Rappers Testify Before Congress as Lawmakers Examine Lyrics

Are profane, sexist, and violent rap lyrics harming America? That question was asked at a House hearing convened yesterday to examine the role of the music industry in public affairs:

Lawmakers, music industry executives and rappers disagreed Tuesday over who was to blame for sexist and degrading language in hip-hop music but united in opposing government censorship as a solution.

"If by some stroke of the pen hip-hop was silenced, the issues would still be present in our communities," rapper and record producer David Banner, whose real name is Levell Crump, said in prepared statements to a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing. "Drugs, violence and the criminal element were around long before hip-hop existed."

At the hearing, music videos showing scantily clad women were played; music executives in dark suits testified on the uses of the "B," H" and "N" words, and black civil rights leaders talked of corporate exploitation.

"We have allowed greedy corporate executives -- especially those in the entertainment industry -- to lead many of our young people to believe that it is OK to entertain themselves by destroying the culture of our people," E. Faye Williams, chair of the National Congress of Black Women, said in prepared remarks.

"From Imus to Industry: The business of stereotypes and degrading images" was the title of the hearing, referring to former radio host Don Imus, who lost his job after making derogatory comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team. The Imus incident has sparked debate within the music industry about black artists using offensive, misogynist and violent language. [...]

"This hearing is not anti-hip hop. I am a fan of hip hop," said subcommittee chairman Bobby Rush, D-Ill., who gained national prominence in the 1960s as the founder of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers. But he said there was a need "to address the issue of violence, hate and degradation that has reduced too many of our youngsters to automatons."

Record company executives defended the parental guidance labels and edited versions they said keep the more controversial material away from children and stressed that uniform standards or censorship won't work.

In the '50s people were deeply offended by Elvis Presley, and a decade later many were scandalized by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, said Edgar Bronfman Jr., chairman and CEO of Warner Music Group.

I don't feel too comfortable about the government getting involved with legislation here but will add that I've noticed that most of the people who recoil in horror at these types of hearings have no qualms about the government stifling free speech through so-called "campaign reform" regulations.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013