Dialogue about the “rap industrial complex” can fuel change, Ms. Clemente said.
But people must be willing to probe what is the system in play, and who are the power players that allow these artists to put out rhymes and lyrics that they themselves don’t even write? Ms. Clemente said.
Why are artists like Ross or Lil’ Wayne or Chief Keef getting constant rotation on radio airwaves but the plethora of incredibly conscious male and female hip hop MCs and artists will never be on the radio? she asked.
“I believe that even if Rick Ross were to get dropped by his record company or Chief Keef gets dropped by Interscope, that they have a lot of mostly young brothers down the pipeline, that they’re saying, ‘Say whatever you want to say and the worst and most violent and misogynistic, we’re going to pay you,’ ” Ms. Clemente told The Final Call.
“Some rappers think that nothing is going to happen to them and the reality is something has happened to Rick Ross, but what about the record company that said it was okay for him to do this and that continues to put him on tour,” Ms. Clemente argued.
Currently, there are at least four different www.change.org petitions, demanding accountability from Mr. Ross and rappers who’ve put out similar controversial lyrics, as well as record label companies and radio stations that support or play their records.
The online petition titled, “Rape, Rick Ross and Responsibility – #RRR,” has nearly 2,100 supporters. It targets a host of record label and radio executives and is demanding a system of safeguards to protect consumers and the general public from illegal references promoting rape, drug use, violence and misogyny.
The petitioner organizers aptly point out what many people say around dinner tables, in barber shops and beauty salons, and at work day water coolers: Mainstream rap has been suffering from repulsive content for a long time but this latest wave of filth is “our breaking point” and society’s hit rock bottom. Lil’ Wayne, Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, Trinidad James, Chief Keef and music companies backing them are all to blame, the petition says.
Accidents, racism and revulsion
Rap icon LL Cool J got lambasted after the release of the country and western song “Accidental Racist.” Some likened his duet with Brad Paisley to Lil’ Wayne’s vulgar, controversial lyrics about Emmett Till, the child whose brutal murder in Mississippi helped spark the modern civil rights movement.
In interviews, including the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” LL Cool J insisted the song had done its job. People are talking, he said.
“I would never, ever, ever suggest to anyone that we should just forget slavery and act like that didn’t happen, I understand the systemic racism that exists, I get that,” LL said.
Many weren’t convinced branding him “LL Coon J” for a song whose lyrics begin, “Dear Mr. White Man,” and includes words about gold chains, slave chains and forgiveness.
“I don’t know if it’s a one size fits all type of situation,” said Davey D, a hip hop journalist, historian, talk show host and activist. Several things are at stake, he said.
“One is that there’s an audience that has grown up on hip hop that is tired of the stuff that is coming out. They’re tired of the corporatization of it and with the corporatization of hip hop has come the packaging and the wholesale selling of, for lack of a better term, this ratchetness,” Davey D told The Final Call.
This isn’t limited to hip hop, but rears its head in reality shows and other venues but those crass behaviors and images sell in virtually any area, he said.
If someone dies or goes to jail in the music industry, companies make money off that as well, Davey D continued.
“That has meant that people have upped the ante in terms of how they can shock people. If you think about it, 20 years ago when you had 2 Live Crew singing explicit songs about sex or you had the Ghetto Boys kind of giving you fantasy type of gory horror movie in their rhymes, that was kind of shocking,” explained Davey D.
“But now, when you think about it, NWA and 2 Live Crew and what the Geto Boys was talking about actually seems very, very plain to what has kind of been normalized in music and entertainment.”
Davey D argued the message is normalized because much of what those artists talked about has manifested in reality TV, which includes the police shows.
Lil’ Wayne has been very public about the fact he “sips syrup” and has a substance abuse problem, and he’s handsomely rewarded by and marketed to peop
le outside the Black community, Davey D continued.
“If you and I happen to say we don’t like him and we’re going to boycott him, when you look at the numbers, it’s like, ‘So what. I’ve got all these other people buying my stuff.’ So that means that Lil’ Wayne doesn’t get checked. He doesn’t have to engage us, and so there are no boundaries and the end result is he’ll talk about Emmett Till and keep it moving like there’s nothing wrong with that.”
With LL Cool J comes a very different political outlook, Davey D said. While some people say LL is naive and doesn’t know better, and it may be true to a certain degree, the near-50-year-old rapper is not afraid to speak his mind on politics, Davey D noted.
“In this thing with his racial analysis, I think he falls into the trap that so many of us do. We feel good. We got access. We’re cool. Let’s have a kumbaya moment and I just think LL’s assessment of what we should really talk about with race is shortchanged because he didn’t give it as much thought as one would think.”
“I do think that the inference that you can be an accidental racist is pretty ludicrous and for L to sort of take a stand at this time, sort of like politically or message-wise is interesting,” said Chuck Creekmur, CEO of www.AllHipHop.com.
“I love L, so I don’t want any confusion there. But I just find it awkward, now, that you get on a country record with a guy that proclaims to be an accidental racist, however you want to flip that meaning, but I think the outrage on L is more like, come on man, you know better than this,” Mr. Creekmur said.
But Lil’ Wayne and Rick Ross represent how far society’s slid as a people to some extent, he continued.