Bozell's Rap Chronicles: Four Years of Corporate and Media Excuse-making

One positive result of the Don Imus imbroglio is a renewed focus on degrading, obscene, sexist, violence-endorsing rap music. Brent Bozell's entertainment columns offer a road map for anyone seeking a refresher course on nasty rap-music controversies over the last four years. Don't miss how media people (like, oops, NBC's Matt Lauer) make excuses for rappers:Moms vs. Hip Hop (October 20, 2006):

In raising her two daughters, [Washington Post writer Lonnae O'Neal] Parker had one very definitive image in mind capturing what’s wrong with today’s dominant trend in hip hop. At the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, rappers Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent added pomp to the song "P.I.M.P." by featuring black women on leashes being walked onstage. This past August, she added, MTV-2 aired an episode of the cartoon "Where My Dogs At," which had Snoop Dogg again leading two black bikini-clad women around on leashes. She explained: "They squatted on their hands and knees, scratched themselves and defecated. The president of the network, a black woman, defended this as satire."

Oscar's Thumbs Up for Pimps (March 9, 2006):

You can crumble and toss this script if reality is what you’re after. Here’s reality: rappers often don’t "emerge" from thug life to star status. They attain stardom without really changing their thuggishness a bit. Pimping is a common theme of rappers, and the rapper Snoop Dogg even won an "adult film" award for his 2002 porn tape "Snoop Dogg’s Hustlaz: Diary of a Pimp." But it shouldn’t be said that such a man would be trying to live a "better" life, just a richer one. Going from pimp to pimp-rapper is a very lateral move on the moral scale. When Oscar Night was over, the biggest impression the awards show left was its glowing tribute to one "Hustle and Flow" rap song. The Oscar winner for Best Original Song in a Motion Picture was "It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp," a filthy rap "song" written by the group Three 6 Mafia. The "Mafia" crew performed an edited-for-television version of the song, with the lyric about the B-word talking the S-word replaced by the phrase "witches jumping ship." The relatively clean version was a bit of a surprise, since Oscar show producer Gil Cates originally said the B-words and "ho's" were acceptable since they're already heard on network TV.

Rappers Play Dumb (January 26, 2006) explored rapper Kanye West posing as Christ on the cover of Rolling Stone. He and other rappers display a Messiah complex.UPN’s Wild Hip Hop Awards Party (November 23, 2005):

The rapper T.I. won for Best Street Anthem for his song "U Don’t Know Me." It’s loaded up with the N-word and boasts about how nasty he is, and how he’s going to shoot people in the side and cause a "slow leak." It’s only natural that in his victory speech, he too gave thanks to God. Soon came the hurricane-remembrance segment of the program. After a few solemn words, UPN offered the stage to rappers from the South. But they weren’t going to talk about bad weather or devastated homes. Louisiana’s Li’l Wayne performed his song "The Fireman," with a reference to New Orleans (so hot you can "take a walk with Satan"), but mostly it was more of the musical same: "You catch my gal legs open, betta smash that / Don’t be surprised if she asks where the cash at."Then rapper David Banner from Mississippi performed his hit "Play," while women clad in their underwear danced and rode exercise bikes sexily behind him. The lyrics were toned down dramatically from the CD, yet they were still explicit, with non-stop his and hers oral-sex metaphors ("licky, licky, like a peppermint swirl"). Banner’s song asks his girlfriend to bring extra partners home so he can "knock ‘em down 1, 2, 3." UPN let the millions of youngsters watching this show be entertained by this slug urging his girl to "masturbate for your boy." Is this too wild for the mainstream? Think again. "Play" was a top-ten hit, now plays as a ring-tone for cell phones, and a cleaned-up version has been purchased to promote the NBA.

