Louis Farrakhan defended rappers who use foul language and graphically depict violence and sexuality, saying they are only reflecting society and the nation's "gangsta" government. But the Nation of I
Louis Farrakhan defended rappers who use foul language and graphically depict violence and sexuality, saying they are only reflecting society and the nation's "gangsta" government. But the Nation of Islam leader, speaking yesterday (June 13) at the Russell Simmons-organized Hip-Hop Summit in New York, also implored rappers to recognize the influence they have over fans and asked them to raise the level of their discourse.
"I love you, but I am not satisfied that you are doing all that you can," Farrakhan said during his two and-a-half hour address, which he called "probably the most important speech I ever made in my life, because you are the most important people I've ever talked to in my life."
Among those present for the keynote address were rap moguls Simmons and Sean Combs; rappers-producers Wyclef Jean and Jermaine Dupri; and rappers LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, and Redman.
The crowd applauded when Farrakhan criticized those who criticize rap, saying the hip-hop culture is only mirroring America's culture. "The youth has manifested of the wickedness of their parents, their teachers, the judges, the politicians," he said. "You talk about gangsta lyrics. You are literally showing aspects of a government that is gangsta, tells you you should smoke (kill) a leader that they disagree with."
He later added: "What society wants to do with the young people is to break the mirror rather than take a look at it and clean itself up."
Recently, members of Congress have taken issue with the graphic content of many songs, including rap, that they say are targeted toward children, and have threatened to pass legislation to penalize the recording industry for such actions. But Farrakhan said Washington was acting only because they fear the power of rappers -- that their music and messages are being embraced not only by young whites, but by youth around the world.
Farrakhan also drew on some of the backlash he's received for his own fiery rhetoric as an example that sometimes using inflammatory words can hurt your message. "There are words that can trigger a hateful response, and there are words that can bring people together," he said. "I am learning every day that you can say things ... and inflame people, and say it in another way and it goes in."
Farrakhan got effusive applause after his speech, but at least one multi-platinum rapper said changing the language and content in some rap would be difficult.
"We all know what he's talking about, it's hard to do it, but he's right about it," Redman said. "The way I look at it, preach and rap don't make no money. Negativity lives in rap, that's what it's built on, that's what money circulates and generates from. Negativity, that's all we see."
Still, Will Smith, who doesn't curse in his raps and has sold millions of records, said it's important that rappers recognize that their message can influence the youth worldwide. "This is something I've been speaking about for several years," he said. "The importance of covering a more accurate spectrum with the voice."
The summit, which has been exploring issues concerning artists' responsibilities, the marketing of hip-hop, and its impact on youth, ends today.
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