On Sept. 25, the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection, chaired by Bobby Rush, D-Ill., held a very unique hearing, focusing on the way the culture is being soured by the makers of sexist and racially charged rap music. Inspired by the furor over fired radio host Don Imus and his "ho" talk, the hearing was titled "From Imus to Industry: The Business of Stereotypes and Degrading Images."
That's a great title. For years now, record companies have made untold millions of dollars spreading a message glorifying the thug life, preaching greed and lust, and portraying women as nothing more than pornographic mannequins. From the debate that emerged on Capitol Hill, it's very easy to find the winners and the losers.
Winner: Bobby Rush. The congressman could have knuckled under from pressure by the anything-goes Old Guard of gangsta rap, but instead he boldly put his prestige where his heart is. He said this music of violence and degradation has ''reduced too many of our youngsters to automatons, those who don't recognize life, those who don't value life.''
He was unequivocal. "There is a problem -- a deep-seated, deeply rooted problem in our country," he said. "The paycheck is not an excuse for being part of the problem."
Loser: Michael Eric Dyson. The professor and Bill Cosby-hating author has become America's leading excuse-maker for irresponsible thug music. He blamed America, that never-draining cesspool of racism, for whatever problem exists. "America is built upon degrading images of black men and women, so any discussion of misogyny or homophobia or sexism has got to dig deep into America, including Congress and corporate and religious institutions."
Rush was not accepting that ridiculous excuse. He understands black rage against injustice in America, but in no way does it justify thuggery. He said: "I still have rage, but how do I channel it? Am I going to spew out counterproductively? Or do I accept a higher responsibility to take my rage and do something to improve the community?"
Winner: Master P. The former gangsta-rapper (his real name is Percy Miller) came to Congress and apologized for his musical transgressions. The angry music of his past, he said, came from seeing relatives and friends shot and killed. But he said now he doesn't even want his own children to listen to his music, "so if I can do anything to change this, I'm going to take a stand and do that." He also apologized to women for his music. "I was honestly wrong."