Now Sharpton Wants to Jump In… What’s the Hustle? Hip Hop Activists Respond…
by Davey D
Today the NY Daily News ran an article about the Reverend Al Sharpton wanting to write letters to the FCC and call for a 90 day ban on ‘gangsta rap’ and anything that reeks of violence and has the potential to spill out in the streets.
This sounds good on the surface and considering what took place last week at Hot 97 in New York it sounds damn near practical… But there’s always a catch and a behind the scenes story to the one being sold to us.
First we have to ask ourselves where Sharpton was over the past few years when these media reform campaigns were first conducted, the most prominent being the ‘Turn off the Radio Campaign‘ that was launched and supported by community activists Bob Law, the December 12th Movement, Chuck D of Public Enemy, dead prez, The Zulu Nation and numerous others community organizations in New York.
A huge tribunal featuring a number of NY City Council members, artists ranging from Hip Hop luminaries like Stetsasonic, Public Enemy and Afrika Bambaataa to legendary R&B crooners Ray, Goodman and Brown who filled a church on Madison Avenue in Harlem in January of 2003 to address the important issue of how Black folks were being depicted in media outlets serving New York.
There were at least a 1000 people in attendance and the tribunal went on for at least 5 hours with community member after community member speaking and airing out their grievances. Sharpton was no where to be seen. Nor was he around to lend his considerable clout in the months that followed when Law worked tirelessly to get this campaign off the ground. Sharpton was not around when the Turn off the Radio Campaign sparked off in other cities like Kansas City, and Cleveland to name a few. Sharpton was no where to be seen when similar efforts were launched in places like Detroit (Black Out Fridays), Seattle, Chicago and most recently Miami.
Sharpton was absent from the fight when the huge media reform campaign called the ‘People’s Station Campaign‘ sparked off in San Francisco. Here members of the Hip Hop community including artists and numerous organizations got together monitored the Clear Channel owned Urban Music stations in the area and issued a report to the community and various media outlets. The efforts not only forced change on the big Urban giants KMEL and KYLD, but it was the subject of numerous media stories including a huge front page story penned by author Jeff Chang called Urban Radio Rage How Clear Channel Wrecked KMEL on front of the Bay Guardian.
Many of the issues that Turn off the Radio campaign as well as the other efforts around the country, were similar to the ones raised by the coalition that protested against Hot 97 last Friday at Union Square Park. People have grown tired of the racist remarks directed at the communities of color this station serves. They were tired of the type of degrading music that is constantly being pumped. The recent shooting in front of Hot 97 involving 50 Cent and Game’s entourage was just icing on the cake for the momentum that had already been brewing within the Hip Hop community.
Hopefully people do not forget that what was the real catalyst behind Friday’s March 4th protest was the insidious, racist Tsunami song that Hot 97’s executives allowed Miss Jones and her morning crew to put on the air. Initial complaints to the station were ignored and dismissed until websites like Okayplayer.com owned by the Grammy Award winning Hip Hop band the Roots and WBAI DJ J-Smooth and his blog HipHopmusic.com alerted their readers what was going on.
This in turn sparked more people to come forth as Smooth, Okayplayer and other Hip Hop oriented websites began chronicling the tireless efforts of organizers with the Asian and Southeast Asian communities that had now taken up the fight against Hot 97. Because of the similarities and concerns raised in previous efforts, folks from all backgrounds were able to come together and re-address the grievances at Hot 97.
Again Sharpton was absent. During the whole Anti-Asian Tsunami incident there were no headline making statements from Sharpton about media reform or restraint. He was absent from this highly publicized fight. No phone calls, no letters, no nothing. He didn’t even come to the first protest at Hot 97 which was attended by City councilmen Charles Barron and John Liu who helped organized this effort along with Asian Media Watch. He certainly wasn’t at any of the planning meetings or any other media reform gathering.
