Lawmakers, music industry executives and rappers disagreed Tuesday (September 25) over who was to blame for explicit lyrics in hip-hop music, but opposing sides did agree that censorship was not a solution.
According to the Associated Press, music videos showing scantily clad women were played at the hearing; while rappers such as David Banner explained that issues thought to be caused by hip-hop were here long before the genre was birthed in the early 80s.
“If by some stroke of the pen hip-hop was silenced, the issues would still be present in our communities,” the rapper/producer said in prepared statements to a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing. “Drugs, violence and the criminal element were around long before hip-hop existed.”
Other black civil rights leaders blamed corporate exploitation for destroying the culture. “We have allowed greedy corporate executives — especially those in the entertainment industry — to lead many of our young people to believe that it is OK to entertain themselves by destroying the culture of our people,” said E. Faye Williams, chair of the National Congress of Black Women, according to the AP.
The title was Tuesday’s hearing was “From Imus to Industry: The business of stereotypes and degrading images,” referring to former radio host Don Imus, who lost his job after making derogatory comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team. Since the on-air comments, there has been much debate within the music industry and mainstream media about the lyrics used by hip-hop artists.
Master P, who has recently cleaned up his lyrics, told the panel that his decision to censor his lyrics came after he realized he didn’t want his own children to listen to his explicit gangster rap he made in his past.
“I just made the music that I feel, not realizing I’m affecting kids for tomorrow,” he said. “So if I can do anything today to change this, I’m going to take a stand and do that.”
Record label executives pointed out that their parental guidance labels and edited versions are in place to keep the explicit material away from children, but stressed that “uniform standards or censorship won’t work.”
Even Philippe Dauman, president & CEO of Viacom Inc., which owns such cable networks as MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and BET, said that he has the “responsibility to speak authentically to our viewers,” but also stated that they “believe that it is not our role to censor the creative expression of artists.”
Radio One, Inc., one of the largest media companies that primarily serves African-Americans, said that all music content is reviewed before broadcasting, but just like MTV’s parent company, they also said they’re not in charge of “creating content, or in the business of censorship or determining what is in good or bad taste.”