Hip-Hop Fridays: Rev. Al Sharpton Starts An Initiative. And Davey D. and The Source Magazine Critique It.
Editor's Note:: This week Rev. Al Sharpton launched an initiative and wrote a letter in response to the recent tension and controversy surrounding 50 Cent and Game and in relation to music played on radio stations. His efforts drew widespread reaction - pro and con. A representation of the two points of view were provided by Hip-Hop historian and opinion leader Davey D., and The Source Magazine.
What follows is the March 7th press release from Rev. Sharpton describing his efforts, including a letter Rev. Sharpton wrote to music executives. That is followed by a response to Rev. Sharpton's initiative - first from Davey D., and then, a release from The Source.
New York, N.Y. (March 7, 2005)---Former Democratic Presidential candidate Reverend Al Sharpton, one of the country's foremost leaders for civil rights, is sending a letter today to the major music conglomerates to seek meetings with the CEO's to demand a moratorium on the airplay and promotion of music from artists that engage in violence. Sharpton is proposing a 90-day ban on radio and TV airplay for any performer who engages in violence because currently the airwaves are being used to romanticize urban bloodshed. Revered Sharpton is also seeking a meeting with the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and major advertisers who support artists that engage in bloodshed.
Reverend Sharpton is sending out the following letter:
The National Action Network has become extremely concerned about the reoccurring violence in the music industry that is being cynically used by some for record and CD sales at the expense of romanticizing violence to young Americans. Though we clearly support anyone's first amendment right to say and perform whatever they want, there must be a standard of conduct in their actual actions that is conducive to what is regarded as professional behavior in any industry.
I recall the outrage that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and others displayed in response to the Super Bowl performance of Janet Jackson. Yet, when acts of violence happen around radio stations that actually have caused bloodshed, there has been a strange and disturbing silence from all quarters. It is almost like we are permitted to create a violent self-destructive environment which is an ultimate form of racism and bias. If professional sports and other parts of the entertainment industry can voluntarily impose standards then certainly we should expect the entertainment industry--specifically the radio and video industry--to attempt to do the same for professional artists.
We propose that when artists engage in actual acts of violence they should be immediately subjected to a 90-day moratorium of the airplay and video airplay of their music so these acts and their music companies will at least not use this behavior to promote record and video sales and give the perception to young Americans that violence toward one another is the new paradigm for success and celebrity. We do not feel that this will necessarily regulate the behavior of all artists but it will certainly take the profit motive out of those who feel that this kind of public display of brutal behavior is a permissible way to promote one's career and sales.
I would like to request an immediate meeting with you to discuss how the radio industry and video industry can work towards a voluntary standard that it will use similar to team owners in sports to stop this climate of permissiveness of violence in the music world. I intend also to meet with major advertisers and the FCC in Washington on this matter.
We cannot sit silently by while young Americans feel that shootings and bloodshed is now synonymous with success and celebrity. We understand you're in the business of making money but it cannot be at the expense of polluting the cultural outlook of young Americans.
Yours in Progress,
Reverend Al Sharpton
Now Al Sharpton Wants to Jump In..What's the Hustle?
by Davey D
Today the NY Daily News ran an article about the Reverend Al Sharpton wanting to write letters to the FCC and call for a 90 day ban on 'gangsta rap' and anything that reeks of violence and has the potential to spill out in the streets.
This sounds good on the surface and considering what took place last week at Hot 97 in New York it sounds damn near practical... But there's always a catch and a behind the scenes story to the one being sold to us.
First we have to ask ourselves where Sharpton was over the past few years when these media reform campaigns were first conducted, the most prominent being the ĎTurn off the Radio Campaigní that was launched and supported by community activists Bob Law, the December 12th Movement, Chuck D of Public Enemy, dead prez, The Zulu Nation and numerous others community organizations in New York.
A huge tribunal featuring a number of NY City Council members, artists ranging from Hip Hop luminaries like Stetsasonic, Public Enemy and Afrika Bambaataa to legendary R&B crooners Ray, Goodman and Brown who filled a church on Madison Avenue in Harlem in January of 2003 to address the important issue of how Black folks were being depicted in media outlets serving New York.
