with young people. I had my own son who buys his cassettes and
CD's, and I asked him, "Let me see what you are buying, let me
hear your music, what is hip hop to you", and I pulled out a stack
of what he said was hip hop. I said, "What is rap or non-hip hop?"
He pulled out that stack. I said, "Now where is your gangsta rap?"
And he reluctantly pulled out his gangsta rap.
They can identify and they know the difference, but when this
came to our attention was, again, when we as adults were watch-
ing in our home what our children and what we have been told to
do, what our children watch on television, and we watched with
them these videos and we listened to these Ijnrics and then we
began to educate them that this is not the way you want to talk
and act in real life.
And so the pants had to come up off the hip and the shoe strings
had to go back in, and the language had to be cleaned up and the
fascination with guns had to end.
I have spent all my life working with young people. I was 23
years old when I became the executive director of the Detroit
NAACP. That was very young, and I spent most of my time work-
ing with young people and often we will hear young rappers say,
as one said yesterday in an interview I did on CBC, Canadian
Broadcasting. We were discussing this issue, that the older genera-
tion, the black leaders have done absolutely nothing. The black
politicians have done nothing for this generation.
Well, we obviously have more opportunities than we had 30, 40,
50 years ago and it was because many of us sitting here today sac-
rificed and gave our lives to see to it that this young generation
has at least the opportunity to do what they need to do.
Have we completed it all? No. And there is a lot of work to do,
but this is not because we do not love our young people. It is just
Mrs. Collins. Mr. Madison, you recommend that record compa-
nies refuse to release certain records. One, on what grounds would
record companies suppress certain records or songs, and two,
wouldn't this lead to censorship?
Mr. Madison. Again, I think, as Don said, we do have censor-
ship. You can call it what you want. I mean, censorship. I am a
talk show host and if I am not mistaken, there are seven
unforbidden words that I can't say on the air, and there is a reason
I think it is just simply a responsibility of using the freedoms
that we have wisely. Censorship, The freedom of speech and ex-
pression does not mean that one can simply be uncivilized in their
attitude and their behavior. I do censor my children in what they
can and cannot watch, and I think that although I pride myself on
being a purist, I certainly would not want to see legal legislative
censorship. I really would not, but I would want to give the music
industry an opportunity to police itself, just as they were given an
opportunity to police themselves when it came to violent movies.
Just this past year there was a violent video game that showed
people being killed in it and the industry responded by pulling it
off the shelves and then eventually Sega not producing it.
Mr. Cornelius. I think it is something ā I agree, and I think it
is something closer to social responsibility, Madam Chairwoman.
As the witness just stated, partially true and partially not so likely
if there was a rating system. You don't see X-rated videos played
in a video store where a kid can readily walk in and see it. If it
was played ā ^because X-rated videos are considered pornographic
material and it is against the law to expose pornographic material
in public, as far as I know.
If a record was X rated, X means X. It is like marriage. Marriage
means marriage. If you play an X-rated record in public, that
would probably be against the law.
So that what, if anything, needs to be legislated, it is something
that might at least encourage some social responsibility, and that
is all the movie industry exercises ā is social responsibility. So that
we are kind of all on the same page.
It is just a question of semantics in terms of what you end up
calling it as chairwoman of the committee.
Mrs. Collins. I have a final question for you. Dr. Tucker. In
your testimony you seem to compare gangsta rappers' images to
the Amos and Andy and Aunt Jemima images of the minstrel era.
Is this a fair comparison? Aren't gangsta rappers seen by young
people as strong and hard as opposed to minstrel-like people?
Ms. Tucker. No, because Amos and Andy and Aunt Jemima
were promoted and financed to portray the images that many
blacks had to do in order to survive. They had to live, and I have
heard some of the gangsta rappers say they have to live. They are
going to get their $3 million and then when something happens
about gangsta rap, they will be gone.
So they have to live and they say that this is a way that they
can make a living, and we are being told in some quarters that if
we ban gangsta rap, we are going to deny a lot of young people jobs
and money and that. I said in a meeting that we had last evening,
**Well, then, should we let the drug industry continue?" A lot of
people have jobs through that.
