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David Muhammad: The Truthdig Interview
Posted on Apr 3, 2006
By Sheerly Avni
So you don’t blame the rappers?
As I wrote, I believe that many of the rappers are themselves victims. If they had an outlet to disseminate a more positive outlook, they would, but it’s still these major corporations that determine what gets promoted and what gets on the radio.
Jay-Z addresses your question in his own lyrics, claiming that he had to dumb down to sell records:
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That’s his perspective.
Wait, are you excusing Jay-Z? This is a man who does not need to make any more money.
Part of my anguish around that is that I love Jay-Z. He is conscious, intelligent and very witty, which is part of why I love some of his lyrics. I also appreciate and support what he’s been able to do as a black businessman. But no, I can’t excuse him putting out some music that promotes the culture of death.
What he’s doing is the very definition of selling out! Still I would put most of the blame on the corporations which not only allow this kind of negative hip-hop but actively promote it. Every national music video station is owned by one station: Viacom.
Here’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about. A lyric in Kanye West’s first big hit: “Dope dealers buy Jordan, crackheads buy crack / the white man gets paid offa all of that.”
Now, when this video came out, MTV bleeped the word “white.” Over and over again, they will debase women and glorify thuggishness, but this is what they decide to censor: “the white man gets paid off of all of that.”
So yes, I think corporations like Viacom and Clear Channel are the most to blame for the culture of death.
But the rappers bear a responsibility?
Yes, I am putting some blame on the artists. Particularly rappers like the Jay-Zs and E-40s. E-40 is also intelligent, and he’s been around for a while, I respect him. But in attempts to make money and “promote the movement,” he’s promoting behaviors that are destroying the community.
So you have the Hyphy movement in the Bay Area, and Crunk in the South, these new forms of hip-hop that are much more savage in its presentation, even if the rappers themselves have shown that they can be incredibly positive at times. David Banner, who is responsible for one of the worst songs, is incredibly positive in real life. [Editor’s note: The chorus of multi-platinum artist David Banner’s wildly popular song “Wait” runs: “You make a nigga wanna fuck your ass on the couch / While we’re still in the club, show your pussy love / Work that clit / Cum girl.” Click here for other lyrics mentioned in this piece.]
When this man speaks publicly, he opens in prayer. After Katrina, he was responsible, speaking out against the government, making efforts to work with and help rebuild the community.
But then look at his lyrics. This is not just degradation of women but irresponsible behavior in men.
Orlando Patterson argued in his Op-Ed that it is men who suffer the most—
Seventy percent of the [new cases of] women getting AIDS are black, so you can’t say that they are not being hit. “Culture of death” behavior as promoted for black men is violent and illegal, while the behavior promoted for women is deviant and sexually irresponsible.
Right before we started talking, I received a call from a woman in Contra Costa calling me about a report in CA, a report she’d just received that black children engage in sex earlier than any other ethnicity.
The girls are suffering, but in a different way.
Most black people are in the Democratic Party, but most blacks tend to be more socially conservative. You do find yourself taking strange bedfellows. I did not agree with how C. Delores Tucker conducted her campaign against hip-hop, nor did she always keep the best company. If you watch her in the Tupac Shakur movie, she’s sitting next to William Bennett, the same William Bennett who said if you abort black babies you can improve the crime rate.
So yes, I worry about this. But I also agree with Bob Herbert, who said in a column a few weeks back that we need a new civil rights movement, one that comes from within the black community. We also need to address this amongst ourselves.
[laughs] And actually on that note, I’m sorry, I have to cut this short, I have these three young men in the car, and they’ve been waiting for me very patiently.
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