Post-Imus, Hip-Hop Considers Cleaning Up Its Act

Don Imus may have never intended to have an impact on the hip-hop industry, but his infamous fall from grace has shaken up the rap world as new sensitivities arise over what is played on the radio.

One month after the shock jock was fired from CBS for his comments about the Rutgers University women's basketball team, there is intense pressure on radio and music executives to clean up the airwaves.

Even classic radio shock jocks are feeling the pressure. Last weekend two New York DJ's were fired after making a crass prank call to a Chinese restaurant, an act that might have gone unnoticed months ago.

"I do think that program directors and broadcasters do feel a sense of responsibility to make sure that what they air is appropriate," rap music analyst Dana Hall told ABC News' Deborah Roberts.

Still, the real heat is being felt in the rap world. After calling for Imus' firing, the Rev. Al Sharpton is now demanding an end to offensive rap lyrics.

Oprah Winfrey also joined the cause, holding a town hall meeting in which rapper Common and Russell Simmons, the so-called godfather of hip-hop, spoke with young women from Spellman College, who've long been critical of sexist rap lyrics.

"Before this, everybody was completely desensitized," said Spelman College student Angela Bodreaux. "So now you have more people speaking out, more people wanting to change and that will effect change eventually."

Express Yourselves, a Little Less Explicitly

One major change has come from Simmons.

Though he defends rappers' self-expression, he surprised some by calling for radio stations to clean up the rap songs they play by bleeping the n-word, the b-word and the h-word.

"I thought that as corporations we make a statement by taking those words out of our radio versions and clean television versions of our music," Simmons said. "I don't want to have to drive my kids to school and hear those words."

Critics say Simmons is caving to pressure. But one influential rapper, Master P, now vows to make records free of explicit, negative language.

"Rappers see Russell Simmons and they see Al Sharpton and they understand the game is changing," said hip-hop scholar James Peterson.

But the change is likely to be slow -- rap songs that were popular before Imus was fired are still playing on the radio today.

"I think it's going to have more of an impact in the long run with new songs not getting as quick a look as maybe they might have," Hall said. "Programmers are going to be a lot more careful about what they choose to play in the future as opposed to what they're playing now."

"Nothing has changed yet, but I believe that the public discourse will lead to more change," Peterson said. "All this conversation does help, and it's not just conversations on TV. We're having this conversation in barbershops … in classrooms, the conversation will generate some change."

null
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...