Protesters Kick-off National Boycott at Major Music Labels
Hip-hoppers, activists and community supporters pledged on May 13 to take part in the national non-violent boycott against Universal Music Group. UMG is the corporation that owns Def Jam, Interscope and Universal Music, one of the nation's leading suppliers of rap music.
The Coalition for the Revolution of Corporate Rap, a grassroots organization led by women and men who feel censorship is a large continuing practice for mainstream rap music, gathered in front of UMG in Santa Monica demanding that the images of black men and women become diversified.
"Corporate censorship is not allowing artists to create the type of music they want to create, and instead forcing them to objectify women and criminalize men in order to make money," said Kelly Muscoll, 18, English and sociology student attending Whittier College.
"In the hands of corporations, hip-hop isn't what it really intended to be," said Melina Abdullah, a Cal State Los Angeles professor of Pan-African Studies focusing on the teaching and writings of hip-hop.
Abdullah, a supporter of the "Take Our Music Forward" campaign involving the Coalition, added that hip-hop was designed and developed out of an oppressed people to be a voice for people of color in urban poverty-stricken communities, and that their approach that is being taken is one she supports. Men and women wearing T-shirts with "corporate ho" or "corporate gangsta" printed on them carried signs of disappointment and passed out green mock one-dollar bills with pig faces printed on the front, reading "corporate greed" as the heading. They shouted in determination that they would not tolerate the support of artists signed to UMG. Black Entertainment Television, more popularly known as BET, aired a music video by UMG artist Nelly entitled "Tipdrill" on the popular "Un-cut" video program, which showcases popular music videos, as an erotic uncut video. Content from this video of Nelly swiping a credit card down the backside of a female featured in the video caught the attention of students of Spelman College, according to supporters of the protest. In addition, Nelly agreed to perform at Spelman College, the women in opposition were ready to protest his show, according to Caroline Heldman, one of the Coalition's founders and front-line supporters. "I am offended by the objecti-fication of men and women in the media in general-- specifically black men and women represented as pimps and black women as 'hoes.' It's offensive to me," said William Chappelle, a student at Whittier College studying Religious Studies.
"I refuse to tolerate a corporate foot in my back. I refuse to let corporations step on me to gain a dollar, the almighty dollar," said Erin Carter, a supporter protesting for the elimination of damaging stereotypes of black men and women in mainstream rap.
Carter, who also had her mother present to support her, began activism at an early age through her taste for hip-hop. At 21, she will be attending UCLA for her Ph.D. in political science. As a black woman, Carter's main objective in the protest was to oppose the notion that all black women are "bitches" and "hoes."
As Cornel West said in "The Journey" from "Street Knowledge," 2004: "Hip-hop, the greatest creative breakthrough in the last 25 years of the younger generation, fusing linguistic virtuosity with rhythmic velocity, something unprecedented....The music soothes our bruises, it caresses our grooves, it attempts to give us a foretaste of the freedom we so deeply want, even if we can experience it for only a moment."