Hip-Hop Fridays: Tracy Cannon, A Majority Of One
Tracy Cannon is one of our most valuable viewers. She reads every single Deeper Look that we put out and she consistently offers some of the very best feedback and insight that we receive. Always concise, to the point and forward-looking, Tracy's e-mails are opened with anticipation, whenever they show up in the "in" box.
I could not have been more pleasantly suprised than I was this past winter when I received a series of e-mails from Tracy regarding the stance she had taken juxtaposed to a rap song, being played on the radio, that she found offensive. True to form, Tracy took action, firing off a series of verbal and written communications to Atlanta-area radio stations that were rotating the song in question. As a mother, wife, and "Sister" to us all, Tracy has been concerned about the lyrics that our young people, especially little girls hear and memorize (initially without comprehension) on "Black" and "Urban" radio. She has been sensitive to the power of words to build and destroy the Black community.
Can you blame her?
If the lyrics to some of the most popular "Black" or "Urban" music were turned into movies they would not be considered anything other than pornographic or exploitive in nature. Yet with a late bleep here, and a half-hearted mute there, we are all supposed to be satisfied with the editing and "PG-ing" of an X or R-rated song, played on commercial radio, in the daytime. That Black consumers eat this type of entertainment up only goes to show the depth of the self-hatred and internalized disrespect present in the family. Of course the liberal use of the word "nigger" in rap music is at the center of the aforementioned dynamic.
Tracy's strong stance was felt by the radio stations which was persuaded to take an appropriate action regarding the song. Below is the letter that Tracy wrote which explains the matter to one Atlanta radio station's general manager, followed by the official response. I think all of us can learn something of value from Tracy's instructive example.
July 26, 2002
WBTS Radio Station
1601 West Peachtree St
Atlanta, GA 30309
Dear Mrs. Sheridan:
I would like to express my dissatisfaction with the lyrical content of a song currently being played on your radio station. This morning at approximately 8:30 a.m., your station aired a song by a rap artist named Trick Daddy entitled "I'm a Thug." The second verse of the song contains the lyrics, "tell a nigger." When I heard the lyrics, I contacted Ann Rowan, the programming assistant at the station. After notifying Ms. Rowan of my concerns, she informed me that she'd already taken notice of the same lyrics a couple of weeks ago. She also went on to tell me that she'd asked a "couple" of African-Americans about using the word "nigger", and they informed her that it was acceptable if a black person said it - it was only unacceptable when a white person said it.
It was not the response I expected as two of your competitors, V103 and 107.9 f/k/a 97.5, were notified of these lyrics (by a telephone call from me) and took immediate action to edit the song. We then went on to debate whether the "couple" of African-American people with whom she had spoken represented the views of the entire African-American community. Needless to say, we got nowhere. She neither agreed nor disagreed to remove the lyrics.
Thus, I would like to impress upon you to make the appropriate change. The fact that an African-American rap artist uses the word is unimportant. Ignorance exists in every race. Trick Daddy certainly does not speak for me, or anyone in my immediate circle. "Nigger" has no redemptive value coming from anyone's lips (black or white). It is also unfortunate that the "couple" of African–American people that Ms. Rowan spoke to are also ignorant and unaware of the historical implications of the word. "Nigger" was used to oppress, degrade, disable, and retard the economic, as well as, the mental growth of African-American people for many centuries - which is probably why Trick Daddy is as ignorant as the next white supremacist.
Moreover, the responsibility of the majority is to consider the present-day costs and benefits of letting that word continue to define African-Americans.
There are many in the African-American community who still find the word "nigger" offensive and defamatory. It is my hope that you will do the entire community a favor and proactively monitor all songs (rap or otherwise) to ensure the elimination of the word over the airwaves. I am requesting that you either edit or suspend the play of the song in its current format. I will anxiously await notification that you have taken action and will not listen to your radio station until that time.
Effective as of mid morning yesterday (1/31/02), we have made the change on this song and it is taken care of. Thank you so much for writing and telling us your comments.
VP, General Manager
WBTS-FM, 95-5 THE BEAT
Friday, July 26, 2002