There were at least a 1000 people in attendance and the tribunal went on for at least 5 hours with community member after community member speaking and airing out their grievances. Sharpton was no where to be seen. Nor was he around to lend his considerable clout in the months that followed when Law worked tirelessly to get this campaign off the ground. Sharpton was not around when the Turn off the Radio Campaign sparked off in other cities like Kansas City, and Cleveland to name a few.
Sharpton was no where to be seen when similar efforts were launched in places like Detroit (Black Out Fridays), Seattle, Chicago and most recently Miami.
Sharpton was absent from the fight when the huge media reform campaign called the 'People's Station Campaign' sparked off in San Francisco. Here members of the Hip Hop community including artists and numerous organizations got together monitored the Clear Channel owned Urban Music stations in the area and issued a report to the community and various media outlets. The efforts not only forced change on the big Urban giants KMEL and KYLD, but it was the subject of numerous media stories including a huge front page story penned by author Jeff Chang on front of the Bay Guardian.
Many of the issues that Turn off the Radio campaign as well as the other efforts around the country, were similar to the ones raised by the coalition that protested against Hot 97 last Friday at Union Square Park. People have grown tired of the racist remarks directed at the communities of color this station serves. They were tired of the type of degrading music that is constantly being pumped. The recent shooting in front of Hot 97 involving 50 Cent and Game's entourage was just icing on the cake for the momentum that had already been brewing within the Hip Hop community.
Hopefully people do not forget that what was the real catalyst behind Friday's March 4th protest was the insidious, racist Tsunami song that Hot 97's executives allowed Miss Jones and her morning crew to put on the air. Initial complaints to the station were ignored and dismissed until websites like Okayplayer.com owned by the Grammy Award winning Hip Hop band the Roots and WBAI DJ J-Smooth and his blog HipHopmusic.com alerted their readers what was going on.
This in turn sparked more people to come forth as Smooth, Okayplayer and other Hip Hop oriented websites began chronicling the tireless efforts of organizers with the Asian and Southeast Asian communities that had now taken up the fight against Hot 97. Because of the similarities and concerns raised in previous efforts, folks from all backgrounds were able to come together and re-address the grievances at Hot 97.
Again Sharpton was absent. During the whole Anti-Asian Tsunami incident there were no headline making statements from Sharpton about media reform or restraint. He was absent from this highly publicized fight. No phone calls, no letters, no nothing. He didn't even come to the first protest at Hot 97 which was attended by City councilmen Charles Barron and John Liu who helped organized this effort along with Asian Media Watch. He certainly wasnít at any of the planning meetings.
In addition to all this, let's go back into time when the Turn Back the Radio efforts were underway and we had all these hearings about how many stations Radio station owners could have in a market, you did not see or hear Sharpton raising this issue. You certainly didn't see him at too many of the hearings. I know because we covered most of them on our airwaves at Pacifica and I spoke at three of them. (Monteray, Seattle and San Francisco)
So what's this all about? Why is Sharpton jumping in at the 12th hour? Is it because this is the hot topic of the day and he wants to be a part of it? MaybeÖ Maybe not. The media reform and media justice argument has been around for the past 3 years and have been hot topics. He could've ran to the bank with this during his Presidential campaign. But he didn't. He certainly never had any of the main Hip Hop activists who have been dealing with this from day one come on his Sunday night 3 hour radio show on WLIB which is now home to Air America. We spoke with Bob Law who let us know that not once did Sharpton ever help out with the widespread efforts behind this campaign.
So whatís the motive behind Sharpton suddenly wanting to write the FCC and call for a ban on gangsta rap? Well, heís seems to be redirecting the argument back to the artists and away from the media owners and executives who are really responsible for giving them air time.
In the NY Daily news article, you donít see him calling them into question the role Jeff Smulyan, Rick Cummings and Barry Mayo who are executives at Emmis. You donít see him calling for a meeting with John Hogan, Steve Smith or Doc Winters who are key executives at Clear Channel. You donít see him calling on Cathy Hughes or Alfred Liggins or Mary Catherine Sneed (MC Sneed) who run things at Radio One. He covers his steps by saying, he doesn't wanna mediate between the artists and that this is a recurring problem, but he stops short of placing blame where it really belongs. Everyone knows this hence the protests and objections over the past three years.
