New Proposed Indecency Bill Threatens Rap Music Industry
by J.D. Cooke
Washington News Wire
original article: march 31 2006
WASHINGTON DC-Last week’s intense debate on the plight of this nation’s immigrant population led to massive rallies and student walkouts in many cities throughout the country. The largest occurred in Los Angeles and Detroit where 500 thousand and 200 thousand took to the streets respectively to protest the bill HR 4437 that would make it a third class felony for anyone caught administering aid to those who are in this country illegally as well as for those caught without the proper pare work and visas.
Up until now the focus has been on the nation’s Hispanic population which now numbers more than 35 million. They have been the most visible and most outspoken on this divisive issue, however, if Congressman Richard Desour (R-Indiana) has his way, the protesting Hispanics may have unintended ally in the form of the music industry, in particular those who are proponents of gangster rap. He says that criminal behavior in the recording industry has tore away at the moral fabric of the American public.
Desour has quietly introduced what some are describing as a far reaching amendment to HR 4437 that would do the following;
1-Make it a felony punishable by fines up to 250 thousand dollar and up to 2 years in jail if one advocates, promotes or admits to the commission of violent crime in a commercially released recording.
2-Disallow anyone who has a felony or is incarcerated from being signed, employed or affiliated by a major record label. In language similar to the one found in HR 4437, anyone caught harboring or providing gainful employment to a convicted felon in the music or broadcast industry will be charged with a felony.
3- Clears the way and makes it easier for parents, victim’s right groups, church organizations and Civil Right groups to sue artists and hold them liable for song lyrics that are deemed criminally prone and can be proven detrimental, pernicious and undermining to local and federal laws.
Initially this provision was written so that it would make it easier for consumers and the aforementioned groups to go after the deep pockets and resources of the record and broadcast industry. However, recording industry lobbyists were successful in working out a compromise and having the language specific to them removed from the proposed bill.
Desour’s office noted that in exchange for the compromise, the Recording Industry would set aside funds and pledge other types of resources to help fight the tidal wave of illegal immigrants.
Broadcasters agreed to refrain from using their airwaves to promote, marches and rallies and to no longer provide an on air platform for organizations that help illegal immigrants. Both the Recording Industry and Broadcast Association agreed to vigorously enforce immigration laws at concerts, award shows and other industry related gatherings.
4-Desour’s amendments would make it easier to apply hate crime provisions to artists, record label owners and broadcasters who allow the recording and dissemination of racial and sexually oriented disparaging epithets.
Broadcasters were unsuccessful in winning a compromise on this provision. Disparaging words like ‘nigger’, ‘bitch’ and ‘fag’ which are commonly heard on the airwaves and in recordings will be added to the current list of seven dirty words that are prohibited from being broadcast in public space.
In a strange and somewhat ironic twist, radio broadcaster’s have hired high powered lobbyist Simon Dennis to represent them. They believe the proposed amendments reach too far and would have long range unintended economic consequences and stifle free speech.
Dennis accused the 7 term congressman of being culturally insensitive and a borderline racist. He noted that it was unfair for the Congressman to try and ban word ‘nigger’ which he claims is a universally used and accepted term in African American dialect especially if its pronounced and spelled with the letter ‘A’ at the end and not the letters ‘Er’
“It’s an important part of Black and Hip Hop culture”, Dennis said. “Today its actually a good thing to call someone a ‘nigga’ because it means you are a friend. It’s the community turning a positive into a negative. That should be celebrated, not criminalized. To disallow the N word’s usage via the airwaves could prove to be economically disastrous because Black and urban Rap listeners would tune away in droves”.
Simon pointed out the recent decline in ratings by Los Angeles based urban radio stations which once dominated the LA radio market as Top 5 positions are now not even in the Top 10. He argued that these stations in anticipation of this bill voluntarily restricted the use of N word on their airwaves and now the ratings have dropped precipitiously.
Despite the broadcast industry’s compelling arguments all signs indicate that Congressman Desour will push to make the use of the ‘N’ word in both recordings and broadcast as part of the Hate Crime provisions. In other words, use of the N word in a criminal context within a song can get you slapped with a hate crime which carries mandatory punishments.
