Making Change Spring 2005, Volume 6, Number 2

“We don’t hold each other accountable in the same way that we hold white people accountable. You don’t see the NAACP taking this issue on. What’s the reluctance?”

by Lynn Ingrid Nelson

Bakari Kitwana

Corporate interests have driven domestic violence in Hip Hop music

 

I

n the early days, there was no domestic violence in Hip Hop music, according to IDVAAC conference speaker Bakari Kitwana. “When Hip Hop became a corporate commodity, domestic violence began to emerge.”

Prior to the music industry’s consolidation in the mid-‘80s, the Golden Age of Hip Hop featured more “restrained” artists, such as Queen Latifah and the Poor Righteous Teachers. “In those days you only had to sell 500,000 records to go gold. Today, you’re not a success unless you sell millions,” adds Kitwana.

“The corporate market doesn’t take a risk if it can help it,” says Kitwana, a prominent reporter, editor and visiting scholar at Kent State University. “The executives only bet on sure things. Make no mistake, Kitwana admonished the audience: “It’s about the money.”

And the message is that it’s OK to assault women – there are minimal repercussions.”

In the ‘90s, there were several high profile cases involving black men who assaulted black women. One involved rapper Dr. Dre, who allegedly kicked and beat talk show host Dee Barnes in the ladies room of a night club in 1991. (Her suit against him was eventually settled.) The following year, he hit a police officer at a New Orleans hotel and broke the jaw of a fellow record-producer. Three years later, Dre spent five months in a Pasadena City Jail for violating parole.

The sporadic violence and run-ins did little to dampen Dre’s commercial success. It’s likely his street reputation had quite the opposite effect. Album after album produced by Dr. Dre has gone platinum. His latest success was to co-produce two runaway CDs featuring white rapper Eminem. The message to young music consumers is as clear as the rapper’s explicit lyrics: Violence pays.

During the ‘90s, one of Dr. Dre’s music industry associates, 2Pac went to prison after sharing his date Ianna Jackson with his crew, and Mike Tyson spent six years in prison after sexually assaulting a black Miss American candidate.

Hip Hop Contributes to climate of violence

Out of this context has arisen “Nasty as They Want to Be” by 2 Live Crew and countless other CDs that are degrading to women and in particular to black women. The direction of Rap and Hip Hop has begun to get the attention of music industry leaders, politicians, religious and community leaders, as well as academics. In June 2001, Rush Communications CEO Russell Simmons staged the first Hip- Hop Summit in New York City.

Bakari suggested that it’s dangerous to suggest that Hip Hop music causes domestic violence. Rather, it creates an environment in which domestic violence is condoned and is a reflection of attitudes affected by dramatic social changes.

“The corporate market doesn’t take a risk if it can help it,” says Kitwana, a prominent reporter, editor and visiting scholar at Kent State University. “The executives only bet on sure things. Make no mistake, Kitwana admonished the audience: “It’s about the money.”

Countering violence perpetuated by music industry

Bakari concluded his presentation with some possible solutions for dealing with violence perpetuated by the music industry:

1. We need artists to be as outspoken about domestic violence as they are about other social issues.

2. Young people should take a cue from women at black colleges, such as Spelman, who have warned visiting rappers that they will be held accountable during their speaking engagements for their exploitation of women in their music.

3. Everyone must address the issue of how women are represented in music.

4. Before denigrating all Hip Hop, practitioners must thoroughly inform themselves about the breadth of the hip hop culture. He suggested checking out www.allhiphop.com and www.launch.com.

5. Recognize that this issue is bigger than Hip Hop. At the congressional level, entertainment standards must be set for what’s acceptable for children. It’s time to stop shoving garbage down their throats.

6. Stop passing black-based entertainment through a corporate filter, which magnifies how society views black people. Corporations are only too happy to blame everything that’s wrong on Black America.

7. Last, don’t let Hip Hop become a wedge between middle-aged and young people

 

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