Rush to hold Congressional hearings on hip-hop


A new front on the content wars may be opening when Congress holds its first hearing specifically into media "stereotypes and degradation" of women -- particularly African- American women -- later this month.

Hearing, not yet officially announced and tentatively skedded for Sept. 25, will focus primarily on hip-hop lyrics and videos, which critics have frequently derided for explicit misogyny aimed largely at black women.

But other media will likely come under scrutiny, too.

"I want to engage not just the music industry but the entertainment industry at large to be part of a solution," said Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection, which will hold the hearing.

Just as his colleagues on other committees have summoned TV execs to be grilled on sexual or violent content, Rush wants to hear from the leaders of companies purveying rap music. The intent is to examine commercial practices behind the music's most controversial content.

"I want to talk to executives at these conglomerates who've never taken a public position on what they produce," Rush said. "But it's been surprisingly very difficult to get them to commit to appearing."

Rush had planned the hearing twice before and had to postpone both times to accommodate execs' schedules. "But after a series of long conversations and other communications, they know this hearing is going to go forward, and they will be coming -- reluctantly, if I might add."

Witnesses include toppers Philippe Dauman of Viacom, Doug Morris of Universal Music Group and Edgar Bronfman Jr. of Warner Music Group.

A music industry exec said the delay was more an issue of getting the right people to appear. "Not everyone agrees that the top people are the same as the right people," the exec said, noting that decisions to sign particular artists or distribute their CDs are often made at lower levels.

Another insider said scheduling conflicts had been the only reason for the delay.

So far, only one artist has committed to appearing -- Master P, who began his career as a gangsta rapper but has since focused on positive messages and images in his music.

The witness list is still being developed, according to Rush's spokesman. A congressional aide said witness lists are never finalized and released before the hearing itself is announced. Expect this hearing to be formally announced one week prior to the confirmed date, per standard procedure, the aide added.

Currently titled "From Imus to Industry: The Business of Stereotypes and Degradation," the hearing is intended to address "what is certainly a timely issue and one that won't go away," Rush said.

"I want to look at not only the problem caused by misogynistic content in some hip-hop music but also some of the pain that emanates from this degradation," he continued. Rush plans on having "representatives from African American women's groups" appear before the hearing.

Rush stressed that this is "not an anti-artist hearing, or antimusic or antiyouth hearing." He said he's hoping for voluntary -- not regulatory -- solutions. "I respect the First Amendment, but rights without responsibility is anarchy, and that's much of what we have now. It's time for responsible people to stand up and accept responsibility."

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