for “voluntary action”–does nothing new. There are no real incentives in this for the industry to bring more balance to the airwaves.
As for all this top-down stuff, it will always be too little too late unless hip-hop generation activists who have been working hard on the issues and have the community’s interest at heart are brought into the discussion. Otherwise, it is posturing and grandstanding.
* Lastly, Davey and Chuck Creekmur from allhiphop.com will be part of a roundtable panel on Fox News with John Gibson this afternoon at 5pm est/2pm pst to talk this stuff. Tune in.
Finally, I don’t agree with everything in Davey’s piece, and he does call out a lot of close friends of mine, some of whom I’m very inclined to defend. But I also know, having known Davey for two decades now that this piece is probably the realest he’s been in a long time with himself and with his audience.
Read it and debate it in the context of the major soul-searching we all are doing now.
This Gangsta Stuff & Russell’s Call For Change
by Davey D
I’ve read the recent criticisms launched at Russell Simmons and the assertions that his current position of wanting to ban the use of certain words on records is “self-serving.” Of course it is. Anything Russell does is gonna be self-serving. What did we expect? Wasn’t that the plan? Weren’t we supposed to create an economic, political or social situation where he would see it in his best interest to change up?
He has business interests to protect — and the social and political climate has rightly changed now, with calls for balance growing substantially louder. Russell’s business is being impacted by people who are tired of the mass marketing of the mainstream minstrelsy that we see all day, every day.
Certainly no one seriously expected Russell or Ben Chavis to come up to Harlem to watch a screening of Turn Off Channel Zero. Why would we? And let’s be honest…did we really want them there? I think one of the things we overlook is the role that we played in getting these issues as much attention as they’ve gotten. We are the ones who changed the current climate with our collective efforts.
The fact that so many people are fed up is the result of the Turn off the Radio tribunal longtime radio vet Bob Law had up at the church on 126th street in NYC several years ago.
The climate was also changed as a result of the Hot 97 campaign, which was quite successful in New York. We not only made them lose money, but we blemished people’s records as well, and even got several people dismissed as that station saw its ratings drop. They went from number 1 to number 8 in their market, which, in the radio industry, is major. Sure there were other factors at hand, but we certainly played a big part in initiating change there.
The climate change that we’re seeing is also the result of the KMEL People’s Station campaign put together by Tony Coleman of Minds Eye Collective and Malkia Cyrill of Youth media Council in San Francisco after I got bounced from working there. That was a successful campaign that forced KMEL to start playing local music and even offer me my job back (which I turned down).
We’re seeing the change in climate now as result of Black Out Fridays in Detroit too. There we had intense lobbying efforts by Industry Ears to the FCC, Attorneys General, and Congress about the continued abuses of our airwaves. The new focus on balance is the result of people like Chuck D, dead prez, Immortal Technique and so many others…voices who railed against fucked-up media in public spaces in places. It’s also the result of films like Turn Off Channel Zero and Hip Hop Beyond Beats and
Rhymes, and of the Zulu Nation’s Bring Back The Balance campaign.
This climate is the result of us starting our own media outlets like The Block Report, Freemix Radio, Soul Patrol, Harrambe, Radio, Breakdown FM and others. I could go on and on…
These changes, both large and small, are due to us pushing and pushing — and agitating and demanding better scenarios for our collective community. Russell’s proposal to change lyrics is but a small victory…he wouldn’t have done this a year ago. We now need to take credit and push even harder for substantial change both within and outside of the industry.
Having been deeply involved with the first wave of content battles back in ’88 when we led the NWA boycott, I clearly recall how the community argued ferociously against our effort. We did two weeks worth of radio shows getting community input back then, and I remember how many well-meaning Black folks who considered themselves conscious and revolutionary told us we were straight-up wrong. Maybe I’ll post those landmark radio shows at some point — shows which which included me, the guys from Digital Underground, Beni B of ABB records and all the Black college deejays from the Bay at that time. Now that time has passed people have a very different stance, but that big debate back then lead to the formation of the Bay Area Hip Hop Coalition.
The debates we had were fierce. Many felt we should never glamorize disrespectful language, while others felt like NWA and Luke were somehow revolutionary. Hell, I even have a tape of KRS coming on our show praising the rough use of language by those guys — he felt like it was good thing at the time.
There were many who felt that the stories by NWA needed to be heard and that they were indeed a reflection of us. I recall people throwing their fist in the air saying “fuck what white people think, this is our music” and “we gonna use the N-word all day long.” People felt like keeping it ‘hood was important. We were coming off the tail end of people criticizing Bill Cosby for not showing his Brooklyn neighborhood as a rough and rugged ghetto. Even Spike Lee caught heat for having a ‘too clean’ Brooklyn ‘hood when he showed Do the Right Thing.
I recall white writers like Dan Charnas of The Source getting props and blessings from revolutionary types when he praised Ice Cube for reflecting anger in the ‘hood when he called women bitches. In fact, I even remember Harry Allen almost coming to blows with this cat because he took such a strident stance and had revolutionary types ‘supporting his efforts.’ If you think I’m lying go back and look at the arguments that were raised at that time around this subject matter.
