19, rapper Wise Intelligent sent out an email which included the
following: "It has always been my position that the black rapper
is NOT allowed to address or lend his voice to any issue that
confronts the community from which he comes, knowing that if he
did, like Don Imus, he would lose his major corporation sponsorship,
i.e. his contract!"
provocation for Wise Intelligent's statement was a mid-April interview
of Young Buck by Angie Martinez on New York's Hot 97. Buck told
Martinez that Interscope had refused to allow him to include the
track "Fuck tha Police" on his new Buck the World album. Buck
said "they blamed it on the lyric committee, so I researched to
see if it was a real lyric committee... the lyric committee is
in Interscope's building."
this important story was ignored by the media, it was still the
first time in nearly fifteen years that lyric committees had been
publicly mentioned by anyone.
By the end
of the 1980s, under pressure from Al and Tipper Gore's PMRC, the
police, and the FBI all major labels had set up in-house lyric
committees to censor music. "For every song that's recorded we
ask for copies of the lyrics from the artist," Paul Atkinson,
former Zombies guitarist and then head of A&R at MCA told
the New York Times in 1990. "The recording then gets listened
to not only by the A&R department but by someone in business
affairs." At the time, that someone at MCA was lawyer Lawrence
Kwensil, who claimed that artists were glad to be censored.
two years, the lyric committees played a direct role in getting
the likes of Ice T, Kool G Rap, Body Count, Paris, and Almighty
RSO dumped by major labels for criticizing the police in song.
Several other rap artists were forced to alter or delete songs
about the cops.
follows day, hip hop inexorably turned away from socially conscious
themes toward bling bling, a process initiated by the major labels
and their lyric committees. This trend was reinforced by threats,
picket lines, and violence by police at rap shows and against
Buck has proven what we have always suspected - that the lyric
committees have not gone away and that they continue to do their
dirty work in secret. Young Buck has also shown the world that
the uproar over hip hop lyrics has nothing to do with alleged
concerns about women or violence, it's about the fact "that the
black rapper is NOT allowed to address or lend his voice to any
issue that confronts the community from which he comes."
music industry has pressured our political representatives in
Congress to not only give them unprecedented legal power to target
file sharers but also to receive massive tax breaks, don't we
as citizens and taxpayers have the right to know who is on these
lyric committees, when they meet, and what actions they take?
In the wake
of the May 1 police riot at a Los Angeles immigration march, which
is just the most notorious recent example of rampant police abuse,
we should all insist that our artists be allowed to tell the truth
about violence and who perpetrates it. We should also be prepared
to support those artists when the backlash from the police and
their friends in the music industry hits the fan. - Rock &
Rock & Rap Confidential, one of the few newsletters both editors
of CounterPunch read from front to back the moment it arrives,
is edited by Lee Ballinger and Dave Marsh and now it's available
to you for FREE simply by sending an email to: [email protected].
Other Rock & Rap Confidential articles:
How I Became A Music Pirate
Do The James Brown!