It’s interesting to see how the responses to controversies over rap lyrics and snitching quickly lead to marketing moves, whether self-protective or opportunistic.
Ethan Brown, whose work I’m just getting up to speed on now, makes the argument that 60 Minutes Stop Snitchin’ show strongly ties together corporate profits from hip hop and hip hop’s connection with the stop snitching perspective:
I think that the fanatical emphasis on hip-hop and its “corporate” backers was meant to put the music in the shaky spot occupied by Death Row in the mid-1990s. Remember that back then (1997 to be exact) Interscope actually sold off its interest in Death Row under pressure from hip-hop critics like the late C. DeLores Tucker…Hip-hop execs need to think fast about how to counter this sort of criticism.
It’s important to remember that Imus wouldn’t have gotten fired if corporate advertisers didn’t withdraw support. On a related note, Brown points out that "Geoffrey Canada wonders what the shareholders of major corporations would think if they were played hip-hop records which used the ‘N Word’ liberally."
Though the widely noted closed door meeting of industry bigwigs regarding rap lyrics seemed to lead nowhere and initial pr was badly fumbled, I think the HSAN statement from Russell Simmons and Ben Chavis was the initial outcome under another name. It’s pretty clear who they’re protecting with the banning words approach.
Lots of rappers have joined in the discussion regarding rap lyrics but the first truly opportunistic business move in that discussion seems to be from Chamillionaire who stated:
On my new album I don’t say the word n***a, I don’t curse nowhere on my whole album…People are not even gonna know it. I guarantee if I don’t go out and say it in the media they’re not even gonna realize that. People go back and listen to all of my old mixtapes and don’t even realize that I wasn’t even doing all that type of stuff. I was saying n***a, but I wasn’t saying the ‘f’ word or [the] ‘b’ word. I was never saying those types of things…I hear that so much and it restricts your creativity and how far it can go.
However, opportunistic may be the wrong word here, since he’s simply pointing out that he’s tended to use less profanity and now will let it all go. The response will be interesting but it also seems to fit his public image.
In response to reporters at the Plymouth Jazz Festival, LL Cool J put the depiction of women in videos directly on the women who are paid or even volunteer to perform and have the least power on a set, letting artists, directors and execs off the hook:
I have always been respectful of women. I am a lover of women and I always uplift them in my music . . . but I also would love to see the women who are in the videos take responsibility for their actions.
I think that women got cut out of the loop and somewhere along the line someone said women cannot make decisions on their own. I am wondering why rappers have to be responsible for the decisions women make when they decide to get in vidoes and do certain things. I definitely think women are intelligent and strong enough as human beings to decide whether they want to be in videos that portray them in a certain way.
LL Cool J smartly couches his approach in a seeming respect for women as a whole that will appeal to many of his fans while doing nothing for any kind of improvement for the situation. He also suggests that everyone needs to take more responsiblity, effectively cutting off attacks and continuing with business as usual since he’s unlikely to be a big target in this whole affair.
It sounds like he’s pretty good off the cuff but it’s looking like there will have to be a much bigger response from hip hop business people, especially those tied to mainstream outlets. In addition, if the industry starts policing itself further or is generally reined in, that will open up a lot of possibilities for uncensored products.
Interesting times, to say the least.