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Davey D., Clear Channel, Activism; and Assets and Liabilities Part 2


Our main objective in discussing Davey D’s situation with Clear Channel last week was to focus the minds of our viewers and those who would/will eventually see the piece, on the manner in which the Hip-Hop community values its assets and liabilities and the quality of its “activism”.

For the most part, we have been critical of the methods of some in the Hip-Hop activist community as opposed to the legitimacy of their various causes. One of the main points that we have tried to express to those in the community is our opinion that if Hip-Hop artists and those in the industry are not activists in terms of their business dealings with the corporate giants of radio and the recording business, then it is not likely that they can become effective in the political realm.

If you can't lift 5 pounds, how can you lift 50, we wonder?

While many in the grassroots Hip-Hop community are disappointed in the lack of political activity and community work being performed by artists; many grassroots leaders don’t seem to understand that the first phase of an artist’s development and forward motion into the political realm is the recognition of their reality and self-interests in the financial realm. If an artist is not offended by their recording contract that pays them next-to-nothing, it shouldn’t be hard to understand why an artist won’t identify with, and vocally support the grievances of labor groups across the world or of unions in this country, we think.

In a similar manner, if Hip-Hop activists can’t rally around an opinion leader under fire and even one who has been mishandled by those who make money off of Hip-Hop culture, how credible or successful will their work in electoral politics be, for example? In a sense we think that some in the activist community’s eyes are bigger than their stomachs. Instead of seeking to save the world, politically, an emphasis on preservation of the soul, culturally, may be more appropriate. Effective recognition and mobilization around the economic issues of Hip-Hop artists and opinion leaders, is a necessary component of that approach.

In the manner in which Davey D’s firing was handled; and in so many other cases, we saw sincere expressions of outrage and disappointment but little in the way of intelligent and methodical organizing around a leader who has so consistently fought to defend Hip-Hop culture and the individuals who produce and perpetuate it. In allowing what happened to Davey to go unanswered, in a sense, the Hip-Hop community has accepted an external valuation of Davey D. Although most in the community would view him as an invaluable human asset to the community, a de facto internalization of Davey as a financial liability, as estimated by Clear Channel, has thus far prevailed.

At the end of the day, the Hip-Hop activist community must be clear on its priorities and balance sheet.

Maybe we should think twice before we use that word activist.



Cedric Muhammad

Friday, October 19, 2001

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