But those images. Aunt Jemima and Amos and Andy
Mrs. Collins. Those jobs aren't legitimate jobs. Those are illegal
Ms. Tucker. These really aren't legitimate either.
Mrs. Collins. In the eyes of the law they are.
Ms. Tucker. If this obscenity is against the law, to be used
even ā Don Cornelius is saying he would not play the gangsta rap
on his show.
Mrs. Collins. That is a judgment call.
Ms. Tucker. Yes, but there are children though who can buy the
record, and then when I even tried to show the Snoop Doggy Dogg
artwork, I was told they couldn't show it on TV. And I used the
word that was in one of the lyrics. I used a word ā some of you
know ā I read the "F" word and some other words, and they told
me on the air waves that I am going to make them lose their li-
Now, if it is that bad, then why is it that a child can go in? I
am saying that the record industry as Sister Boss said, made her
do that in order to get a contract. She couldn't get in until they
were interested in her using the Ice T language and the other kind
of language, and that is why she is doing what she is doing.
And the last part of her statement was, yes, I am a bom gangsta,
I know how to do business and this is how I am going to do the
And so they are being tools of the system and actually what some
have ssiid about these young gangsta rappers are they are the new
Tom raps of the hood, because they are being used in doing what
the industry is telling them in order for them to have a kind of life-
style that they want.
They want to be somebody. The fella that wrote me from the
prison said, we do it because we want to be somebody and the only
way they can be somebody is to do this kind of negative behavior.
The Mana did it in times past, is still doing it. Whatever they have
to do to survive, they are going to do it.
What I am saying is, and I want to say this very clearly, that
this isn't my business. My business has always been to help elect
men and women to office to sit where you are and to help us to
get the kind of legislation that will make our communities better.
I went out to campaign for a young woman who sits in this Con-
gress now, Maxine Waters. She asked me to come and campaign
for her when she first ran for the legislature. My life has been dedi-
cated to that, making certain we get men and women in office.
I used to march to the Capitol with Dr. King. I marched to Mont-
gomery, Alabama with him telling the Greorge Wallaces to let us go.
And I realized that when our feet left the church, we marched to
the political kingdoms of this Nation, Harrisburg, Pa.; Jackson,
Miss.; Washington, DC, saying to let us in.
That is what my life has been about because I understand that
in order to change the conditions that have been created and
spawned these gangsta rappers ā what has spawned them is going
to be changed only through the political process. I have spent my
life, when I was secretary of state of Pennsylvania, was to make
sure the election procedures reduced the age from 21 to 18 so
young people could use the vote to get whatever they want.
I told some young rappers that I brought into my office, I said ā
they came to me to help them. I said, you must help yourselves.
You can register, you can vote. Julian Bond was 21 when he be-
came a legislator. I told them that the whole civil rights struggle
of the 1960's was run by young students in college, Jessie Jackson
and Marion Barry. They were all students in SNCC, and I am
using them to use their power. And that is what the national politi-
cal Congress is about, helping to change those conditions to bring
jobs, to bring training, to bring education, to help them to under-
stand that the power to change themselves is in politics. I am urg-
ing them to register to vote, to campaign and run for office. Then
you can really change the conditions that will help your young
ones ā ^who are 12, 13, 14 ā emulating you to do something about it
by sitting in the seats of power throughout our country, in the city
halls and the State halls and right here in the United States Con-
gress and then in the oval office of this United States.
Mrs. Collins. Mr. Madison, your last words?
Mr. Madison. Well, first of all, I grew up listening to Soul Train
and I am happy to be sitting at the same table with Don Cornelius
and that is the one show my 14-year-old will watch and can watch
because of the reasons that he just said, and there are other shows
that he won't watch because of the reasons that he mentioned.
