Hip-Hop Summit leaders propose parental advisory labels

Tuesday, June 19, 2001


Hip-Hop Summit organizer Russell Simmons, right, greets Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in New York on June 13. Farrakhan gave the keynote address to some of hip-hop's biggest and most influential leaders.

Hip-hop leaders emerged from a recent conference with a plan to include parental advisory labels on marketing material and to increase the political power of hip-hop entertainers, producers and fans.

Def Jam Records founder Russell Simmons said he organized the Hip-Hop Summit 2001, held June 12-13 in New York City, to address problems facing the hip-hop industry and to encourage artists and executives to create positive reforms.

Late last week, Simmons and other summit participants unveiled initiatives that include efforts to educate the hip-hop community about freedom of speech, racial profiling and other issues, according to a June 18 Hip-Hop Summit news release.

The plan calls for record companies to place parental advisory labels on recorded material, promotional items, CD covers and Web sites. The Recording Industry of America already voluntarily labels CDs it deems inappropriate for children.

Under the plan, promotional material will also indicate when the recordings are available in “nonexplicit” versions. Record labels will also post the lyrics to explicit material on their Web sites, according to a June 15 allhiphop.com article.

The initiatives come partly in response to legislation recently introduced by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., which would allow the Federal Trade Commission to fine entertainment companies that market explicit material to children.

The Media and Marketing Accountability Act, co-sponsored by Sens. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., and Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y, would impose fines of $11,000 per day on entertainment companies found to be marketing adult material to minors.

On the opening day of the summit, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told the group, “Washington can regulate you out of business if you do not have your act together.”

Lieberman's spokesperson, Dan Gerstein, said the industry's new marketing plans would not halt the legislation, sonicnet.com reported June 15.

“Those are some worthwhile steps, but they don't get at the heart of the problem,” Gerstein said. “The labeling system they use is a one-size-fits-all system that provides too little information to parents. … Hopefully the legislation we're offering will encourage them to come up with an alternative.”

Simmons has spoken out against attempts to regulate the industry.

“The attacks from the mainstream on the hip-hop community's First Amendment right to have freedom of speech are wrong and unconstitutional,” Simmons told allhiphop.com about the Federal Communications Commission's decision to fine a Colorado radio station for playing an edited version of a song by rapper Eminem.

“In our country's past, no matter how differing the points of view on various issues have been, we have worked hard to not place infringements on our democratic right to express (ourselves),” Simmons said. “The U.S. government has never crossed that line.”

The initiatives developed during the summit also call for the formation of a political action committee that will lobby Congress on behalf of the hip-hop industry.

Prominent rap artists and panelists such as Harvard professor Cornel West, members of Congress and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan participated in the summit's closed-door panel discussions.

Farrakhan told the summit audience “Freedom of speech is one thing, but freedom is not license to say anything you want to,” The Washington Post reported.

He went on to condemn some hip-hop artists for using fowl language and being disrespectful to women in their songs, the article states. He urged them to take more responsibility for their words.

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