Should Rap Artists Have a Morality Clause in Their Contracts?



DaveyD-leather-225This is an interesting concept (having a morality clause) that has obviously grown out of the frustration that many  feel when they hear about a high paid recording artists acting out in public or is accused of committing a crime. The most recent incident being a stash of drugs found in the home of Jadakiss who at press time was not arrested or wanted by police. While a morality clause may have some effect in the NFL or NBA it is likely not to work in the music arena for a number of reasons. 

First, the NFL and NBA are institutions that long ago had the foresight to see that having a good image could be profitable.  As a result they’ve worked hard to control their public image by taking a number of steps ranging from disallowing TV networks to use their name or likeness to imposing dress codes on players when appearing in public.  Their theory is that the league is bigger and more important then one individual player.

This has never been the cased with the music industry. Here we’re talking about an institution that has never been shy about flirting with unsavory elements in our society, either as performers or as behind the scenes executives and employees. Such associations have added to the lore and often cited ethos -sex, drugs and rock-n-roll. In other words, the music industry has thrived off  of having a bad boy rebellious image. Sadly much of that drama filled image is crafted and planned out with the same precision and calculation as the NFL and NBA seek  to move away from trouble.

Second point,  professional sports leagues have a  small number of people who get paid lots of money with very few entry points for one to rebound if they blow their opportunity. Hence its easier to police a sports league compared to the music business which has a lot more entry points. In the  NFL or NBA  players can barred or suspended.  There is no music industry that you can bar one from. You might restrict airplay or stop someone from performing at a concert , but they can always go and do things on the indy tip and record or perform somewhere else.  Putting the word banned or suspended next to their name  will probably result in an artist enjoying more notoriety thus increasing their popularity.

The NFL and NBA is one big institution that controls all aspects of its business. It controls TV, radio, magazines etc. the Music Bizis a made up of a bunch of  individual parts that have symbiotic relationships to one another.  Its by choice we all work hand in hand, but we don’t have to especially if we have economic interests at stake. For example, if Interscope records decides to suspend 50 Cent, that has little bearing on what I  do as a radio programmer. I may still play his music, show his video or highlight him in magazine.  In addition, oftentimes its members of an artists’ entourage that kick up dust and cause drama hitting,  Who do you suspend there?

Third point, The Music Industry has built its business around shady behavior. Controversy and beef are major selling points. Artists going to jail and having brushes with the law have far too often enhanced their attraction and validated them or their record labels who seem to be determined  to garner ‘street cred’. In short bad behavior is rewarded.

Here’s a couple ofexamples.  A few years ago Jay-Z stabbed record executive Lance Un Rivera after it was revealed that he was bootlegging Jigga’s music.  Was Jay-Z suspended? Did he stop receiving airplay? Did MTV/BET tell him he was no longer welcome at their award shows?  Hell naw. The incident made him seem more ‘real’ in the eyes of fans and sadly in the eyes of radio and video executives who often live vicariously through these artists. Some of these folks felt they themselves got street cred from playing or being in good with Jay-Z and his Roc-A-Fella Fam.

Now imagine if any of us stabbed a collegue? It would be a wrap unless we were former Vice President Dick Cheney who shot his boy in the face during a hunting trip-but lets not digress. My point here is Jay-Z was seen as a hero, not by young impressionable children, but by grown ass men and women in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s who work in the music industry who make decisions to present or not present music and images to millions all over the world.

Another example involves The Game and his entourage a couple of years ago. They  came to a Washington DC radio station WYKS to do an interview and wound up and beating  down a popular DJ named X-Zulu. According to the story, they were angry when the DJ made what they felt was an off the cuff remark.  (according to reports he said the blue tooth headset one of Game’s people was wearing made them look like a Klingon from Star Trek fame). 

Radio One which owns WYKS was at first furious with Game and ceased playing his records. However, other stations around the country continued to play him without hesitation. Game later went back into the studio and recorded a new verse to his popular song ‘Hate it or Love It’ where he actually bragged about the incident which sent the deejay to the hospital. Many radio executives had no problem playing that song on their airwaves including Radio One. In fact WYKS eventually resumed playing Game.

The grumblings around the industry was that lots of money was put forth to make sure Game’s music was played and put in heavy rotation. When the station ceased playing his songs, the money (payola) was asked to be returned. Rather then do that the station opted to, play his music. Oh well, so much for morality clauses. If anything maybe its the executive in this industry that need morality clauses..

What I find fascinating about this is that record labels when needed can and do exert control over their artists. They control where artists can do interviews on major radio stations, what concerts they perform at and what magazine’s they grant interviews. This control is all tied into the type of promotion and managing of image that the labels feel they need to have in order to ensure a successful promotion of an album. If an artist doesn’t comply, the label doesn’t promote their record. Over the years I’ve seen labels shut down concerts, have station visits stopped and letters from their lawyers demanding we stop playing a record. Rarely have I seen them push to have us shut things down because an artist did something wrong to the community. I have seen this happen when record executives themselves got beaten up… Like I said a morality clause needs to be imposed upon record executives

something to ponder

-Davey D-

Goodell Effect not always good for NFL but may be good for rap music artist

by Ooh Papi

NFL logoRoger S.”The Hammer” Goodell is the Commissioner of the National Football League (NFL), he was chosen to succeed the retiring Paul Tagliabue in 2006. He is nicknamed “the hammer” because he has been very tough on most NFL players.

Most think he has been to tough at times in fact Terrell Owens said that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has been unfair to suspended quarterback Michael Vick and that the union and more players need to speak out. In an interview with ESPN’s George Smith, Owens said he was surprised more players haven’t spoken up in support of Vick and that, “the commissioner needs to go sit in jail for 23 months” to see what it’s like to sit behind bars.”I think it’s unfortunate,” Owens said. “I think the way the commissioner has handled it, I think it’s unfair to Michael Vick. I think he’s done the time for what he’s done. I don’t think it’s really fair for him to be suspended four more games. That’s almost like kicking a dead horse in the ground.”

Remy Ma sghould've had a morality clause in her recording contract

Remy Ma sghould've had a morality clause in her recording contract

However his reputation for toughness has impressed many. In fact, his style may be making its way over to the Warner Music Group and other music labels. Attorney Lauren Raysor’s called a press conference today and asked record labels to put a“Goodell effect” into rappers contracts. For those who don’t know Raysor is the attorney who helped put Bronx rapper Remy Ma behind bars for shooting her client Makeda Barnes-Joseph.

Raysor propositioned that labels put a “morality clause” in their artists’ contracts, providing monetary incentive for artists to not engage in violent or criminal acts. She compared the music industry to the NFL, which enforces codes of conduct stricter than ever since the Republican raised Goodell took over.

Raysor made it clear she wasn’t trying to run amok on free speech / 1st Amendment rights or destroy gangsta rap lyrics and emphasized “It is your outside behavior we are talking about; we’re not talking about what you write.”

What Raysor wants to see become a contractual matter to prevent violence in hip hop is a contractual agreement from artist that will govern acts of contempt, scorn or ridicule that will tend to shock, insult or offend the community, or ridicule public morality or decency, or prejudice the company, producer, and others in the public or in the industry in general

Raysor is looking to meet with label execs in an effort put the morals clause into effect and if this dialogue is picked up in the blogosphere then it will surely be an anecdotal mark in the timeline of rap music’s evolution.

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