Thursday, September 4, 2008



The race-deprecation and misogyny saturating the hip-hop lyrics that American distributors unfortunately deem to make hip-hop most profitable, is obviously disturbing to most of us -- as recent outcries would attest. But calling for hip-hop artists to be fired will not work. Their music is considered to be protected artistic expression. Some of us may not like it, but neither the artists nor their distributors are likely to incur Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fines. They make “clean” versions available for radio and, although there are some videos that skirt the line of decency, they are still probably within the realm of FCC regulations. Thus, rather than dwelling on unfruitful strategies for purging hip-hop music, we need to concentrate on strategies that are likely to work.

The most effective stratagem for the eradication of race-deprecation and misogyny in hip-hop is education. The first concession we must make is that the expressions emanating from hip-hop -- just like country and western, rock and roll, comedy, and cinema -- are reflections of the society we live in. Granted, they don’t reflect the entire picture of society, but no artistic endeavor strives to or is capable of doing that.

Knowing why American society in general and black society in particular exhibits such race-deprecation and misogyny allows us to attack these ills within the black community and, residually, within the reflections of our community -- in music, comedy, and cinema. Thus, black folks in general -- and hip-hop artists, comedians, and the performing arts industry in particular -- must be educated on the underpinnings that drive this phenomenon. First I will address race-deprecation and then misogyny in the black community. In both instances I will -- as Isaiah Washington’s character in the movie “Love Jones” intimated -- “break it down so that it will forever be broke[n] down”.