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Chuck D

In the wake of Don Imus‘ offensive comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team a couple of months ago, there's been a lot of discussion about language, race and sexism that has spilled over to the hip hop realm. Black leaders such as Oprah Winfrey and Al Sharpton have been questioning the use of certain words and imagery in the hip hop lexicon, but perhaps the most significant statement was made by one of the architects of the music genre, Russell Simmons. The Def Jam Recordings founder and leader of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network released a statement that recommended members of the recording and broadcast industry self-censor their use of the words“bitch,”"ho" and the n-word.

Jim and Greg wanted to dedicate this segment of the show to asking the question: Do these words still have a place in hip hop? To get the answer they first invited on Public Enemy rapper and radio personality Chuck D Chuck explains he was on tour oversees when the Imus controversy went down, and it reminded him of how“funny”language can be in America. Chuck says that he wishes people like Russell Simmons had approached long-standing members of the hip hop community and tapped into grassroots movements before crafting his statement, but he agrees that not all words should be accessible to everyone all the time. Sometimes an artist does need to use strong language, but commerce shouldn't be built around it. And, because they craft words for a living, he expects that rappers in particular should be able to be more creative with language and not rely on the same set of words.

Go to episode 82
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Music News

After Don Imus' news-making couple of weeks, hip hop godfather Russell Simmons is also making headlines. In light of the former MSNBC broadcaster's racially insensitive comments about the Rutgers‘ women’s basketball team, Simmons has called for hip hop producers and rappers to remove the words“bitch,”"ho," and“nigger”from the clean versions of their songs. This is a surprising statement from the Def Jam founder who himself is responsible for some very edgy rap songs, but one that is perhaps being misunderstood by the media. Neither Jim nor Greg support all out racism or misogyny in any music, but they wonder why hip hop in particular is being called out, and whether or not censorship without taking into consideration the context of an individual song is really the answer.

Next up Jim and Greg speak with David Solheim, the Student Body President/Student Regent at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. UNL just received its third batch of threatening letters from the RIAA accusing students of music piracy. This makes the school outlaw #1, but no one seems to know why. Solheim admits that illegal downloading is commonplace among students, but is confident that this behavior is no different than at any other school in the country. What does distinguish the university from others is the administration's reaction. While they did comply with the RIAA's request to forward on the letters to individual students without waiting for a subpoena, they have asked to be compensated monetarily for their action.

Go to episode 74

Music News

First up in the news Jim and Greg discuss Joni Mitchell's decision to team up with Starbucks. Her first album in almost 10 years will be released on the coffee chain's Hear Music label. Jim and Greg imagine that the singer/songwriter must have been impressed with the success of Paul McCartney's recent Starbucks-released album Memory Almost Full, especially considering her notorious distaste of the music industry. One group they are surprised to hear has joined the coffee family is Sonic Youth. The alt-rockers will release a compilation on Hear Music next year.

Jim and Greg update some stories they've discussed on current shows. The first concerns pop star Kelly Clarkson. When her album My December was released a few weeks ago, our hosts talked about Clarkson's high-profile feud with BMG chairman Clive Davis. The singer appeared to be taking a tough-girl stance and defended her artistic integrity, but now she's trying to lay it all to rest. Check out her retraction.

Another topic Jim and Greg covered on the show is the scrutiny hip hop lyrics have been facing post-Imus. A recent victim is Chicago rapper Twista. McDonalds decided to pull the speed rapper from its Live Trek tour because of his“controversial lyrics.”Twista's response is that he's been making the same kind of rhymes for years, but no one cared until Don Imus said something negative about black women. He also added that he usually cleans up lyrics for kid-friendly performances.

While the gossip pages are filled with celebrities who aren't forced to pay for their crimes, singer Ron Isley is no such lucky star. He is slated to begin his five-year prison sentence for tax evasion next week, but Def Jam is hoping that Isley fans can convince the government otherwise. They sent out a petition imploring people to“call, fax or email the White House immediately to help the 64-year old cancer sufferer.”If you'd like to join in the effort you can call the President at (202) 456-1414, email him at president@whitehouse.gov, or contact the Congressional Black Caucus.

Last week Eric Clapton held the Crossroads Guitar Festival in Bridgeview, IL, and Greg was there to see the action. He recounts how historic it was to see Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton play together 38 years after Blind Faith disbanded. Greg's other highlights were witnessing B.B. King give what might be his final performance and hearing Jeff Beck do a beautiful rendition of The Beatles' "Day in the Life." Check out Greg's entire recap here.

Go to episode 88