Part of the praise placed upon NWA and gangsta rap was this was Hip Hop way of ‘keeping it real’ (that’s when that phrase started to get popularized). Hip Hop has always been about being honest and true to the subject matter at hand — but soon that definition got narrowed down to Hip Hop supposedly keeping it ‘true to the streets.’
Complicating this issue further was the fact that West Coast rap prior to NWA often wasn’t even considered Hip Hop by our east coast brethren. I have all those early New Music Seminar tapes with Egyptian Lover and Rodney O complaining about being clowned when they came to the Big Apple because their music was considered too soft.
I also remember groups like The LA Dream Team, Sir Mix-a-Lot and numerous others being dissed. Paradise even talks about the time when Hammer came up to the Latin Quarters by himself to do his song “Ring ‘Em,” which was big hit in the hoods out here in Cali, but was clowned in NY.
NWA, with its booming beats and harsh lyrics, put LA and the west on the map and got Cali some acceptance. This was a big incentive for folks out here to overlook their own morals and common sense and get behind those gangsta groups that knocked the doors down. Personally, despite doing some of NWA’s first interviews, I felt uncomfortable calling what they did revolutionary because I recall both Cube and Eazy telling me they were cursing up a storm as a way to initially be funny and that they enjoyed seeing the shocked look on people’s faces. They weren’t doing it because they really felt that way (as many like to romanticize). Look at some of the old articles on them and you’ll see them admitting to that.
This was a big point of contention, and was also the beginning of how shit started to get co-opted. When we did the boycotts, they were the result of community approval, involvement and support. The boycotts were effective and lasted for a year, and we did follow up interviews with NWA about them.
During one landmark interview, Cube spoke passionately about his desire to change and be more political, and even talked about the internal debates he and his group were having about being responsible. It wasn’t that long after that that he left the group, and much of what he talked about soon surfaced on his Amerikkka’s Most Wanted album.
Ironically the NWA boycott was broken by white deejays who felt like the group’s material, and material like it, should be heard, and that NWA was somehow more authentic and real then groups like X-Clan and Public Enemy.
This assessment not only played itself out on college radio, but it was replicated on commercial radio as well — and I personally saw our playlist switch up almost overnight from playing PE, X-Clan and Paris to gangsta rap.
Again, non-black deejays like Theo Mizuhara lead the charge in pushing gangsta material over the positive. This attitude was also embraced by several high profile black writers like Cheo Choker, James Bernard and later Toure — who once bragged to me via email that he “killed the career of Public Enemy” by writing a widely read negative review of their album
In hindsight, we can see (and hopefully understand) that it was probably a mistake for us to not have been more involved in demanding what we knew to be right at the time, and we soon began to see people cash on the love that those outside of our communities were showing for gangsta rap. In 2007, we are seeing the end results.
The fact that we helped create a climate to start to turn things around is a good thing. If it manifests itself in stations saying they wanna change up then that’s great. If it means it will help get more people excited about doing a different type of rap highlighting different subject matter then I’m all for it.
If it means Russell (who for the past few years has said he would never try and tell an artist to change his or her lyrics) is now calling for an end to hateful and derogatory words in commercially-released material, I say that’s good thing. We should push harder and encourage more to follow suit.
What’s the next step? That’s our collective challenge.
Now that we have people ready to push for better music, how do we intend to distribute? Keep in mind that while we were arguing about Russell being a culture vulture, the RIAA and US Copyright Law flipped the script and developed a new type of payola which effectively has wiped out Internet radio and any other digital distribution streams.
They got the US Copyright office to raise rates by 1200% and to have it apply retroactively starting on May 15th. Appeals to this ruling have been denied, which means that most small internet broadcasters and streaming will stop by the end of May because cats are gonna be bankrupt. The big players like AOL radio, Yahoo and Microsoft will be around, but not the rest. So how are we gonna get all this good alternative music across?
If you think you can get around it by using independent artists, think again. Because of fear of lawsuits, most internet providers are gearing up to protect themselves from lawsuits. They won’t want to take the chance of one of us putting out RIAA-owned material, so they will take precautions and limit the ability to pass the good music along.
While many small broadcasters like us (who saw the internet as a saving grace) will now find themselves in serious legal and financial jeapordy, the big time radio stations are cutting side deals with the major labels so they don’t have to pay the high royalty rates — in exchange for normal airplay.
This is why some of us — like me, Paul Porter, and Lisa Fager from Industry Ears — were harping on this payola stuff so much. Now the shit is about to come back and haunt us big time. That’s a serious battle that we will have to undertake. For those who have concerns about censorship, this change in copyright law is where we have the real battle.
