The firestorm of controversy that Don Imus and his off-color remarks whipped up dragged a few unwilling participants into its heated whirlwind. As soon as the news wires began running the story of Imus and his choice of words regarding the Rutger's female basketball team, many of the shock jock's supporters cried foul. Hip-hop music was cited as an example of the double standard that exist in the media and society, tainting the story with additional racial division. People began asking some hard questions about the choice of lyrics that many African-American artists use in describing women and themselves, while skipping over the main issue of Imus and his statements.
Rev. Al Sharpton was in the spotlight as he publicly called for Imus to be fired and the line was officially drawn in the sand, again. To many of Imus' fans, the Reverend seemed like an agitator looking for an easy target. His motives were questioned and to the uninformed it may have looked like Sharpton was turning a blind eye to the troubled world of hip-hop. If there were any doubts about just how serious Sharpton was about speaking out against demeaning lyrics in rap music, they should all be cleared up after the latest developments.
Sharpton has his eye on rappers and has said, in so many words, that he is coming after hip-hop music. In an interview with MTV, Sharpton was quoted as saying "This Saturday at the National Action Network Convention, we will have the conversation about what we do about the violence and the [racist], sexist language in hip-hop." With that statement, a series of events has begun to unfold that will probably peak this Saturday.
The Hip-Hop Summit Action Network held a close door meeting on April 16, with many of the top power brokers in hip-hop in attendance, including WMG CEO Lyor Cohen, Russell Simmons, Island/Def Jam Group Chairman L.A. Reid, RIAA Chairman Mitch Bainwol, and many more. While it is unclear exactly what was discussed in the meeting, questionable lyrics and the current controversy was undoubtedly the main topic of conversation at the round table, as the hip-hop industry's head honchos look to be circling the wagons in preparation of the possible oncoming attack.
On April 18, Sharpton made another surprise move by canceling plans to award L.A. Reid with the James Brown Award at his annual four day National Action Network conference, which started on Wednesday. The event will be attended by Senators John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Howard Dean (DNC), NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, Paula Zahn, Marian Wright Edelman, Governor Eliot Spitzer, filmmaker Spike Lee, Governor Bill Richardson (NM), Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly, ABC’s Martin Bashir, and many more. Sharpton has promised to deliver names of corporations that support what he considers to be derogatory music, which he has been quoted as calling "gutter rap." If he does reveal a list of potential targets during the convention, Island/Def Jam will most likely be atop of the list, as he has spoken against some of the label's top acts in the past.