"I want to apologize to all the women out there. ... I can honestly say I was wrong." That's what rapper Master P told the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee today in a hearing on hip-hop and stereotypes.
Master P, born Percy Miller, in New Orleans, formed and founded No Limit Records in the 1990s and made millions of dollars off records with the sexual and violent lyrics found in most "gangsta rap."
"My brother was killed. My cousin was killed ... and I used my rage," said Miller, whose album "Da Last Don" was No. 1 on the charts and went platinum four times over. Miller hopes he won't be judged by his past, which includes charges of felony gun possession and a season two stint on "Dancing With the Stars," but by his future -- a future he hopes will include a television show for people living in urban areas that would teach them about financial responsibility.
"I'm going to challenge the networks. Let me put on a financial show, enhance our kids in these communities, and see what happens."
Rapper David Banner, who testified alongside Master P, said that some segments of society were taking the role of music in culture too seriously. "It's still just a song," said Banner. He later added that members of Congress should focus on the message, not the word. "Instead of listening for curse words, listen that we're asking for help," he told the committee.
The hearing featured three panels of testimony, including one consisting of some of the most powerful CEOs in the entertainment industry. Edgar Bronfman, CEO of Warner Music and Doug Morris of Universal Music, defended the content of rap music, saying the artists had a First Amendment right for the work to be published and heard.
"In my mind this is free speech, and this is what he wanted to say. It's not my place in this life to tell him what to say," said Morris, responding to a question from Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., regarding censorship of lyrics from a song by rapper Cam'ron that contains words expressing explicit sexual acts.
Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., chairman of the subcommittee, was not letting the rappers off so easy, saying, "I live in the hood. Where is my slice of life in the hood?"
A third panel consisting of academics testified that while First Amendment rights might protect rappers and other entertainers, Congress and society must do more for a culture that they believe is adversely affected by hip-hop, and is most especially hurtful to African-American women.
"We need to feel the pain of women. These things are happening to us. …We've got to look at the harm that this is doing ... and listening to the voices of the women who say 'this hurts me' … 'this hurts me' to all of the men who decide what hurts and what does not hurt us" said Faye Williams, chairwoman of the National Congress of Black Women.
After the seven-hour hearing concluded, Rush told ABC News he did not plan to offer any legislation on the issue but hoped to continue the dialogue with music industry executives and artists about how hip-hop continues to affect the culture.