Kanye West’s Hurricane Hype (September 15, 2005):

Charges of racism and wacky conspiracy theories are not the right message for national unity after the ravages of Hurricane Katrina, but it’s the right message for Kanye West. Hip-hop in recent years has thrived on its ghetto-gangsta image, and West had been slow to be accepted by his fellow rappers because he was too "bourgeois." Translation: he hadn’t bubbled up from the streets selling drugs. There’s no quicker way to avoid black complaints about your preppie clothes than to insist on racial paranoia: The Man is out to kill us. Jaws may have dropped across America when West sold this baloney on national television, but it’s there in the grooves of the new CD as well. West charges in one song that "I know the government administered AIDS" and "they want us all behind bars." In another, he asked "How we stop the Black Panthers? Ronald Reagan cooked up an answer." The song’s title is "Crack Music." Reagan apparently cooked up crack to keep the black man down. West can mouth all kinds of tripe, and people will be there to make excuses for him. On NBC, Matt Lauer said West’s outbursts were "part of the American way of life." On a later hurricane-relief effort on Black Entertainment Television, hosts Steve H arvey and Queen Latifah cheered West for speaking his mind. "You have a lot of people’s support despite the ridicule you’re receiving, man," said Harvey. Actors Matt Damon and Susan Sarandon said West was speaking the truth, and Damon even acknowledged he "let out a cheer." Time magazine wasn’t at all ashamed they had published a cover story the week before calling West "Hip-Hop’s Class Act" and "the smartest man in pop music."If West is the smartest man in pop music, Western civilization is doomed. Our media culture scorns the image of the Angry White Male, but glorifies the Angry Black Male as a righteous figure. It encourages rappers to boast ridiculously of their greatness. After a listening session of his new CD with a reporter, West practiced the patter: "I'm the closest that hip-hop is getting to God. In some situations I'm like a ghetto Pope." Not even West believes his own trash – but no one dares tell him to shut up. He gets A-list booking on a Hurricane Katrina fundraiser.

Summer’s Pop Music Meltdown (August 9, 2004):

But if a campaign were to begin, its theme song might just be the worst of this summer’s hits, from a rapper appropriately named Juvenile, and his pal Soulja Slim. Their song "Slow Motion" carries an inaccurate title. By song’s end, they’re pleading to hurry up to the sex and drug use: "Less money we spend on bull----, the more for the weed." Soulja Slim begins the boasting: "I'm a d**k thrower, her neck and her back hurting, cutthroat will have her like a brand new virgin...Hop on top and start jiggy-jiggy jerking." Juvenile then gets sleazier than that, bringing up menstruation and domestic violence: "If you going through your cycle, I ain't with it, I'm gone, you must've heard about them hoes that I beat up in my home, they wasn't telling the truth baby you know they was wrong."The titans of commercial radio and the music industry hope youngsters like primordial sludge like this. And in this case, they were spot-on right. Billboard lists "Slow Motion" as the number one song right now in the United States of America.

MTV-Pandering Kerry Digs Rap Music (April 2, 2004):

In every presidential cycle, MTV airs a pile of "Choose or Lose" specials to match major candidates with typically embarrassing young questioners. The latest special came on March 30 with Democratic nominee John Kerry, who wowed liberal reporters and MTV fans by suggesting that he is hip enough to dig rap music. Yes, it’s hard to imagine stolid, graying Kerry wearing a backwards baseball cap and a throwback NBA jersey, peppering his speeches with "ho" and "mack daddy," but that’s the image he wanted to convey: I’m not some fuddy-duddy Dad who’s going to send rappers to their room. In full pandering mode, Kerry insisted to MTV news poseur Gideon Yago that he was down with the beat: "I'm fascinated by rap and hip-hop. I think there's a lot of poetry in it. There's a lot of anger. A lot of social energy in it. I think you better listen to it pretty carefully, ‘cause it’s important." What does that mean? Is anger – even rhyming anger – the best kind of "social energy" for the country? More importantly, doesn’t Kerry recognize what so much of rap music is today – profane, sex-obsessed, selfish, greedy – in sum, the opposite of public-spirited? Look at the top of the pop charts today. Lil Jon & the Eastside Boyz rap all about "getting low" with women, with less-than-intellectual lyrics like "skeet skeet skeet motherf-----, skeet skeet skeet g–damn." ("Skeet" is slang for ejaculate.) Jay-Z is "feeling like a pimp nigga." Ludacris is rapping about how "you know how to mack a broad, she’s on your sack and balls." J-Kwon is bummed because a woman wasn’t enjoying his marijuana: "Smokin my blunt, sayin’ she ain’t havin’ fun. Bitch give it back, now you don't get none." Girls have "role models" like slutty Li’l Kim and foul-mouthed Missy Elliott. The spirit of the hottest rap music today doesn’t channel idealism or any positive "social energy." It thumps out of the radio selling a philosophy of get loaded, get sex, get some goodies, and get out of any loving commitments.Since no one at MTV would say these lyrics were objectionable, Kerry added the old line about rap being the authentic voice of the inner city: "I'm still listening because I know that it's a reflection of the street and it's a reflection of life, and I understand all that. I'm not for the government censoring or stepping in. But I don't think it's inappropriate occasionally to talk about what you think is a standard or what you think is a value that is worth trying to live up to." Kerry didn’t get very specific about standards, only mouthing the obvious line that rap about killing policemen isn’t cool.But parents today could use a prominent politician – in either party or both – offering a discouraging word to these MTV role models teaching children, black and white, that it is somehow cool to talk like a gangster, use and/or sell drugs, debase women, and generally act like a completely self-obsessed jerk.

