Only CBS Covers Rap Mogul's Call to Clean Up Lyrics

Hip-hop industry giant Russell Simmons says the b-word, n-word and “ho” should be considered “extreme curse words” and banned from the airwaves—and of the major networks, only CBS deemed the announcement worthy of air time during the April 23 evening news.

Beginning April 4, when radio shock jock Don Imus infamously called the Rutgers University women's basketball team “nappy-headed hos” on his nationally syndicated CBS radio show, all the networks gave the story top billing until Imus was finally fired on April 12. Each network also ran stories about the content of rap music lyrics. 

CBS didn't carry footage of Russell's remarks, but in her introduction to reporter Bill Whitaker's story, anchor Katie Couric cited Russell's opinion that the call to delete the offensive words was about social responsibility, not censorship.

After showing a clip of a Snoop Dogg video with the subtitled lyrics, “You got to put that b***h in her place, even if it's slapping her in her face. Ya gotta control yo' ho,” Whitaker sought reactions from a number of outraged African Americans.  Civil rights activist Earl Ofari Hutchinson said he was “appalled” by the lyrics of rap music.  Poet Maya Angelou said “vulgarity is vulgarity” regardless of the color of the mouth of the person speaking.

While the CBS piece doubtless offended many viewers by screening overtly sexual music videos, Whitaker redeemed the story by highlighting a hip-hop church outside of Los Angeles, where the pastor blends love of hip-hop with the love of God.  Whitaker comments that he is taking the music genre “back from the gangsters.”

In the summer of 2006 the journal Pediatrics reported on a study that found a correlation between listening to sexually explicit and degrading music lyrics and initiating sexual activity in teenagers. Rap music is rife with such lyrics. 

Because he is one of the hip-hop industry's most significant figures, Russell Simmons' call for corporate social responsibility by curtailing the use of some of the most offensive language in the genre is very newsworthy.  Kudos to CBS for covering the story.

Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the MediaResearchCenter.