Oprah's Hip Hop Nightmare - Part I

13 May 2006

By now we have all heard about Oprah Winfrey incurring the wrath of a few rappers, namely 50 Cent, Ludacris and lately Ice Cube, who have all jumped on the ‘Oprah has an issue with hip-hop and rappers band wagon.’ As this debate is going on in chat rooms, blogs and in various newspapers, it’s interesting how many people are getting heated up over the issue. Like any other human being, Oprah has her share of supporters and detractors and so do the rappers who are mentioned. If this was a publicity stunt, it has certainly worked. (Ice Cube’s new CD Laugh Now, Cry Later’s launch date was on the 6th of June 2006, 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Trying received many bad reviews, and as for Ludacris’ appearance in Crash, well, Terrence Howard, got more attention last year.)

Despite the fact that she has had Eve, Missy Elliott, Will Smith, LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, Bow Wow, Ice-T, Kanye West and even P-Diddy on her show, Oprah has been accused of being discriminatory and not liking rappers and hip hop music. She even aired a show on hip hop - 1st Rap Mogul Success story - Who Showed JayZ& Puffy How it’s Done :Russell Simmons . Yet New York-born, 50 Cent aka Curtis Jackson who was shot 9 times , claimed Oprah hardly ever invites rappers on her talk show.

“I think she caters to older white women,” he said in an interview with the AP.

Ludacris, aka Chris Bridges, started the anti-Oprah attitude in the May issue of GQ magazine, where he grumbled that host of the Oprah Show was unfair to him when he appeared on her show for his part in the best-picture Oscar winner Crash in 2005. Apparently he did not like the way she quizzed him, bringing in things that he had done as a rapper, while he was on her show in his capacity as an actor. She publicly criticized him for the lyrical content of his songs. He should try Larry King.

Ice Cube aka Oshea Jackson, was equally miffed.

“I''ve been involved in three projects pitched to her, but I''ve never been asked to participate," the 36-year-old rapper-actor said in July''s issue of FHM. "For ‘Barbershop,’ she had Cedric the Entertainer and Eve on, but I wasn''t invited….She''s had d*mn rapists, child molesters and lying authors on her show. And if I''m not a rags-to-riches story for her, who is?”

Overly Sensitive Rappers?

Who would have thought that a man who joined Dr. Dre and others to form the angry N.W.A., short for “N*ggaz With Attitude,” best known for the hits F*ck Tha Police and A B*tch Iz A B*itch would be that sensitive? Oprah does not like hip hop and yet Ice Cube admits that rapper Eve was invited to the show? Now that’s a major contradiction. Even more shocking is the sensibility of crack-dealer-turned-rapper 50 Cent who keeps on rapping about his gangsta image and is known for his explicit, misogynistic, violent lyrics and songs with names such as P.I.M.P, Fat b*tch, F*ck You N*ger and High All Da Time.

So Ice Cube and 50 Cent are mad at Oprah for not inviting them on her show. Should we sympathize and empathize with them? Well, they would not be the only ones who have not been invited to her show. Oprah gets millions of fan letters from all over the world. She receives letters from fans who expect her not only to have them on her show, but they also expect her to perform all kinds of favours for them just because she is a billionaire. There is no way that she could humanely accommodate all the demands from all her viewers, including those would like to be on her show. What''s more, I am sure that Cube and Fiddy are not the only celebrities who have not appeared on her show.

Where Oprah Is Coming From

Let’s not forget the small issue of what they have been known to rap about. Oprah, in self defense says that she does listen to some hip-hop. According to Wikepedia she has said, however, that although she''s opposed to some lyrics, she does enjoy a lot of hip-hop artists including Kanye West who appeared on her show, and that talk of an anti-hip-hop bias is fallacious. The New York Post Online quotes Oprah as saying,

“I’m opposed to some of the music that offends my sensibilities….” The talk show host says and then goes on to explain, “That is when you’re degrading women, marginalizing women, but the beat I love.”

So Oprah has clarified that is it music which degrades and marginalizes women that offends her. What is wrong with that? She is voicing the opinions of countless many other people. Basically this means that Oprah is being crucified for not promoting rappers who demean women in their music, use the word N*gger too frequently, and promote negative black stereotypes.

Apparently these rappers must have missed the show when she was discussing the N word. In that segment Oprah mentioned that she personally felt the worldwide impact of negative hip hop during an encounter in South Africa with a security guard for Nelson Mandela. According to Oprah, the guard greeted her group by saying “Hello n*ggas.” Oprah explained to her viewers that the guard thought it was a normal African American greeting expression because he watched videos and listened to hip hop music which glorified the word and made it sound like it was a cool thing. Now that she has first hand knowledge of the negative effects of gangsta hip hop, which has even spread outside the USA, inviting people who epitomize this would be a contradiction, wouldn’t it?

Not All Hip Hop Has Issues

I’ll be the first person to say that not all hip hop has issues. Hip hop music is one of the greatest musical styles out there. It has even gone global and been embraced in other languages, with rappers emanating from other countries including Uganda, Senegal, France, Belgium, Haiti, Pakistan, Greenland, Israel, Croatia, Portugal and even Iran. In fact last year Africa held its first hip hop summit in South Africa.

But surely how can Oprah’s audience relate to people who make little black girls think the only thing they can aspire to is stripping for music videos? How can they identify with drug pushers/peddlers and people who poison generations of kids with their lyrics? How can they relate to a bunch of men who call women b*tches and hos, even for entertainments sake? There is nothing entertaining about that. How can they say that it’s just for entertainment when a large portion of their audience are impressionable, inexperienced teenagers (and even younger children) who do not know better? What about people who are constantly in the news for being shot and shooting others? Wouldn’t they be liabilities on her show? We understand that Oprah has metal detectors, but nothing that man creates is perfect; what if someone got shot on her show? Wouldn’t that be blood on her hands? And they are pissed off that Oprah will not endorse that?

It’s not just about being a rags to riches story, it’s about how they go from rags to riches. So many other black rappers and black professionals have done it without having to demean women and promote negative stereotypes. Many of them have not made the show either and we do not see them going to the press about it. Oprah does not have issues with hip-hop, she has issues with the negative messages which some hip hop artists promote. Her problem does not exists with the actual artists per se, otherwise P Diddy would have never made it to her show; it’s the degrading way women are portrayed in videos. Oprah is very pro-women. Her show has never been about degrading women, glorifying drugs or violence.

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