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Oprah's Hip Hop Nightmare - Part II

16 Jun 2006

The Debate about Negative Hip Hop

Despising the negative lyrics of some hip hop artists is not a crime. It is most certainly a sentiment that Oprah shares with very many people. It’s also a topic which has been discussed in many venues including Essence Magazine. According to MTV.com, Byron Hurt''s documentary, “Beyond Beats & Rhymes: A Hip-Hop Head Weighs in on Manhood in Hip-Hop Culture” - takes rap to task over its preoccupation with “gunplay, killin'' other men, bein' tough and invulnerable, feminizing other men and puttin' fear into other men''s hearts.” He quoted as saying,

“I love hip-hop, man," Hurt continued. “But I hear the hyper-masculinity, the sexism, the violence, the homophobia and the materialism and I say, ''Man, this ain't cool. We gotta demand a lot more from hip-hop …

"All these young guys are spittin' all of these crazy rhymes, all of this sexist stuff, all this homophobic stuff. Then when I challenge them on it, they give me all of these positive rhymes on the black experience, about Africa, about their community. But when the camera is rolling, they were doing what they thought would get them on Sony or Bad Boy or Def Jam.”

The fact is that many young people, especially black males, look at the rappers as role models and take what they do and say literarily, even of the more discerning people in society know that it is an unrealistic feat. The young ones copy the rappers fashion style, try to copy their bling ling culture and many misinformed ones end up selling drugs to maintain the materialism that is promoted in videos. For those who argue that it is ridiculous to link an issue like gun violence among teenagers in North America to listening to songs which promote it, perhaps they should try and remember how many gun violence related crimes among teenagers we heard about or knew about (not everything is in the news) before the gangsta rap era. Toronto, for example even as far as 10-15 years ago, did not have the alarming gun violence issues among youth it has today. These issues were just limited to child soldiers in some African countries.

I do not agree with everything Oprah says or does, however, she is an intelligent woman and like these rappers, who are voicing their frustration over not being invited to her show, she too is entitled to her opinion. She may not be a saint, as she has made her own share of mistakes, but crucifying her for not promoting negativity is just barking up the wrong tree. A lot of people call Oprah self-righteous, but for a ‘self-righteous’ woman she is brutally honest about her flaws and the many mistakes she has made. She may have faults (show me a human being who does not) but she has done many amazing things, all the while remaining a strong and proud black woman. She had done so many things that few other people have been able to do.

Understanding Her Audience

For guys who have made it thus far, and from their success have shown that they do have business skills, it is surprising that they fail to understand this about Oprah. Oprah is a business woman. Period. She did not get as far as she is without her business skills, which require good marketing, and in her business understanding the demographics of her audience. Business has no colour. In business you cater to the people who buy or subscribe to your products. Bill Gates and Donald Trump, whatever their imperfections might be, understand that. How many black people who have done talk shows only catering to blacks are still in the game? In Oprah’s case, the key word is global thinking, as in opposed to being a regional thinker. If Oprah had only relied on a black audience, she would not be as rich as she is now. The fact is in North America, the black population is considerably smaller than the white population. Her studio audience may include a lot of white women but that is a fraction of her audience, which is spread out throughout the world.

Global Thinking Versus Regional Thinking

Oprah understands the need to be global, so 50 Cent is wrong when he says she [only] caters to old white women. He left out the many black women, old or young who watch her. The Oprah show is watched by millions of viewers all over the world, including countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean where there are not that many old white women. In fact many young people watch it, even many men who would never admit they do. In America only, over 23 million viewers each week watch her. So if 50 Cent has derision for her show’s audience, why does the fact that he is not invited bother him? Why is the issue of being on her show such a big issue in the first place? Wouldn’t being on her show force him to show his soft side? Won’t it kill his street credibility? Now that just ain’t gangsta, is it?

The argument that Oprah only caters to old white women is a poor one. The gangsta rappers are definitely not catering to black people. If they were, they would be uplifting them, not poisoning their children with their lyrics. In fact most of the people who buy their records are young white male. This was confirmed on a BET hip hop documentary which aired last year. Fiddy admits is when he says,

“Oprah's audience is my audience's parents.”