I marched and have a record in civil rights. I walked across this
country from Los Angeles to Baltimore, registering over 200,000
young people and took 100, all young people, with me. And so I re-
ject this notion that somehow I am out of touch and I don't under-
I understand, and I have had my rebellious times, and I thank
God that I had responsible adults who told me that when I became
an adult and it was my turn to be in a position of leadership, that
I would do the types of things that would uplift my community.
These young rappers glorify Malcolm X. If Malcolm X was alive
today, he would be sitting where I am sitting now. They glorify
Martin Luther King. If Martin was alive today, as a religious man,
he would be opposed to the type of images that are being
bombarded in the ears and the minds of our young people.
And so what I want to see young people become are Congress-
women, Senators, leaders of this country, not hoodlums and gang-
sters, and I wish that the recording industry would promote and
permit these young people to rap and chant about the things that
uplift a people, like Martin chanted about and Martin rapped
Mrs. Collins. Mr. Cornelius.
Mr. Cornelius. Yes, thank you. Madam Chairwoman. I would
like to close by commenting with all due respects ā respect to Mr.
Madison and Dr. Tucker. I don't specifically disagree with either.
I am not as personally insulted by rap music as they happen to
be. I don't feel that rappers should be indicted as a group as either
or both might be inclined to do. I do not feel that it is appropriate
to focus or overfocus on this symptom, be it rap, gangsta rap, or
hard-core rap without some serious focus on what brought us to
this point, what some of the causes are, but more importantly than
all of that, I think it is very important that we be careful not to
add to the glamorization of gangsta rap.
Gangsta rap, if you will. Madam Chairwoman, is only part of the
Some of the rap records that deal with sexual explicitness are,
in my view, as much a problem, if not more of a problem than
gangsta rap, and with all due respect to our other two witnesses,
I am not sure that they fully understand how popular rap is. It is,
in fact, not going anywhere.
You can do anything you want to do on this committee and when
you look around, rap is still going to be there unfortunately.
But the bottom line is that we don't, at least I don't want to over
glamorize gangsta rap, because the more we jump up and down
about it without any real solutions or ideas as to how to control it,
the more popular it is going to get, and we ought to take a hard
look at radio and television, not just with respect to how it treats
gangsta rap, because, again, that is only part of the problem, but
how it has evolved from 25 years ago when I started into radio to
an industry where you can say things now that you just could not
say ā ^you couldn't even think about saying when I started in radio.
So that gangsta rap is only part of the problem and we don't
want to make heroes out of gangsta rappers through this commit-
tee, because I can assure you that they will not be uncomfortable
about Congresswoman Cardiss Collins forming a committee of dis-
tinguished citizens like these to talk about them.
So we need to do less talking about how much we dislike or hate
gangsta rap, and we need to come up with some ways in which to
control the antisocial things that are discussed on these records.
Mrs. Collins. Thank you, very much. I thank you, very much.
This has been a good panel. We have had a wide ranging discus-
sion with the opening panel of this series of hearings that we are
going to have.
We are now going to proceed to our next panel. I thank each of
you for appearing before us, especially those of you who have come
from very far distances and, Mr. Madison, we understand it took
a lot for you to get here. We appreciate your coming.
Our next panel will come forward: Mr. Nelson George, a journal-
ist; Mr. Ernie Singleton, president. Black Music Division, MCA
Records; Mr. David Harleston, president of Ral-Def Jam Recording;
and Yo Yo, a recording artist with East West Records.
Mr. Greorge, we are ready to begin with you,
STATEMENTS OF NELSON GEORGE, JOURNALIST; ERNIE SIN-
GLETON, PRESIDENT, BLACK MUSIC DIVISION, MCA
RECORDS; DAVID HARLESTON, PRESIDENT, RUSH ASSOCI-
ATED LABELS; AND YOLANDA '^YO YO" WHITAKER, RECORD-
ING ARTIST, EAST WEST RECORDS
Mr. George. Madam Chairwoman, it is a very great pleasure, I
feel very honored to be here. My name is Nelson George.