Brent also complained that President Bush couldn't find his voice on this issue.The Rapper and the "Defamation" Police (March 19, 2004):

Take the thug rapper known as "50 Cent," whose music glorifies sex, drugs, and getting shot, which he knows something about, having survived a nine-bullet fusillade in 2000 in his previous career as a crack and heroin dealer. Despite that streak of vicious and violent drug dealing, he’s a spokesman for Reebok tennis shoes. It was laughable watching Reebok hand out its "International Human Rights Award" – for peaceful change through nonviolent means – while company flacks spun furiously to suggest its endorsement deal with 50 Cent was somehow consistent with that spirit. "Our support of human rights actually does match up against our support of 50 Cent's right to express himself," Reebok proclaimed. I have no idea what it meant.

Our columnist found the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation offered rapper 50 Cent an olive branch, while setting out to destroy Dr. Laura Schlessinger.Sex on the Radio (January 16, 2003):

(On Missy Elliott) In her lyrics, this Mama Crass advertises her willingess for infidelity: "Your girl actin’ stank, then call me over / Not on the bed, lay me on your sofa." She talks about shaving her private parts. She suggests getting drunk. She asks to be stripped, ogled, and pawed. She asks for oral sex.The lyrics are unbelievably blunt, and far too obscene for a family newspaper. You’ll have to turn to your children’s favorite station to hear them.How can this trash not trickle down to the kids who love listening to the radio and watching MTV? How many tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of young girls -- who love the hippest thing in the headphones -- have memorized these lyrics? Elliott’s video features a pre-pubescent girl dancing along to the song. For the American Music Awards on the ABC television network, Elliott repeated that "dirty fun for the whole family" formula, bringing along a crew of pre-teens to dance along as she performed her hit.But Elliott’s not the only loose woman putting they-said-what? offerings in heavy rotation on the radio. Top 40 stations are just latching on to Khia’s oral-sex ode "My Neck My Back [Lick It]." Its chorus is that simple: "Lick my back, lick my neck, lick my uhhh... Just like that." Khia even offers a lyrical how-to brochure for the sexual rookies.Khia’s album, titled "Thug Misses," is already a best-seller, certified gold, featuring a list of tracks that includes titles like "F*** Dem Other Hoes." What’s truly bizarre is that you can click around on Amazon.com and purchase "Thug Misses (Clean)." How does that work? The web site lists no alternative titles to songs... like "Dismiss Those Other Girls." It doesn’t promise the big hit, rewritten as "Lick My Stamp."If in real life, a woman walked up on the playground and told the kids how to perform sex acts, parents would want her arrested and charged with the sexual abuse of minors. Yet this coarse instruction is taking place every single day on the radio, and parents don’t even know who these so-called musicians are. Raunchy TV at least comes with lame warnings of "viewer discretion advised" to cover their own utter lack of discretion. Radio doesn’t even have that minimalist amount of responsibility. Someone ought to be demanding that this medium assume some.
Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis