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Hip-Hop Lyrics

Last Wednesday, Russell Simmons’ Hip-Hop Summit Action Network assembled a who’s-who list of hip-hop music execs and artists, including Damon Dash, Def Jam’s L.A. Reid, and rapper T.I. to discuss the genre’s lyrics and lack of social responsibility, a subject currently under fire due to Don Imus’ recent on air slanders. “Taking Back Responsibility,” the conference’s theme, discussed the use of rampant use of slanderous lyrics and glorifying of crime, and although several hours of discussions were logged, no immediate initiative or plan was immediately announced.

But now, Simmons and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network have stepped forward offering a few recommendations to the artists and the recording industry of America. “HSAN is concerned about the growing public outrage concerning the use of the words ‘bitch,’ ‘ho,’ and ‘nigger.’ We recommend that the recording and broadcast industries voluntarily remove/bleep/delete the misogynistic words,” Simmons said in a statement. “It is important to re-emphasize that our internal discussions with industry leaders are not about censorship…these three words should be considered with the same objections to obscenity as ‘extreme curse words.'”

Next, Simmons outlined two proposals to aid the change in hip-hop’s lyrical environment, offering suggestions to form the Coalition on Broadcast Standards, which will set lyrical and visual values for hip-hip, and an artist mentoring program “to stimulate effective dialogue between artists, hip-hop fans, industry leaders and others to promote better understanding and positive change.”

Meanwhile, bloggers, media outlets, and hip-hip lovers and critics are reacting to the initiatives and sounding off. But while many praise the new efforts from the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, others cite the hip-hop artists’ muse, urban street life, and it’s inability to easily change.

Here’s what bloggers are saying about the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network’s proposals:

“I am appalled at the language children are using and they have no qualm about saying it in front of a grownup. I have seen the disrespect by parents as well as children. This behavior is in part prompted, or at least reinforced, by the lyrics of our current multi-billion dollar rap music industry…Teenage males cannot even speak proper English required for good communication and a necessity for obtaining good jobs, let alone spell and write correctly. Our black and/or other youth of color are killing each other.” — Steve Johnson,

“This time, the match and can of gasoline was clearly in Don Imus hands. Regardless who started the wildfire, it still burns on.” — Kayaro Records,

“Imus got fired for referring to women as ‘hos,’ but rappers do it on a daily basis. In defending himself, Imus claimed that rappers routinely ‘defame and demean black women’ and call them ‘worse names than I ever did.’ He should of never used the term ‘nappy-headed.'”– TheFutureMrs.Gorski,

“Russell Simmons — is an idiot, recommends censorship.” —

“I’m really all for free speech and artists’ freedom of expression, what’s considered art is always a moot point and I’d never want to see anyone’s right to express their feelings in song lyrics yanked away, but at the same time this issue needs to be addressed, because chastising a white guy for saying something considered by some to be racist while giving black people and rappers carte blanche to say those same words is bullshit. If you want respect, you need to respect yourselves and learn to respect others. It’s really a simple lesson when you think about it.” — Clark,

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Talk: What do you think of Simmons’ initiatives?