I was a black music editor of Billboard Magazine from 1982 to
1989, I have written several books on the evolution of black popu-
lar music in the United States and worked in rap music in a num-
ber of contexts, including motion pictures and charitable organiza-
In 1989, I, along with a number of other people in the record
business, organized a group called the "Stop The Violence Move-
ment." It was a collective of rappers as well as young people in the
record industry who put out a record, video, and a book looking at
black-on-black violence, and in the course of that, we raised
$300,000 for the National Urban League. So I have been very in-
volved with rap and also its social side.
I first became involved in rap music or aware of it in 1978 as
a college student in New York City when tapes of rap music were
being circulated along the streets of New York. I have seen it
evolve from something that was for the youth, basically of South
Bronx, as well as in Harlem. It has evolved into this multifaceted
music that embraces everything from jazz-oriented rap, tri core
quest, middle class rap, if you will, to Fresh Prince, Yo Yo rap,
which deals with feminist issues, all the way to basketball players
like Shaquille O'Neal making rap records.
Rap music is a very complicated form. It is not ā even within one
artist, it is not easy to say an artist is a gangsta rapper or not a
In that case, I would cite Tupac, who is someone who has been
vilified and accused ā which I think in the United States accused
still means not guilty until proven guilty ā has been accused of sev-
eral things, but on his own record, a record called "Keep Your Head
Up", which has been this year ā last year was an anthem in praise
of black woman. So within each artist there are many different im-
pulses, "Some of which may be positive", and "Some of which may
But to say that every artist because they have one record or one
incident in their life that may be negative, to brand them with an
overall stripe, I think is very dangerous.
One of the things I want to talk about today, which has not been
commented about very often in discussing this music, is music it-
self. The maker of the best known gangsta rap records, name Dr.
Dre Andre Young of Los Angeles California, former member of
NWA, now a sole artist and producer of Snoop Doggy Dogg, has not
been successful simply because he has spoken on CD disrespecting
women or gangsterism. Dr. Dre is easily one of the top record pro-
ducers in America today. His embrace of 1970's funk and expert ar-
rangements are crucial to the sales of his records.
To ignore the essential pleasure purely as a listening experience
that one takes from his music is to be ignorant of how music as
a product is consumed by those who buy it.
The music is always first, the sound of the singer or rapper's
voice is second, the lyrics, if the listener ever learns all the lyrics
besides the hook, it is usually the third element.
Gangsta rap often sells because it is musically superior to other
forms of rap music or popular music. From the viewpoint of some-
one who has been following rap since his days in Harlem, I must
say I am proud of its overall development as both an innovative re-
corded music and as a vehicle for social commentary.
That a handful of artists have sold millions of records about
black genocide ā and make no mistake about it, only a handful of
artists have benefited in the millions from this violent music ā does
not invalidate the art form certainly.
Moreover, to discuss the subset of rap music, gangsta rap, out-
side the forces that influence it, from the Hollywood action movies
of Joe Silver to the consumerism of the 1980's, TV shows like Dy-
nasty, to the influx of AIDS in the black community, to teenage un-
emplo5rment, to the availability of 12 millimeter machine guns and
automatic weapons that are available by trucks in any black com-
munity in the United States, to 12 years of Republican govern-
ment, to discussing rap out of this context is to rip this music out
of context and to endow its creators with the profound power they
don't believe they have.
For me, the question of gangsta rap's role in America is not a
question of the chicken or the egg. The egg in this case is the eco-
nomic and social breakdowns that have torn at our cities since at
least the riots of the 1960s and that shows few signs of really being
The chicken is the culture of cynicism about government and
verbal rebellion that rap represents. If tomorrow every offensive
gangsta rap record was removed from our stores, our air waves and
our video shows, there would still be random violence, teenage un-
employment, teen pregnancy and drug trafficking. The only dif-
ference is that the musical backing for our youth would change.
Those conditions that frighten our Nation into congressional hear-
ings on rap would continue.
Just in conclusion, I would just like to say that one of the things
about rap that has made it appealing, both to black teens and
white teens around America, is the fact that it is rebel music and
that part ā its critique and part of its appeal is that it attacks
things such as the Congress of the United States, Christianity.