I guess Fiddy does not see the double standard.

The Old Oprah Does Not Support Black People Argument Again?

So if in between the lines, if this is really an issue of Oprah does not support black people, as her ‘blackness’ always seems to be in question, then perhaps we should mention some of the people who have been featured on her show. They include Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Nikki Giovanni, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Halle Berry, Serena and Venus Williams, Patti Labelle, Beyoncé, Iman, Liya Kibede, Aretha Franklin, Mary .J. Blige, Angella Bassett, Condolezza Rice, and for those who are murmuring that she does not have black men on her show, she has had Denzel Washington, Spike Lee, Terrance Howard, Bill Cosby, Sidney Poitier, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Chris Rock, Don Cheadle, Jamie Foxx, Tyler Perry, Shemar Moore, Barack Obama and so many more. The list is endless. She has also invited other non celebrity black people as well as people from other cultures.
Let’s not forget that Oprah has given millions of dollars to the black community, reaching as far as Africa. She has donated money to black colleges, universities and other black causes around the world. She donated millions to the Katrina victims.

She has covered the human rights issues going on in Rwanda, the Congo, Darfur-Sudan and Gulu-Uganda. She has provided for many African war and AIDS orphans. She has helped in the financing of many black films. Let’s not forget that her movies and theatre productions are based upon black-related themes.

Should Rappers Get Preferential Treatment?

ILudacris has at least made it to the show. However, he does not really highlight the conversation he had with Oprah regarding why she edited him on her show. According to Allhiphop.com Oprah tells him,

“Look Ludacris, you are so smart. You are one of the brilliant guys. I used to have the Klan on and the skinheads on and …… I was doing nobody any good [by] putting those people on because I realized that that platform was being seen and heard by a lot of people who weren''t as smart as I am. My idea was, I want y''all to know that this is what''s going on," Winfrey continued to say to Ludacris, “A lot of people who listen to your music aren''t as smart [perceptive, experienced - added by writer] as you are. So they take some of that stuff literally when you are just writing it for entertainment purposes.”

Rappers taking responsibility for their lyrics? Food for thought.

As for Cube, granted, now that he is in his mid-30s, and is now more family-oriented, it is clear that he is a different man but that does not give him automatic preferential treatment. It’s interesting how they all complain about Oprah not liking rappers and yet when Ludacris was confronted and criticized as one, he did not like it. Perhaps that seat is a little too hot for comfort. It would be unrealistic for them not to expect Oprah to address their combined misogynistic and violent messages after having seen what happened to James Frey. I guess it’s unfair for Ice Cube who is trying his best to change his image (now that he had kids and sees how dangerous his old lyrics can be for young minds) but perhaps he should be more patient. Maybe she will one day have him on her show. But the bottom line is she does not owe any rapper, or any other person anything. Since everyone has a right to complain though, maybe Oprah should complain that women of her caliber, size and complexion are never seen in these rappers videos. Nor are women promoted in a positive, intelligent light. Isn’t that a form of discrimination?

Ludacris Still Loves Oprah

On a more positive note Ludacris has urged fans not to boycott Oprah Winfrey's daily TV talk show just because he's not happy with her thoughts about hip hop music - as she's still an important role model. Perhaps as a result of this entire controversy, Oprah will have more rappers on her show, just for discussions sake, but since she has let us know what she thinks of misogynistic lyrics, she would more likely invite rappers like Lauryn Hill, Mc Lyte, Outkast, the Roots, Wycleff Jean, Talib Kweli, Outkast, Public Enemy, Chuck D, Big Daddy Kane, Doug E. Fresh, Common and Mos Def. Unfortunately, Ice Cube, Fiddy and Ludacris’ fans will not rest until their ‘idols’ get vindicated. Perhaps one of Oprah’s show ideas suggestions could be to interview them. It would be interesting to see how they will defend their violence and drugs glorifying as well misogynistic lyrics under Oprah’s James-Frey-grilling-style.

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