FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Watching the Detectives

by ROCK And RAP CONFIDENTIAL

On April 19, rapper Wise Intelligent sent out an email which included the following:

“It has always been my position that the black rapper is NOT allowed to address or lend his voice to any issue that confronts the community from which he comes, knowing that if he did, like Don Imus, he would lose his major corporation sponsorship, i.e. his contract!”

The immediate provocation for Wise Intelligent’s statement was a mid-April interview of Young Buck by Angie Martinez on New York’s Hot 97. Buck told Martinez that Interscope had refused to allow him to include the track “Fuck tha Police” on his new Buck the World album. Buck said “they blamed it on the lyric committee, so I researched to see if it was a real lyric committeethe lyric committee is in Interscope’s building.”

Although this important story was ignored by the media, it was still the first time in nearly fifteen years that lyric committees had been publicly mentioned by anyone.

By the end of the 1980s, under pressure from Al and Tipper Gore’s PMRC, the police, and the FBI all major labels had set up in-house lyric committees to censor music. “For every song that’s recorded we ask for copies of the lyrics from the artist,” Paul Atkinson, former Zombies guitarist and then head of A&R at MCA told the New York Times in 1990. “The recording then gets listened to not only by the A&R department buy by someone in business affairs.” At the time, that someone at MCA was lawyer Lawrence Kwensil, who claimed that artists were glad to be censored.

Within just two years, the lyric committees played a direct role in getting the likes of Ice T, Kool G Rap, Body Count, Paris, and Almighty RSO dumped by major labels for criticizing the police in song. Several other rap artists were forced to alter or delete songs about the cops.

As night follows day, hip hop inexorably turned away from socially conscious themes toward bling bling, a process initiated by the major labels and their lyric committees. This trend was reinforced by threats, picket lines, and violence by police at rap shows and against individual rappers.

Now Young Buck has proven what we have always suspected-that the lyric committees have not gone away and that they continue to do their dirty work in secret. Young Buck has also shown the world that the uproar over hip hop lyrics has nothing to do with alleged concerns about women or violence, it’s about the fact “that the black rapper is NOT allowed to address or lend his voice to any issue that confronts the community from which he comes.”

Since the music industry has pressured our political representatives in Congress to not only give them unprecedented legal power to target file sharers but also to receive massive tax breaks, don’t we as citizens and taxpayers have the right to know who is on these lyric committees, when they meet, and what actions they take?

In the wake of the May 1 police riot at a Los Angeles immigration march, which is just the most notorious recent example of rampant police abuse, we should all insist that our artists be allowed to tell the truth about violence and who perpetrates it. We should also be prepared to support those artists when the backlash from the police and their friends in the music industry hits the fan.

ROCK and RAP CONFIDENTIAL, one of the few newsletters both editors of CounterPunch read from front to back the moment it arrives, is edited by Lee Ballinger and Dave Marsh and now it’s available to you for FREE simply by sending an email to: rockrap@aol.com.

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano
By Way of Prologue: On How We Arrived at the Watchtower and What We Saw from There
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix the ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
Aidan O'Brien
Fidel and Spain: A Tale of Right and Wrong
Carol Dansereau
Stop Groveling! How to Thwart Trump and Save the World
Kim Nicolini
Moonlight, The Movie
Evan Jones
Behind GE’s Takeover of Alstom Energy
James A Haught
White Evangelicals are Fading, Powerful, Baffling
Barbara Moroncini
Protests and Their Others
Joseph Natoli
The Winds at Their Backs
Cesar Chelala
Poverty is Not Only an Ignored Word
David Swanson
75 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies
Alex Jensen
The Great Deceleration
Nyla Ali Khan
When Faith is the Legacy of One’s Upbringing
Gilbert Mercier
Trump Win: Paradigm Shift or Status Quo?
Stephen Martin
From ‘Too Big to Fail’ to ‘Too Big to Lie’: the End Game of Corporatist Globalization.
Charles R. Larson
Review: Emma Jane Kirby’s “The Optician of Lampedusa”
David Yearsley
Haydn Seek With Hsu
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail