Panelists say hip hop has declined

Following the screening of Byron Hurt’s documentary “Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes,” panelists discussed the importance of voicing objections to the negative portrayal of black men and women in the music industry.

“Write letters to BET saying ‘We’re tired of this. Stop it. Stop it,'” said panelist Christian Ugbode, the program development assistant for National Black Programming Consortium, the company who sponsored the screening of the movie Wednesday afternoon.

Ugbode said there is no voice coming from the community denouncing these images publicly.

He related the lack of action to someone knowing that police are needed but not calling. “If you hate it, say something.”

The documentary, which was written, produced and directed by Hurt touches on issues such as masculinity, sexism and homophobia in hip hop music.

Hurt interviewed artists such as Jadakiss, Mos Def and Busta Rhymes, along with executives like Russell Simmons to discuss the exploitation of women and the presentation of manhood in the genre.

After the movie ended with applause from the audience, Ugbode, graduate student Tamika Johnson and the outreach coordinator for NBPC Brad Burford, took the stage to answer questions from the audience and discuss the issues mentioned in the documentary.

One of the questions asked was pertaining to the direction of hip hop in the future.

Johnson responded that hip hop will become “less about social issues,” in the future. She believes the industry has “turned into a singles and ringtone business.”

Johnson said the community has become saturated with images of violence and misogyny.

That, Johnson said, is the direction hip hop is taking.

Burford further explained this lack of substance in the music causes listeners to seek other forms of music.

“I want something else,” he said. Burford, who was born in Brooklyn and grew up in the Bronx, said he no longer listens to commercial radio. “I have to diversify what I’m listening to,” he said.

Burford said stations such as MTV and BET feed the same image of sex and violence “over and over again.”

“We need to incorporate a diverse table of content,” Ugbode said.

He said people need to be aware of this idea “or we can’t be reactionary.” He said listeners should go out and seek good music that will “represent blacks in a way that speaks honestly and in a way that helps us more forward.”

After speaking about the negative aspects of hip hop, audience members were invited to give their story of when they realized hip hop had declined.

Journalism professor Yanela Gordon said she had her hip hop revelation during her college years at the University.

When a particular song instructed her to “shake that a- b– and let me see what you got,” Gordon had to stand up and listen to what she was hearing.

Johnson said her revelation came when she heard the uncut version of the Ying Yang Twins’ popular “Whisper Song.” When her boyfriend did not share the same disgust for the lyrics Johnson understood the need for a change in this genre of music.

Ugbode explained that this use of explicit violence and sex in the music is a “matter of monetary capital.” He said, “America needs to place importance in cultural capital and social capital as well as money.

(The industry) needs to be more concerned with what the black boy feels as opposed to what you sell them.”