I was relieved to find out that hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, founder of Def Jam Records and chairman of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network has called for a self-imposed ban on by the nation’s rappers on specific offensive terms. (I won’t list them here; you already know what they are anyway.)
In a related story, local farmers have responded to reports of aimlessly roaming livestock by finally shutting their barn doors.
(For those of you confused by that last sentence, it’s called sarcasm. Watch a few Tina Fey “Weekend Update” highlights already.)
Finally, someone from within the hip-hop nation is willing to step up and call a spade a spade.
This is terribly significant, because as soon as the Don Imus story broke (I’m not linking to it because I’m assuming you haven’t been living under a rock), there were editorials up the wazoo taking hip-hop artists to task. Double standard!!!, they cried. How can you crucify Imus for saying things that rappers say every day?
Not only that, but many (including myself, via emails to family) spent significant time criticizing perceived race-baiter and rabble-rouser Al Sharpton for leading the charge for Imus’ head on his own radio show. Why hasn’t Sharpton raised a big ruckus over other rappers saying ten times worse?
Now usually this line of questioning ends up with a bitter backlash against liberal P.C.-ism, usually involving a line about how “people” (an abbreviation for Ross Perot’s “you people”) need to learn to laugh at themselves. I mean, I’m sure that’s exactly what I would have said if I were the average undereducated, indignant conservative White dude who gets easily offended about double-standards in the media.
But I’m not, so calm down, Ted. That’s not where I’m going at all.
(By the way, Ted is the name of my imaginary indignant, mildly racist and/or prejudiced generic White guy. If you know a Ted that’s not mildly prejudiced in this way, apologize to him for me. Have him come to my place and I’ll buy him a Fresca for his troubles. If, on the other hand, you know one that is, in fact, prejudiced in exactly this way, then by all means… print this out, bring it to him, and tell him to shut up and read.)
See, this whole, if they can do it, why can’t we do it is an asinine line of reasoning. First of all, as Russell Simmons himself pointed out almost immediately, there is a big difference between a recording artist using negative language to depict a fictional, archetypical character and a radio host using the same negative language on a group of real people. If Michael Richards would have used the n-word in a bit about Blacks riding public transportation, it still would’ve been in bad taste, but not nearly as offensive. The Richards story caught fire in part because Richards directed the epithet at two actual patrons who were interrupting his routine.
Also, the Sharpton-is-a-hypocrite-for-ignoring-rappers argument doesn’t hold water because, as my cousin Ignatius pointed out to me, Al Sharpton has been on a crusade against offensive language in hip-hop for years. Sharpton may be a raging hypocrite for other reasons, but not for this one. His problem has been that he’s so well-known for causing a ruckus that when he’s actually telling the truth, it doesn’t usually garner much media attention.
The sad part is that Sharpton’s efforts haven’t been all that successful in terms of hip-hop’s larger influence. His website bio may claim otherwise, but last year’s Oscar for best song went to Three 6 Mafia’s “It’s Hard Out Here for A Pimp.” I mean yeah, back in the day Big Daddy Kane told that “Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy” but he never took home an academy award. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Until now, hopefully.
See the difference here is that Russell Simmons is a respected icon within the hip-hop nation. And I’ve always believed that if a shift in priority was going to take place, it would have to be from within. It now seems like that’s starting to happen.
Yes, it’s egregiously late… but there’s a reason why they call it CP time.
I’m Jelani Greenidge, and thanks for mixin’ it up with me.