Famed author, photographer and Hip Hop pioneer, Ernie Paniccioli’s of the newly formed The Universal Federation for the Preservation of Hip Hop Culture reacted to the legislation placed before Congress; “From what I read, this bill seems far reaching. Many of us who love, respect and strive to protect this culture we call Hip Hop are in total favor of cleaning up the airwaves and making sure our house is in order. Many of us do not approve or support the use of the ‘N’ word in public space, however, we are not in favor of only criminalizing the artist while allowing his oppressive colonialist of a master who runs the record label to be given a pass.”
Long time Hip Hop journalist and radio host Davey D said; ” I’m concerned that while this bill is an attempt to clean up the airwaves, and the music industry in general, it will most likely be used selectively against Hip Hop artists and may even be twisted to go after artists like Dead Prez or The Coup who say harsh things about the political system.”
To support these first two provisions of his bill, Congressman Desour referenced a newly released report that was put together by law enforcement officials who oversea the Hip Hop Task Force that is currently based in New York City and the main focal point of a soon to be released motion picture. The task force’s exhaustive two year study concluded that there is a direct correlation in the rise of gang activity, drug dealing and other violent crimes with the high visibility and ultimate rewarding and endorsement of rap artists who have a criminal path.
“When young people witness artists like Snoop Dogg, Youngster Jeezy, Nas and other gangster rappers being coddled by the music industry it sends out the wrong message”, said HHTF spokesman Lynn Franks. “It leaves young people with the impression that the only way you can be successful in the music industry is to first be a career criminal”
Franks went on to point out that the HHTF discovered that many record labels were secretly orchestrating and encouraging their artists to engage in criminal acts and behavior as a way to spark controversy which in turn would lead to increased record sales. The report discovered that if an artist actually served jail time, then their album sales would shoot through the roof, because of the heavy promotion and endorsement by both the record labels and broadcasters who used their incarceration as a key selling point.
Franks also noted that many gangster rappers were communicating secret messages to fellow gang members and criminal enterprises around the country in recordings using coded street lingo, by adapting certain nicknames or wearing particular clothing and fashions.
During a press conference Franks asserted; “One popular artist from Atlanta named Youngster Jeezy calls himself ‘The Snowman’. His name and his lyrics are really street lingo advocating for people to steal cars. There’s been a huge spike is grand theft auto throughout Jeezy’s native Atlanta since he started releasing albums”.
Currently the HHTF is trying to build a case against Jeezy saying that his lyrics were premeditated.
Franks went on; “There are two popular rappers out of Houston we been studying. Gangster rappers Paul Jones and Mike Wall has recorded numerous songs where they encourage to purchase false teeth filled with diamonds and other expensive jewels that they nickname ‘grills’
Our study concludes that Wall and Jones and many of these other rap guys who are wearing these so called grills are actually smuggling diamonds filled while smiling for cameras. When these rappers describe the jewels they have in their mouth, they are actually sending secret messages to fellow diamond smugglers about the type of stash they are delivering”
Franks also pointed the hit song ‘Tell Me When to Go’ by popular artist E-40. “Here you have a young man who is blatantly advocating that young men and women participate in perverted sexual activities. When he instructs listeners at the end of his song to ‘Ghost ride the Whip’ . This is Bay Area street slang for bondage and S&M of the most dangerous type. Using whips while participating in sex acts is not only quite dangerous and can cause serious injury, but it’s also a violation of the law in 37 states. Because Mr 40 has such a young audience he can be in big trouble with the law where bondage sex is illegal”.
ACLU spokesperson Harry Thompson said that they fully intend to challenge the Constitutionality of this law should it pass along with the other provisions of the Immigration Bill. However, he acknowledges that in today’s political climate it will be along hard struggle. He encourages people to call their representatives and Senators to oppose Congressman Desour’s New Indecency Bill HR 3312.
To see a full copy of this Draconian bill Click Here: