STOP THE WITCH HUNTS! Establishment organizations should fight conditions youth live in, not Rap

by Scott Pfeiffer


Congressional hearings on "gangsta rap" on February 17th and 23rd were the climax of a series of attacks on hip-hop by "respectable, established black organizations and politicians," from Operation PUSH to the NAACP.

First, a House subcommittee led by Illinois democrat Cardiss Collins heard testimony of C. Delores Tucker, chairwoman of the National Political Congress of Black Women. Tucker echoed Miami censor Jack Thompson, who instigated 2 Live Crew's arrest in 1990, in declaring rap unsuitable for constitutional protection on the grounds that it is obscene. Next, NAFTA-supporter Senator Carol Mosely-Braun, D-Ill., chaired a Juvenile Justice Subcommittee hearing which, like Collins', centered on whether "Tipper-stickers" (slang for the record industry's "explicit lyrics" parental advisory labels, self-applied under duress from Tipper Gore's Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) effectively ban kids from hearing rap.

Yes, in fact, they do. These hearings mean our battle to get advisory labels off records must be stepped-up. Labels are censorship: many major chains will sell labeled records only to adults, or refuse to carry them at all. In at least one city, cops have made carrying labeled records a misdemeanor. Yet critics at the hearings aren't satisfied, calling for a rating system for records similar to the movie industry. Access to records with a label or an 'X'- rating would be prohibited by law. It's more clear than ever that the labels must come off the records.

Many liberals are quite reactionary in many ways, and these hearings expose how reactionary "liberal" establishment black politicians are when it comes to hip-hop. As Ron Wynn has written, these leaders aren't interested in challenging the system that created vile conditions for the youth. In fact, Congresswoman Collins is considering appending legislation regulating access to rap onto the crime bill, a bill which would criminalize poor youth.

The black bourgeoisie is protecting the government by slandering pop stars who tell the truth about it. They are separating themselves morally from today's marginalized youth. These hearings prove that the war over rap isn't white vs. black (or young vs. old or male vs. female). It's representative of the haves against representatives of the have-nots.

Black writers and music industry figures, from Greg Tate to KRS-One to Julian L.D. Shabazz, have responded to the hearings eloquently, forceful insisting that rap be respected as an art form. Magnate Russell Simmons, owner of RAL/DEF JAM recordings, issued this statement: "If the guardians of morality really cared about America's youth, they would not be fighting Tupac and Snoop Dogg's music. Instead, they'd fight against the conditions which led them to live the lives which create such music." Female rapper YO-YO seconded that motion, testifying: "We are the product of America...attack the world rappers live in, not the words they use to describe it."

Music isn't really being attacked because of explicit lyrics or in order to protect children. It's being attacked because it is politically threatening. But violent resistance is only one side of the gangsta code. The Black Panther Party's presentation of armed, militant men was only the image of the organization, the heart of which actually consisted of cooking pancake breakfasts for community school-children. Likewise, gangsta rap is as much about love, nurturing and philanthropy as it is about threatening the status quo, as rappers fund youth outreach programs, register voters, and demolish the color barrier.

Rock and Roll speaks for everyone, regardless of race, sex, or religion, who is concerned with poverty, homelessness, education, health care, police brutality, and with changing America. These are the conditions that these officials should be concerned with, but instead they try to control our music. All the clamor against hip-hop serves to distract attention from these important and pertinent issues. The proper way for the NPCBW to respond to the often vicious misogyny in gangsta rap would be with education. However, these "leaders" have decided against educating our youth in favor of shutting down their culture.

As Ice-Cube insists KEEP RAP LEGAL! And get the damn labels off the records!

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