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Dear Damon Dash

    Dear Damon,

    There’s a war going on in Hip Hop and you are on the front line.

    You are in a position to use your platform to make some real changes in a industry that is blinded by the illusions of grandeur and commerce. However, you are not utilizing all of your resources.

    I’ve heard you talk about how now is the time for “the people” to band together and hold the “powers that be” accountable for exploiting the culture. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit confused by your plan.

    Your contributions to Hip Hop are undeniable. The respect I have for you is endless. In fact, it is what you’ve been able to accomplish that made me decide I wanted a career in the music industry. However, it is no secret that in a matter of public opinion, you have experienced a “fall from grace”. As a result, the ears of those who are in a position of power fall deaf to everything you are saying. They may respect you but the way you are going about getting them to listen makes your mission useless.

    Don’t get me wrong. I agree with a lot of the things you have said as it relates to the state of the music industry, Hip Hop and the so-called “culture vultures”. But it’s important to be careful with how you use your voice when speaking about issues that really are affecting the culture.

    I’ve been watching the videos and listening to what’s been going on these last few weeks between you, Flex, Lyor, etc. and let me just say, you make a lot of great points. However, there are a few areas where I think you fall short. The first is in your approach. The second would be your failure to take responsibility for the role you’ve played in all of this. But most importantly, I’ve heard nothing about the steps you are going to take to affect change. I do however see you promoting your music and other businesses. So I ask you. What makes you any different from them?

    For those who don’t know, you’ve talked a lot about how people like Lyor and Steve Stoute have raped our culture by pimping out artists and putting them against each other for financial gain. This indeed may be true. However, let’s not forget some of the things you’ve done. You’ve promoted and supported negative images in music. You’ve disrespected women. I’ve even seen you associate with individuals who are doing the same things you claim you want to take down. You’ve participated in or facilitated bad business deals with no regard for anyone’s financial gain but your own, or so it has been heavily reported. The only people who know the truth are you and God. All I want to know is, what are you going to do to affect change? Show me the receipts. Or better yet, make yourself more available to those in the community. Listen to their ideas. Who else better to help you? We are the consumers. We are the ones who keep the culture alive. If you’re going to speak for us, I sincerely hope you don’t forget to include us because I’ve also heard you say over and over again that Harlem sticks together. Well, I am here to tell you that this is bigger than Harlem. This is bigger than the petty bickering between millionaires.

    I have always admired your gift for being able to motivate people. You’ve encouraged us to be independent, to embrace innovative thought and challenge the status quo in an industry that has proven that having an opinion can stall your professional and social growth. However, the thing about inspiration and motivation is, it means nothing without a clear plan of action. It may or may not be your intention but from the outside looking in, it looks like you are only calling attention to the issues, not because you want to affect change but because you need an avenue to promote your agenda, be it new music or a new business venture. You look like the younger brother mad at his big brother because he won’t let you play with him and his friends. It looks like you don’t have a problem with the oversaturation of guns, sex, drugs and murder in music, so long as you are the one controlling the money and how it circulates within the community. Whatever it is, your mission doesn’t seem sincere and if that’s true, that’s really disappointing and will make everything you said irrelevant.

    In the end, you are going to do you and I am going to do me. However, if I may make a suggestion, I’d ask that if you’re going to use your voice, humble yourself and use it to set up a meeting with Ebro and Rosenberg. Encourage them to publicly apologize to Chuck D. Use your voice to have a serious conversation with Nicki Minaj and encourage her to apologize to Lil’ Kim for all the disrespect she has displayed towards her. Encourage her to stop being selfish and allowing people to create rifts between her and some of the other women in Hip Hop. Encourage her to promote unity and show them more support. Use your voice, money and power to give artists who deserve a chance to be heard an opportunity to share their music with the world.

    This is not a rant. Nor am I not trying to bait you into giving me an opportunity or convince you to work with me on some of the projects I am involved in. I would love to work with you in the future but this is bigger than that. I speak to you as someone in the trenches. I speak to you as someone who is genuinely concerned about the preservation of Hip Hop and as someone who is looking to create opportunities for people just like me.

    Who am I? My name is Whitney Nichole Stevens. I am young, hungry (never thirsty) and am determined to make it on my terms. I went to college and I graduated at the top of my class. I’ve interned, worked for and am mentored by some of the best in the business. I’ve worked my ass off and am focused on doing my part to uplift this thing of ours because I’ve seen the dark side. I’ve had doors shut in my face and people not take me seriously. I’ve had men in your position try to take my most sacred and prized possession in exchange for “opportunities” on the road to “success”. I’ve attended concerts and watched those who might not have been able to afford VIP Packages be kept behind a rope, despite there being thousands of available seats that are closer to the stage. I’ve watched how artists have been getting away with charging hundreds and thousands of dollars for club appearances and performances only to section themselves off from the people once inside. Lyor and Stoute are not the only guilty ones. These are also the people and situations that are raping and exploiting the culture.

    You’ve said it’s time to start holding people accountable. I agree and have since contacted the President of A&R at one of the majors. I wrote him, telling him about my disgust for what’s going on. I told him my story and encouraged him to hear me out. I told him about how I’ve applied to several jobs at all of the major labels and how none of them have allowed me to earn a chance to show what I could do. His response shocked and amazed me. He invited me to stay connected with him and share with him my ideas and music that I think would change the state of things and provide more variety. He gave me some sound advice about how to continue to build my career and seemed genuinely interested in listening to a new perspective.

    Whether he was sincere or not, I’d say it’s a start. Maybe the ears of those “who matter” are more open than you think. You just have to talk to them in a language they understand. And even if nothing comes from this new found connection, it doesn’t matter because I am focused on doing whatever it takes to repair what you all have destroyed. I’ve started a business and am working toward solidifying my independence. I will continue to build my network and create my own lane that is going to allow me to save what our forefathers worked so hard to build. I will accomplish everything I have set out to achieve because I am sick of paying for your Bentleys, million dollar homes, and designer clothes, as you sit by idly, reaping the rewards, while things continue to get worse. The time to break the cycle is now.

    You have my attention. You have my support and I’m sure the support of many others. Now that you have it, what are you going to do with it? I’ve got some ideas if you are interested in hearing them and really want to see things change. I’ve even got some ideas about how to “flip”, as you would say, and put money into both of our pockets. You might wanna holla at me. I said that in your voice by the way.

    Whitney Nichole Stevens is a writer, event curator and a independent public relations consultant. She can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @WhitneyNStevens.