In addition to all this, let’s go back into time when the Turn Back the Radio efforts were underway and we had all these FCC hearings about how many stations Radio station owners could have in a market, you did not see or hear Sharpton raising this issue. You certainly didn’t see him at too many of the hearings. I know because we covered most of them on our airwaves at Pacifica and I spoke at three of them. (Monteray, Seattle and San Francisco)
So what’s this all about? Why is Sharpton jumping in at the 12th hour? Is it because this is the hot topic of the day and he wants to be a part of it? Maybe… Maybe not. The media reform and media justice argument has been around for the past 3 years and have been hot topics. He could’ve ran to the bank with this during his Presidential campaign. But he didn’t. He certainly never had any of the main Hip Hop activists who have been dealing with this from day one come on his Sunday night 3 hour radio show on WLIB which is now home to Air America. We spoke with Bob Law who let us know that not once did Sharpton ever help out with the widespread efforts behind this campaign.
So what’s the motive behind Sharpton suddenly wanting to write the FCC and call for a ban on gangsta rap? Well, he’s seems to be redirecting the argument back to the artists and away from the media owners and executives who are really responsible for giving them air time.
In the NY Daily news article, you don’t see him calling them into question the role Jeff Smulyan, Rick Cummings and Barry Mayo who are executives at Emmis. You don’t see him calling for a meeting with John Hogan, Steve Smith or Doc Winters who are key executives at Clear Channel. You don’t see him calling on Cathy Hughes or Alfred Liggins or Mary Catherine Sneed (MC Sneed) who run things at Radio One. He covers his steps by saying, he doesn’t wanna mediate between the artists and that this is a recurring problem, but he stops short of placing blame where it really belongs on the owners of these outlets. Many of them not only grant platforms to these artists but they also grant platforms to other activities that help promote beef like the infamous Smackfest where they have sistas from around the way smack each other for cash prizes. Everyone knows this hence the protests and objections over the past three years.
This is important to note, because folks who have been organizing around media reform are very clear that artists like 50 Cent and Game have to own up to the role they play in these conflicts, but this is bigger then them. This goes back to those who have final say so as to what gets aired and how they ultimately profit off of these divisions. So now we have Sharpton who has good working relationships with Kathy Hughes at Radio One and Barry Mayo the General Manager at Hot 97 coming to the rescue.
Sharpton was strangely silent and didn’t shoot off letters to the FCC a few weeks ago when members of Game’s entourage brutally beat a deejay (Xzulu) and hospitalized him after an interview they conducted on Radio One’s WYKS in DC. He never asked for a 90 day ban when Radio One banned and then un-banned the Game’s record from being played on the air. Industry insiders are wondering if pay for play tactics were behind that move.
Many see Sharpton’s involvement as a subtle but soon to not be so subtle smoke screen to protect the attacks on his media buddies at these outlets. Today he’s calling for ban. Tomorrow he’ll start focusing on the artists and will do all that he can to downplay the role and responsibility of this executive friends at these stations. Who knows perhaps they will even grant him a weekly show so he can air out these important issues.
My point being is that what sort of ‘off the record’ conversations has Sharpton been having with these folks that he has not been able to come forth and say something like ‘I just got off the phone with Radio One and they agreed to do a 90 day ban, or I just spoke to Barry Mayo and convinced him to do an on air truce and dedicate a day to conflict resolution which is what Pittsburgh radio station WAMO did the other day. ‘.
One would hope and suspect that Sharpton had these conversations with them before making his announcement about going to the FCC. One has to wonder what’s really going on? Did he speak to them and they told him ‘No Way’? I find this hard to believe.
In the words of Public Enemy.. ‘Don’t Believe the Hype’ and ‘Can’t Truss It’ cause we aren’t.
Rev. Al airs gangsta ban plan
BY TRACY CONNOR and BILL HUTCHINSON
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
The Rev. Al Sharpton
The Rev. Al Sharpton is calling for a 90-day ban on radio and TV airplay for any performer who uses violence to settle scores or hype albums.
