Hip-hop beefs are about as old as hip-hop itself. Lately, the tone, intensity and seriousness of these conflicts have created an environment that is entirely too permissive of violence. The role that






The Rev. Al Sharpton is president of the National Action Network.







Hip-hop beefs are about as old as hip-hop itself. Lately, the tone, intensity and seriousness of these conflicts have created an environment that is entirely too permissive of violence. The role that radio, TV and other media have in creating these conflicts must be examined by the entire music community, because the violence must be attacked and eradicated.

Let me be clear right up front, I am not attempting in any way to infringe upon the rights of what any artist is able to say in their creations. I do not advocate any type of censorship. My fundamental goal is to create an environment where the myriad of companies that benefit from the success of hip-hop feel a true sense of responsibility to the young Americans who love and support the music.

How come record labels do not have social responsibility officers? The short answer is, they do not care. The labels hide behind the expansive protection of the First Amendment without accepting the responsibility of being citizens of this great nation. As we all know, several weeks ago a gun battle ensued after a series of on-air interviews on New York's Hot 97. A verbal fracas between Interscope labelmates 50 Cent and the Game escalated to the point where a member of the Game's entourage ended up being shot.

At the point when artists' imagery created on wax spills into the streets for real, their protections as artists must stop. Record labels that cleverly engender much of the dangerous and sullen imagery for the promotion of these artists have to take responsibility for the ultimate reality shows they have created. Orchestrated makeup sessions and giving checks to charity are simply not enough to make up for the culture of violence and the mind-set that this type of behavior foists on our communities.

Right now, 50 Cent and the Game collectively hold four, FOUR of the top eight songs on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay chart. I am not begrudging these young men their success, but I do wish to call into question a system that possibly rewards behavior that we are working every day to remove from our communities.

I don't hate the game . . . I question the players.

I am especially concerned about the hip-hop recording industry, because they have been here before. Several years ago, what started as a war of words between hip-hop executives on opposite coasts culminated with the untimely and violent deaths of Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace. You see, we have seen this movie before: Hip-hop artists engage in verbal jousting, their battles move to wax, wax goes to interviews on radio and TV, then more wax, more beef . . . until some type of violent conclusion occurs.

The collective ego of hip-hop requires -- almost demands -- that confrontations escalate, oftentimes to violence.

Tupac and Big, Nas and Jay-Z, Ja Rule and 50, Eminem and the Source, 50 and the hip-hop nation. Beef, conflict, drama . . . more sales.

I am asking the Federal Communications Commission to take an active role in curtailing an environment of violence. I wish to see it enact a 90-day ban on any artist, or known affiliate, who engages in any type of violence in our communities. This ban should include all radio and video airplay. No MTV. No BET. No Clear Channel. No Radio One. No Emmis.

I recently met in Washington, D.C., with the new FCC chairman and two executives. I know the FCC does not regulate satellite radio, magazines or the Internet; I would ask those entities to comply as well.

Furthermore, if there are successive violations, I am requesting that the penalties escalate. I would ask for the formation of a commission of executives in the music, radio and TV business to intelligently deliberate and render opinions on which companies or artists have crossed the line regarding violence.

During the past year, we have seen the vigilance the FCC displayed in protecting the nation's airwaves because of an untimely "wardrobe malfunction." Now, outside of our nation's radio stations we have a situation where "humanity malfunctions" routinely occur.

The incident several weeks ago was not the first; Lil' Kim is facing real jail time for being present at a similar gun battle that took place in 2001. There was a confrontation at a radio station in Detroit. Countless other conflicts have developed as a result of on-air braggadocio and challenges.

I am not trying to stop the verbal jousting and banter that is endemic in hip-hop, but I will use all of my resources to ask the industry to stand with me and partner with the National Action Network to demand a cessation of all forms of violent interactions.

I will not stop with the FCC; I will aggressively seek to gain stock positions in the companies that are the stakeholders in all of this game of violence for profit. Many record companies are privately held or listed on foreign exchanges. But many of our nation's radio and video outlets are publicly listed companies. I will also seek to engage companies like Reebok that enjoy a successful marketing relationship with hip-hop artists.

To be clear, my goal is not to keep these artists from enjoying the fruits of their artistry. My goal is to demand that all who profit from their artistry take responsibility for a zero-tolerance policy toward violence. I will not stop.

I love hip-hop. I am often conflicted by its message and imagery, but I love its spirit. I do not concur with its wanton misogyny or nihilism, but I love its ability to tell stories.

The energy and creativity of hip-hop are reminiscent of what I have come to love about the fight for civil rights. Hip-hop is urgent, demanding and oftentimes tells a story we all do not want to hear.

But like hip-hop, I too have a story to tell. Violence must stop now . . . I thought I told you that I won't stop.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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