Corporate America has got a chokehold on hip-hop. Think about it. Whenever something affects a rapper’s bottom line, as in what just happened with Rick Ross and Reebok, all of a sudden, they care. We all care. In this specific case, we finally got a real apology from Rick Ross for what we collectively agree were lyrics that promoted a classic example of a date rape.
“Before I am an artist, I am a father, a son, and a brother to some of the most cherished women in the world. So for me to suggest in any way that harm and violation be brought to a woman is one of my biggest mistakes and regrets,” he solemnly stated a day after Reebok dropped him.
Now the question is this: Will this apology reflect a change in Ross’s lyrics or hip-hop music as a whole?
The answer should be simple. If there is one thing we know about hip-hop or the majority of rap artists, it is that the best way to get them to do something is to pay them.
On the flip side, it would seem that the best way to get them to stop doing something is to not pay them. Ross’s apology came a day after Reebok dropped the MMG head honcho from sponsorship. The lesson: If we want rappers to be held accountable for the things they rap about, especially when it comes to misogyny in hip-hop, then we must hit them where it really hurts. In the pockets.
Social media makes you accountable.
Social media has allowed us to quickly organize and make our artists accountable for the things they say and rap about, and ultimately, affect their bottom line. ‘Tis the case with UltraViolet, the women’s rights group that quickly reacted, protested and forced Reebok’s hand. If we’re lucky, there’s a rapper right now replaying their upcoming album and checking to make sure their lyrics pass a new decency line. Maybe there’s even a new department set up at some of the record labels to approve lyrics, or a program/music director at a radio station that will not support artists who are overly misogynistic.
It has nothing to do with free speech or first amendment rights. Ross can still rap freely. Labels don’t have to have a decency line. Radio stations can still play what they want. But freedom of speech works both ways, and that means that critics are free to denounce his lyrics if they like. It all comes down to the money that’s at stake. I’m wondering if there are other companies re-evaluating who they are throwing their dollars behind or just staying quiet and waiting for it all to blow over. The latter seems more likely.
Chances are hip-hop artists won’t be censoring themselves based on the recent happenings — unless, of course, their sponsorship is in jeopardy. More rap artists profit off of explicit, degrading lyrics than not. Blame the artists. Blame the sponsors. Blame society.
Where can we really place the blame? We listen to and love this music, from the “Bandz” that Juicy J uses to make them dance to the big booty h**s that 2 Chainz wants for his birthday.
On “F**kin’ Problems,” Drake “wants you to drop down and get your eagle on.”
Even the multi-platinum-selling superstar Rihanna, who was at the center of a domestic violence scandal a few years ago, likes to “throw it up, throw it up” and “watch it all fall down.”
Yes, Ross’s “U.O.E.N.O” lyrics crossed the line by suggesting that Ross put a molly in a female’s drink and then had his way with her, but in the context of where lyrics were headed over the last few years, was it really that much of a stretch? We waited until we got raped on record to say something, and even that didn’t move some of us until it was pointed out (the record was out for a while before the protest). Unfortunately, we have become immune to these lyrics, hypnotized by the infectious beats that hide disrespectful content so well.
Rick Ross didn’t get that Reebok deal on his own; we helped him.
Rampant misogyny is not the only problem. There’s a lot of violence promoted in today’s hip-hop lyrics, too. And even when we recognize the type of effect these lyrics have on our youth, we often turn a blind eye to it. Reebok is not the first company to throw millions of dollars behind an artist that promotes violence or misogyny.
Corporations latch on to what we as a community say is cool in an effort to earn more dollars off of us.
Rick Ross didn’t get that Reebok deal on his own; we helped him. We made Rick Ross profitable as an artist by putting our money behind him long before Reebok did. We co-signed the artist who wrote the rape lyric without understanding what he was saying.
So now that Reebok was forced to drop him, is the hip-hop community going to do the same? Probably not. So don’t expect to see a change in the music any time soon.