“There has to be a way to step in and regulate what’s going on with the airwaves and with violence,” Sharpton told the Daily News yesterday. “The airwaves are being used to romanticize urban violence.”
The activist minister plans to ask the Federal Communications Commission and the country’s major radio broadcasters to back his proposal.
His call follows last week’s shooting outside Hot 97 radio’s SoHo studios that apparently was sparked by a feud between rappers 50 Cent and The Game.
A member of The Game’s entourage, Kevin Reed, 23, of Compton, Calif., was shot in the buttocks after 50 Cent bad-mouthed The Game during an on-air interview at the radio station.
Bad blood between 50 Cent and The Game continued to boil over the weekend when The Game challenged his former mentor to “Come get me, you little bitch!” during a concert in Long Beach, Calif.
Last night, 50 Cent was escorted through LaGuardia Airport by Port Authority cops “for his own protection” when he arrived on a plane from Detroit about 8 p.m., a Port Authority spokesman said.
Said Sharpton, “We may not be able to stop people from shooting, but we can stop people from profiting from the violence.” Sharpton declined to comment specifically on the beef between 50 Cent, who was born Curtis Jackson, and The Game, whose real name is Jayceon Taylor.
Sharpton said he has no intention of trying to broker peace between the two rap stars, who have both recently released top-selling CDs.
“You can’t deal with this on an artist-by-artist basis,” he said. “I’m not going to become a mediator between artists. This is a recurring problem.”
In a letter Sharpton plans to send to the FCC and broadcasters, he said the outcry against violence among entertainers should be just as loud as the response last year to Janet Jackson’s breast-baring Super Bowl stunt.
“I recall the outrage that the FCC and others displayed in response to the Super Bowl performance of Janet Jackson,” Sharpton wrote. “Yet, when acts of violence happen around radio stations that actually have caused bloodshed, there has been a strange and disturbing silence from all quarters.”
An on-air personality at one of Hot 97’s sister stations says he was booted off the air after complaining about a song that features the lyric “Beat that bitch with a bat.”
Paul Porter said his falling-out with KISS-FM came after being told by the embattled hip-hop outlet, “Make up your mind: Do you want to stand up for kids or the company?”
The freelance announcer, who is also a volunteer instructor at a public school in Queens, told The Post that he voiced his concern last year after a 12-year-old student asked him, “Why does Hot 97 play these records?”
The offending song, “Party and Bulls- – -” by rap artist Rah Digger, was a favorite of the little girl’s father – who had recently beaten her mother, Porter said.
“I was shocked that a sixth-grader was so aware, but saddened that I had no answer,” said Porter.
Although the announcer’s complaint led to a new zero-tolerance policy for on-air profanity, Hot 97 just five months later launched a violent on-air contest called “Smackfest.”
That’s where young women compete for a $500 prize by striking one another in the face, not only to try and produce the loudest slap but do the most physical damage – including drawing blood.
These revelations come less than a week after an associate of rapper The Game was shot outside Hot 97’s Manhattan studio by a man believed to be an associate of rival rapper 50 Cent, while “Fitty” was inside promoting his new album.
50 Cent had just said on the air that he was ejecting The Game, a former protégé, from his posse.
Six weeks earlier, the station came under fire for playing “The Tsunami Song,” a twisted “We Are the World” parody mocking victims of the natural disaster that killed more than 200,000 people.
Porter says the Hot 97 DJs told him soon after the shooting that the controversies stem from programming director John Dimick’s inexperience with hip-hop.
Emmis Communications, the parent of Hot 97 and KISS-FM, hired Dimick in November from Jefferson-Pilot Communications in San Diego, where he oversaw country, jazz and alternative-rock stations.
“It’s been a zoo up there since Dimick took over. He doesn’t know what he’s doing,” Porter says one DJ told him.