One of the big selling points, if you will, for a lot of artists about
rap music is that it is anti-, anti- of most of the traditional value
of the States.
Public Enemy, part of their appeal ā one of the most powerful
groups in affecting rap music ā is that it embraces the nation of
Islam, and it is has been a very important part of propagating the
influence of the nation of Islam around the United States.
Many of the rappers in Los Angeles who have become very
prominent also are devotees of the nation of Islam.
Thank you very much. Madam Chairwoman.
Mrs. Collins. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF ERNIE SINGLETON
Mr. Singleton. Good morning. Madam Chairwoman. It is very
much an honor to be here and to be invited to speak on this issue.
To you. Madam chairwoman, and the other members of the sub-
committee, first of all I would like to identify myself. My name is
Ernie Singleton, I am the president of the Black Music Division of
MCA Records. Some of the acts on my label range from popular
R&B artists such as Bobby Brown, Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle,
Jody Watley, New Addition, Bell Biv Devoe, and also hip hop acts,
to include the likes of Mary J. Blige, Wrecks-N-Effects, Jodeci, and
Heavy D and the Boyz, just to name a few.
The American music industry is one of the most energetic and
imaginative businesses in society, employing hundreds of thou-
sands of talented artists and musicians, as well as marketing, pro-
motion, publicity, business affairs, marketing, manufacturing, and
distribution personnel who produce recordings of remarkable diver-
sity and remarkable depth.
And while our industry has been allowed to flourish in an inno-
vative and creative environment, we do not underestimate the sig-
nificance and the importance of our social responsibilities and our
role as good corporate citizens.
Today, I am here to present to this committee my concerns, my
personal views on this issue and the overview of the positive and
important steps that the recording industry has taken in its re-
sponsibility for explicit content of sound recordings, including those
that contain explicit themes, like some of the so-called gangsta rap.
In 1985, the Recording Industry Association of America reached
an agreement with the National Parents and Teachers Association
and the PMRC, or better known as the Parents Music Resource
The agreement specified that music releases containing explicit
lyrics, including explicit depictions of violence, be identified so that
parents can make intelligent listening choices for their children.
In 1990, after communicating with parents, record companies
and retailers, we established through the RIAA a voluntary uni-
form parental advisory logo. That logo is placed on all of our re-
cordings that are considered to be containing explicit lyrics.
The standardized label was implemented to increase overall
consumer awareness of the advisory sticker and specifically to pro-
vide parents with the single standardized and easily identifiable
means of singling out records with explicit themes.
Each record company in consultation with the artist determines
which of these recordings will display that logo.
If I may digress for a moment. Madam Chairwoman, I think you
held up a CD that may not have been in accord with that, and that
may be another issue totally separate and apart from the issue of
the recording industry as a whole.
The black and white logo shown, or the parental advisory logo is
standard in size and in color. It is also standard in placement and
is affixed to the bottom right comer of an album, cassette, or CD.
It is affixed to the permanent packaging underneath the cellophane
The label measures 1 by Vi inch on cassettes and CD jewel boxes
and 1 by Vi inch on albums. Let me add that this logo is actually
printed on the CD or cassette cover and cannot be removed.
The Parental Advisory Program, supplemented by retailer co-
operation, is a positive response of the music industry and respon-
sible corporate citizens to provide useful information to parents and
guardians to assist them in deciding what their children should lis-
While I am expressing my views as a record industry executive,
I would also like to speak as a citizen and a father of 3 children
between the ages of 16 and 23. I believe that the parental advisory
logo and for that matter, any labeling, is no substitute for respon-
The morals and ethics of our society are slowlv diminishing and
that. Madam Chairwoman, is what I think needs to be addressed
We must look at societal problems like our welfare system that
encourages dependence and not empowerment. Societal disintegra-
tion starts with factors like these, not the music.
Rap, rap music and music in general, but more specifically rap
music, is like a storm. It will not diminish until the societal woes
that these young men and women so eloquently express in their