Ministers Step-Up Efforts Against Rap, Hip-Hop After Imus Row

With the recent firing of prominent radio host Don Imus over racist and sexist remarks, a group of ministers from New Jersey are now trying to address what they feel is the root of the problem.

According to the group, the images and the lyrics that are associated with mainstream rap and hip-hop music are to blame for the recent crisis, and they are asking for the industry to clean up its act.

"We have been aware of the recurring theme that is best characterized by the term 'double standard,'" said the Rev. Deforest B. Soaries Jr., head of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens, at a gathering of the ministers in Somerset, N.J., over the weekend. Soaries, who helped mediate the Imus imbroglio, is the pastor of Rutgers basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer.

"The culture has produced language that has denigrated women," Soaries continued. "Our question, as we have gone through this week and now that we've had a minute to lift our heads, is 'What shall we do about that?'"

The ministers are arguing that rappers and hip-hop artists casually throw out negative images, and it is making similar mindsets more commonplace in American culture and the African-American community. According to the group of preachers, this trend needs to stop.

They hope that the recent press coverage that has brought so much attention to Don Imus can now be used to bring awareness to their cause.

There has been criticism over the harmful content within urban music since it was first introduced over 30 years ago in New York City. While there have been efforts by people, especially from the black community, to make a change in the music's message, proponents say that it has gone unnoticed.

"It's only when we interface with a powerful white media personality like Imus that the issue is raised and the question turns to 'Why aren't you as vociferous in your critique of hip-hop?'" explained T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting, author of Pimps Up, Ho's Down: Hip Hop's Hold on Young Black Women, according to The Associated Press. "We have been! You've been listening to the music but you haven't been listening to the protests from us."

Contrary to these complaints, several rappers in the industry do not like being linked to Imus, who they say made his comment about "nappy-headed hos" with different intentions. Urban artists may use the same kind of language as Imus, but their objective is much different.

"[Rappers] are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports," argued eight time Grammy-nominee rapper Snoop Dogg in an MTV interview. "We're talking about hos that's in the 'hood that ain't doing sh**, that's trying to get a n***a for his money. These are two separate things."

The N.J. ministers have noted that there is a lot of positive rap and hip-hop out in the music scene right now. Artists and industry producers should begin to focus more on that rather than normalizing offensive material.

According to the group, the south has had much growth toward cleaner rap, but they dispute that New York deejays ignore this trend and continue to play harmful music.

"What the young people speak – the way they think – is a consequence of experiences and comments that they've seen adults turn a blind eye to," said the Rev. H. Grady James III of First Bethel Baptist Church in Newark.

Should there be a change in the rap and hip-hop scene, experts say that it would take time for the shift to take place.

"I've been on [rappers] for 20 years," concluded cultural critic and columnist Stanley Crouch, according to AP. "I was in the civil rights movement. I know it takes a long time when you're standing up against extraordinary money and great power. But we're beginning to see a shift."