Peace out for now,
2 Responses to “On The Hip-Hop Summit Action Network’s Language Ban”
- Who We Be + N+1=Summer Reading For You
- “I Gotta Be Able To Counterattack” : Los Angeles Rap and The Riots
- Me in LARB + Who We Be Update
- In Defense Of Libraries
- The Latest On DJ Kool Herc
- Support DJ Kool Herc
- A History Of Hate: Political Violence In Arizona
- Culture Before Politics :: Why Progressives Need Cultural Strategy
- It’s Bigger Than Politics :: My Thoughts On The 2010 Elections
- New In The Reader: WHO WE BE PREVIEW + Uncle Jamm’s Army
- DJ Nu-Mark :: Take Me With You
DJ Nu-Mark remixes the diaspora…party ensues!
- El General + Various Artists :: Mish B3eed : Khalas Mixtape V. 1
The crew at Enough Gaddafi bring the most important mixtape of 2011–the street songs that launched the Tunisian & Egyptian Revolutions…
- J. Period + Black Thought + John Legend :: Wake Up! Radio mixtape
Remixing the classic LP w/towering contributions from Rakim, Q-Tip + Mayda Del Valle
- Lyrics Born :: As U Were
Bright production + winning rhymes in LB’s most accessible set ever
- Model Minority :: The Model Minority Report
The SoCal Asian American rap scene that produced FM keeps surprising…
- Mogwai :: Hardcore Won't Die But You Will
Dare we call it majestic?
- Taura Love Presents :: Picki People Volume One
From LA via Paris with T-Love, the global post-Dilla generation goes for theirs…
- Cormac McCarthy :: Blood Meridian
Read this now before Hollywood f*#ks it up.
- Dave Tompkins :: How To Wreck A Nice Beach
Book of the decade, nuff said.
- Joe Flood :: The Fires
The definitive account of why the Bronx burned
- Mark Fischer :: Capitalist Realism
K-Punk’s philosophical manifesto reads like his blog, snappy and compelling. Just replace pop music with post-post-Marxism. Pair with Josh Clover’s 1989 for the full hundred.
- Nell Irvin Painter :: The History of White People
Well worth a Glenn Beck rant…and everyone’s scholarly attention
- Robin D.G. Kelley :: Thelonious Monk : The Life And Times Of An American Original
Monk as he was meant to be written
- Tim Wise :: Colorblind
Wise’s call for a color-conscious agenda in an era of “post-racial” politics is timely
- Victor Lavalle :: Big Machine
Victor Lavalle does it again!
- ++ Total Chaos
The acclaimed anthology on the hip-hop arts movement
- Asian Law Caucus | Arc of 72
- AWOL Inc Savannah
- B+ | Coleman
- Boggs Center
- Center For Media Justice
- Center For Third World Organzing
- Chinese For Affirmative Action
- Color of Change
- Dan Charnas
- Danyel Smith
- Dave Zirin
- Davey D
- DJ Shadow
- Elizabeth Mendez Berry
- Ferentz Lafargue
- Giant Robot
- Hip-Hop Theater Festival
- Hua Hsu
- Humanity Critic
- Hyphen Magazine
- Jalylah Burrell
- Jay Smooth
- Joe Schloss
- Julianne Shepherd
- League of Young Voters
- Lyrics Born
- Mark Anthony Neal
- Nate Chinen
- Nelson George
- Okay Player
- Oliver Wang + Junichi Semitsu :: Poplicks
- Pop + Politics
- Raquel Cepeda
- Raquel Rivera
- Rob Kenner
- Sasha Frere-Jones
- The Assimilated Negro
- Theme Magazine
- Upper Playground
- Wayne Marshall
- Wiretap Magazine
- Wooster Collective
- Youth Speaks
- No public Twitter messages.
Come follow me now...
- July 2014
- May 2012
- January 2012
- June 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- December 2009
- November 2009
- October 2009
- September 2009
- August 2009
- July 2009
- June 2009
- May 2009
- February 2009
- January 2009
- December 2008
- November 2008
- October 2008
- September 2008
- August 2008
- July 2008
- June 2008
- May 2008
- April 2008
- March 2008
- February 2008
- January 2008
- December 2007
- November 2007
- October 2007
- September 2007
- August 2007
- July 2007
- June 2007
- May 2007
- April 2007
- March 2007
- February 2007
- January 2007
- December 2006
- November 2006
- October 2006
- September 2006
- August 2006
- July 2006
- June 2006
- May 2006
- April 2006
- March 2006
- February 2006
- January 2006
- December 2005
- November 2005
- October 2005
- September 2005
- August 2005
- July 2005
- June 2005
- May 2005
- April 2005
- March 2005
- February 2005
- January 2005
- December 2004
- November 2004
- October 2004
- September 2004
- August 2004
- July 2004
- June 2004
- May 2004
- April 2004
- March 2004
- February 2004
- January 2004
- December 2003
- November 2003
- October 2003
- September 2003
- August 2003
- July 2003
- June 2003
- May 2003
- April 2003
- March 2003
- February 2003
- January 2003
- December 2002
- November 2002
- October 2002
- September 2002
- August 2002
- July 2002
- June 2002
Requests for commercial uses of any content here are welcome: come correct.