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Bill O'Reilly's War With Hip-Hop

by Steven Strong Jr.

Calls it the roots of evil in black American culture

(IPS) NEW YORK -- Even though Hip-Hop is one of the most popular music genres in the United States, some powerful media players are determined to disturb the peace in the industry.

Bill O'Reilly, for example, a top commentator on Fox news, has made baseless criticisms of certain hip-hop artists. Mr. O'Reilly presented his argument on his popular show The O'Reilly Factor.

In March 2003, The Source magazine published an article entitled "Five Reasons Bill O'Reilly Could Never Come to the Hood." This article was written in response to O'Reilly's criticisms of hip-hop and suggested that his arguments against that genre of music "smacked of racism." After the publication of that article, O'Reilly invited David Mays, CEO of The Source and a fellow graduate of Harvard, to his show for a discussion of hip-hop and the culture that surrounds it.

During the show, O'Reilly stated that hip-hop is not healthy because 10-year-old boys are calling ten-year-old girls bitches and 'hos.' He claimed that rap is "anti-social" and that "the stuff hurts unsupervised children, many of whom are poor."

Mr. Mays, whose magazine is focused on hip-hop and geared towards youth culture, brings up another side of this argument. He believes that, even if young children are listening to hip-hop unsupervised, hip-hop is a part of black culture and experience, and it can't just be dismissed or silenced.

"I sell and promote a culture that empowers people, that creates entrepreneurialism," Mays stated. "Hip-hop has created a generation of those same 9-year-olds that you're thinking [of] that now believe they can build businesses, that they can start their own [thing], that they can overcome the way society programs them, the way people like you, who want to impose your point of view and your way of thinking on everybody else, that we're supposed to listen to you because you think you know everything, when you haven't spent a day in the "hood."

O'Reilly's attack on hip-hop was further exemplified when he attacked Ludacris and stated that black rappers and the negative images that they portray are the roots of evil in black American culture. O'Reilly criticized Ludacris for doing Pepsi commercials, though he said nothing about the Osbourne Pepsi commercials. He failed to criticize the negative language and images portrayed by the Osbournes, an extremely popular reality show on MTV about Ozzy Osbourne, a white rock star known for his sadistic lyrics, drug binges and his off-the-wall family.

Although there are positive and negative messages in all kinds of music, Bill O'Reilly fails to note the many positive images in hip-hop. For example, Wyclef Jean's first single off his latest album, The Preacher's Son, expressed very positive images of hip-hop culture. The name of the single was called "The Industry." He was thinking on the bright side when he sang positive lyrics such as: " Imagine if Biggie and Pac never got shot/ and they were both still rulers of hip-hop." The positive message in this lyric is that Wyclef Jean was imagining the hip-hop world without violence.

Ultimately, O'Reilly and Mays had to agree to disagree on the subject of hip-hop and its effect on youth. "The O'Reilly Factor" and the Source have different audiences. The Source audience is geared toward young people who like hip-hop and R&B and people who follow black leaders like Russell Simmons, Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Rev. Al Sharpton. "The O'Reilly Factor" audience is completely the opposite. O'Reilly's show targets a white audience of people who do not necessarily like hip-hop or understand certain black politics.

It is difficult to take O'Reilly's comments seriously because of his argumentative nature. He did not interact with Mays in a fair way, despite his stated intention to behave like a "gentlemen." He continually interrupted Mays and insisted on having the last word.

During the discussion, O'Reilly did not talk about any specific kind of hip-hop, he just talked about hip-hop overall. Mays attempted to point out that hip-hop itself is not the real issue when comes to the problems of today's young people. Mays said. "All of us who care about human beings should address why those problems exist, but the problem is not rap music, unfortunately. When you reduce rap music to an image and to a statement, and you don't appreciate the cultural, you know, ramifications [and] the cultural influence of this movement."

Nobody can stop Bill O'Reilly from carelessly criticizing hip-hop unless somebody stands up to him. I am proudly taking hip-hop's side in this war; hip-hop is part of our general culture. I don't think it's fair Ludacris cannot make any more Pepsi commercials, but the Osbournes can, because people like Bill O'Reilly are always criticizing hip-hop and the path that it's taken. Hopefully, O'Reilly and others who share his sentiments will come to understand what hip-hop is really all about.

Hip-hop is known for its unique rhythms and rhymes, its performers' ingenious use of language, high quality instrumentals, and the great talent of many of the producers. The lyrical content of a few specific songs, while admittedly raw and controversial on occasion, is not as important as the form and culture of the music itself. The rappers are just saying what comes to their minds; they put their views of life and what they think into different words with rhythm, rhyme and creativity. Hip-hop is a true art form that is diverse and has already stood the test of time, proving that it has as much validity as any other established form of music in our society.

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Albion Monitor September 1, 2004 (

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