This is important to note, because folks who have been organizing around media reform are very clear that artists like 50 Cent and Game have to own up to the role they play in these conflicts, but this is bigger then them. This goes back to those who have final say so as to what gets aired and how they ultimately profit off of these divisions. So now we have Sharpton who has good working relationships with Kathy Hughes at Radio One and Barry Mayo the General Manager at Hot 97 coming to the rescue.
Sharpton was strangely silent and didnít shoot off letters to the FCC a few weeks ago when members of Gameís entourage brutally beat a deejay (Xzulu) and hospitalized him after an interview they conducted on Radio Oneís WYKS in DC. He never asked for a 90 day ban when Radio One banned and then un-banned the Gameís record from being played.
Many see Sharptonís involvement as a subtle but soon to not be so subtle smoke screen to protect the attacks on his media buddies at these outlets. Today heís calling for ban. Tomorrow heíll start focusing on the artists and will do all that he can to downplay the role and responsibility of this executive friends at these stations. Who knows perhaps they will even grant him a weekly show so he can air out these important issues.
My point being is that what sort of Ďoff the recordí conversations has Sharpton been having with these folks that he has not been able to come forth and say something like 'I just got off the phone with Radio One and they agreed to do a 90 day ban, or I just spoke to Barry Mayo and convinced him to do an on air truce and dedicate a day to conflict resolution which is what Pittsburgh radio station WAMO did the other day. '.
One would hope and suspect that Sharpton had these conversations with them before making his announcement about going to the FCC. One has to wonder what's really going on? Did he speak to them and they told him 'No Way'? I find this hard to believe.
In the words of Public Enemy.. 'Donít Believe the Hype' and 'Can't Truss It' cause we arenít.
The Source Magazine Joins Reverend Al Sharpton In Support Of 90-Day Ban On Airplay For Artists That Engage In Violence
The Source Magazine, the most trusted voice for the Hip-Hop Nation, has announced that it supports the proposal by Reverend Al Sharpton to institute a 90-day ban on radio and TV airplay for music artists that engage in violence. The Source and its principals, David Mays and Ray Benzino, have been the leading voice over the past two years on the issue of corporate responsibility in Hip-Hop and are joining Reverend Sharpton in encouraging top executives in the industry to meet immediately to find a permanent solution to the violence.
"It is inspiring to see that Reverend Al Sharpton is speaking out against the crisis of corporate manipulation of violence in the Hip-Hop industry, which is benefiting the bottom line of a few major conglomerates," said David Mays, co-founder and CEO of The Source. "In no way does The Source support the censorship of Hip-Hop artists, but we are opposed to artists and their backers that use acts of violence or the incitement of violence over the public airwaves to promote record sales. The responsibility for this type of destructive conduct lies with only a small group of individuals in our industry who must be held accountable."
"Late last year, I called for a sit-down with Eminem and his camp in an attempt to resolve our ongoing beef, but my calls were rejected," said Ray Benzino, co-founder of The Source as well as a widely-respected Hip-Hop artist and producer. "In fact, Eminem responded by rolling up on my partner with 15 guys at a radio station in Detroit to try to intimidate him as well as radio station personnel. Yesterday's staged 'truce' between 50 Cent and The Game must be viewed with a skeptical eye due to Interscope Records' track record of violent and inflammatory publicity stunts and marketing gimmicks."
In a March 2003 cover story, The Source declared a "Hip-Hop state of emergency," and the magazine has since been conducting ongoing reports on the deteriorating state of Hip-Hop resulting from the irresponsibility and insensitivity of a few powerful corporations and executives. The Source has also been the target of an aggressive attack by Interscope Records designed to stifle the magazine's exposure of these issues, including the pulling of millions of dollars of advertising.
"Jimmy Iovine, the President of Interscope Records, has been the central figure and common thread through over 10 years of manipulation of violence and death in and around the Hip-Hop community, and yet his name is hardly ever mentioned and he has never been held accountable," said Reverend Al Sharpton.
Added Mays, "The Source has fought hard for over 16 years to insure that corporate America respects Hip-Hop as a positive and empowering culture whose core values are peace and unity. This 'new version' of Hip-Hop being manufactured by Iovine and his crew has distorted the perception of Hip-Hop's true nature, and has now reached alarming and incredibly dangerous levels. There must be accountability."
Friday, March 11, 2005