I’ve spent the past few years tirelessly writing about the music industry’s deplorable portrayal of Black people. I’ve verbally attacked record companies, radio stations, TV networks, and executives who profit from Black death and dysfunction. I’ve harshly criticized rappers like Nicki Minaj, 2 Chainz, YG, and Rick Ross for glorifying crime, sex, drugs, violence, and general ignorance. I’ve gone after clueless bloggers and hipsters for praising the very worst that rap has to offer. I’ve watched an industry blossom from the exploitation of the most vile and obscene racial stereotypes imaginable and openly accused it of promoting a covert white supremacist agenda. I’ve called out media conglomerates for their proven connection to the private prison industrial complex. I’ve been vocal and unapologetically determined to expose the industry for what I’m convinced is a deliberate attempt to dumb down generations of unsuspecting listeners. I’ve gained friends, supporters, and allies but also made a few foes in the process. And although it’s become increasingly difficult to say something I haven’t already said in past articles or interviews, as long as the industry keeps pushing its propaganda, I’ll continue speaking out against it. For every person who’s heard my arguments a hundred times before, there’s someone else hearing it for the first time.
Throughout this amazing journey, I’ve observed how strategically wicked “the enemy” really is. I’ve watched how this industry seduces young impressionable artists at their most vulnerable, builds them up with false hope, manipulates them to think they’re in control, and discards them when they no longer serve a purpose. It happened to Chief Keef and Trinidad James, it’s happening to Bobby Shmurda now, and it will probably happen to Columbia Records’ latest acquisition, 23 year-old female rapper Dej Loaf whose radio hit “Try Me” has her killing entire families and rapping lines like “I really hate n****s, I’m a Nazi”. After years of indoctrinating the masses to view Black men as criminals and animals, an image that has undoubtedly shaped the George Zimmermans and Darren Wilsons of the world, the music industry has turned it up a notch by promoting this young Black woman as a psychopath and murderer. With co-signs from Drake, E-40, T.I, and Wiz Khalifa who are either blind to the industry’s racial exploitation or mere forgiving beneficiaries, where does an inexperienced artist like Dej Loaf turn to for wisdom and guidance? Besides Erykah Badu who called Dej to offer advice, who will pull this young sister to the side and warn her of what is likely to happen after her short-lived fame fades into oblivion? Who will stand up for her humanity, her soul, and her dignity as a woman…as a Black woman? No one in the industry will…unless it offends white sensibilities. Who can forget how quickly Snoop apologized for making fun of Iggy Azalea after T.I. stepped in to defend the honor of his artist? No such pressure from the industry ever prompted Snoop or his peers to offer this swift of an apology for the way Black women have been portrayed through commercial rap in the last 20 years.
A few days ago, Nicki Minaj released the video for “Only”, an animated short that incorporates what many have called Nazi imagery due to its military theme, swastika-styled Young Money logo, SS-like soldiers, and Nicki playing the role of the ruthless dictator. Although there were no literal mentions of Nazis or Hitler, the sensitive nature of the video elicited countless complaints from fans and a public statement from the Anti Defamation League condemning the video. Nicki immediately issued an apology via Twitter and explained that she would never intentionally promote Nazism. Far from being the first to apologize for offensive content, artists ranging from Micheal Jackson to Kanye West have been censored or pressured to change their lyrics as to not offend various groups including Jews, 9/11 survivors, and white people in general. In the meantime, Bobby Shmurda shares celebratory tales of Black on Black murder via a boardroom performance attended by the mostly white staff of Epic Records and its proud “papa bear”, chairman and CEO, L.A. Reid.
Former BET executive and founder of RapRehab, Paul Porter has a long history of media activism. The outspoken industry veteran has gone head to head with high profile decision-makers and spearheaded many successful initiatives designed to hold media accountable. Rick Ross, Lil’ Wayne, BET, and the Oxygen Network are just a few of those who have succumbed to Paul’s demands. “Programmers and record labels have a bad case of amnesia,” he says. “They want us to believe that content has no effect on the audience they covet. Millions spent on promotion and advertising is common sense evidence that content matters.” Never one to hold his tongue, Porter concludes, “it’s sad. Even some child molesters admit they’re sick.”
At the end of the day, no matter how many protests, movements, boycotts, and public outrage denouncing the music industry’s depiction of Black people have occurred in the past 2 decades, none of them have made a significant impact. The industry just doesn’t give a shit about Black people unless they’re entertaining the masses. But can we really expect industry execs to apologize for turning the criminalization of Black people into a billion dollar business when so many artists are willingly dancing to their own demise?
Sebastien Elkouby is a creative consultant, speaker, Hip Hop culture historian, freelance writer, and award-winning educator. For more info, go to SebIsHipHop.com or contact him at [email protected]. Find him on Twitter at SebIsHipHop.