Congress & Hiphop
Compiled by Imeime Umana, Abi Polinsky, Victoria Wenger, and Hyatt Mustefa
Why does Congress hate Hiphop?
From Imus to Industry: The Business of Stereotypes and degrading images.
2007 Hearing before the Committee on Energy and Commerce
What was the Congressional Hearing on Rap Hearing about?
In 2007, Congress held a hearing to discuss moral issues with rap music. It was initiated by American radio host, Don Imus who referred to the Rutger’s Women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos.” While he was harshly condemned and ultimately fired, the blame was shifted from Imus to the rap music industry. It was argued that Imus was simply mimicking hip hop vernacular.
Pro Hip Hop Responses
“I can admit that there are some problems in hip hop but it is only a reflection of what is taking place in our society. Hip hop is sick because America is sick”
"Rap music is the voice of the underbelly of America, and in most cases America wants to hide the negative that it dose to its people. Hip hop is that voice, and how dare America even consider not giving us the opportunity to be heard."
"I don’t want to go into the war but America talks about weapons of mass destruction but when I looked at it, I was like, don’t we have the most receipts and don’t we have weapons of mass destruction? If we want to talk about weapons of mass destruction, let us get rid of ours. So and me saying that of course, it is not right, but the thing is, when it comes down to it, it is still just a song."
"I look at my past history of music and I say to myself, wow, I wasn't thinking. I was thinking about my own feelings. My brother died, so I was angry. My cousin died. I had 12 other friends that got murdered in my community so I just made the music that I felt, not realizing that I am affecting kids for tomorrow. And so if I can do anything today and change that, I am going to take a stand and do that. I hope this society don't judge me by my past."
Professsor Michael Dyson, Georgetown
But what is equally interesting is the fact that there are deep roots of American culture when it comes to demonizing women. It didn't start with Snoop Dogg. It didn't start with anybody who has been associated with hip hop culture. That is white supremacist ideology predicated upon capitalist expansion of opportunity. Talk about commerce. We are in the right place. American is built upon the degrading images perpetuated against black men brought here as slaves, used for free labor to build a country that they are presently denied.
Against Hip Hop
Representative Ed Markey
On BET: "It was supposed to be the black sophisticated educational and entertainment channel full of high-minded fare invoking the best of the Harlem renaissance and the great diversity of the community. Instead it became the lowest common denominator of cheap and tawdry music videos and other questionable programming."
Representative Marsha BlackBurn
“Where here and how did society fail you to the point that you would choose to write such filth?"
Representative Michael Burgess
"We all know that if there weren't a profit, if people weren't buying into the line of products then they would no longer be on the shelves in our local stores for purchase. As Mr. Griffin said, we, everyone in this room and everyone watching this hearing on television can collectively use our power of our individual purse to no longer make this a profitable business for anyone including the companies represented in this room. Some of the artists who are here with us today who pen the lyrics are the retailers who sell the depravities that come into our homes disguised as a simple CD or video game. It is really the most powerful recourse that we have."
Questions to think about:
Why are challenges to unjust social arrangements that threaten the American values of equality and democracy often misinterpreted as negative forces rather than as agents for the democratic promise?1
What motives politicans to spend so much time and energy on silencing Hip Hop? Do they really fear the use explicit language or are they actually afriad of being exposed for perpetuating issues of injustice in the black community?
With regards to impacting politics? What is the utility of Hip Hop? In his book, Decoded, Jay-Z expresses his gratitude for how hip hop has been "hugely influential in finally making our slice of America visible though our own lens-not through the lens of the outsiders."2
1. Rose, Tricia. The Hip Hop Wars: What We Talk about When We Talk about Hip Hop--and Why It Matters. New York: BasicCivitas, 2008. Print.
2. Jay-Z. Decoded. New York, NY: Spiegel & Grau, 2010. Print. page 155
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE HEARING:
Watch all the hearings in order here: