Response to Oprah’s Hip Hop Town Hall

Hip Hop Return to Your Roots!! pt. 3

I watched the two day special Oprah had about sexism in the hip hop lyrics. I found this forum interesting. Rappers have had a little animosity against Oprah ever since she confronted Ludacris about the use of words like “nigga, b**ch and hoe” in the songs put out by rap artists. Most troubling was the reaction of Industry mogul Russell Simons, and Warner Music vice president Kevin Liles. Their attitude helped me to understand why we see the predominance of the kind of artists we have today. Just like fired radio talk show host Don Imus these people just don’t seem to get it. It was disgraceful watching Dr. Benjamin Chavis advocating for the garbage that is out there and Russell and Kevin calling them poets, just because someone rhymes two sentences does not mean they are a poet. Russell and Kevin expressed such anger especially towards women, Russell at one time saying “I don’t know why we have these girls because they say they don’t listen to hip hop” and made faces as they were speaking. As if to say because you chose not to listen to the denigrating lyrics you don’t know or can’t speak about hip hop. I don’t listen to that garbage but I love hip hop and when I find a good artist like Mos Def or Talib Kweli I try to follow that career. I look out for their music, but it is very hard to find their music among all the other stuff. They don’t get the radio play or the promotional support from the label.

Kevin Liles, Vice president of Warner Music is just ignorant. He blew up at one of Oprah guests because he mistakenly thought the man called him a “clown”, which shows he does not listen. It is obvious that he is in support of the garbage because as the only person “who ran a record company” he did not name one thing that he was doing to try to make a real difference in the kind of content that was being marketed. I was plainly offended by his presence on the panel, and felt he made no legitimate contribution to the conversation.

Russell sounded so delusional (maybe he hasn’t listened to the music lately) when he says that the artists are talking about their community and the poverty they have to endure. I haven’t seen a trailer park or any reflection of poverty in hip hop for a while, maybe only the Keisha Cole show. Mostly I see mansions, expensive cars and bikes, diamond and platinum jewelry, “patron”, topped of with the close to naked girl shaking their bootie in a thong, jumping in and out of a pool. When new rappers have these images in their very first videos how are they reflecting the conditions they came from? Yes it is clear to me why we have the kind of music that we have today.

In my previous posting I talked about the role that women of hip hop are playing in advancing this type of music. What is evident is that females within the industry are not protesting against this music but is instrumental in the creation and promotion of music that is offensive to their own gender. When a female artist makes a song about her ability to perform oral sex what kind of message does that send to men and women. Wonder why there was an increase in our youth participating in oral sex? When a video “hoe” (and girls if you haven’t figured it out you are playing the role of the “hoe or bi**h” in the video) shakes her behind in front of the camera in a room full of men it tells women it is OK to take off your clothes in a room full of men, it does not show the possible consequences of that action. You are showing them how to make it in the industry. When a radio executive decides that in order to make a song marketable you have to have something more “hot” then they are in a sense supporting it and then must defend it. Label executives have to defend it. What I find revealing about the panel is the ignorance displayed when it comes to the influence that hip hop has on young people. Is this naiveté or defending your bread and butter?

I grew up on hip hop. I remember the first time I heard a rap record. This was rappers delight by sugar hill gang. I was in fifth grade. It was funny, catchy and made you dance. I was curious and wanted to hear more. I also remember when Run/DMC first came out. “Two years ago a friend mine asked to say a mc rhyme”, the clapping beat. Oh it was hot. We dance and screamed, my generation was having our own Motown moment, but it was “Def Jam”s. I love the music and the culture, but if hip hop is a culture then a culture comes from something. In hip hop’s case the culture is coming from the artist and the fans. I remember when Run/DMC wore their shoes without laces. What did we do? Not everyone, but many people wore their shoes without laces. Back then it was simple, it was shoes without laces. We did not know we were embracing prison fashion. When rappers wore timberland and white tees everybody wanted timberland and white tees. Rappers talk about how they sold drugs to come up, the youth think they can sell drugs and then become a rapper, and how come every rapper had to be involved in some kind of crime to be considered legit. Our fascination with jewelry started with the big gold cables and the dunky earrings. Fordham road made a killing selling the hollow chains and earrings. The music was influencing the listener, and out of that came the culture. The style of dress, the lingo and slang. The music touched many, everybody wanted to rhyme, and yes it was because we wanted to live the individuality that hip hop presented. Rappers did talk about their conditions but not all did, some just had fun with it, and that was OK because it made the music more diverse. That is what hip hop was about. Slick Rick and Big Daddy Kane were our pimp rappers. But did they were not the only voices heard and did not only talk about pimping. Today we seem to only have one voice in hip hop, and the prevailing voice is one that does not have respect for themselves or their community, women or the culture.

About Pollitikat

Political and Cultural Expression
This entry was posted in hip hop, kevin liles, Mos Def, oprah, russel simmons and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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