Explicit lyrics in hip-hop music cause cultural harm but also represent a difficult situation for regulators, according to a legal scholar who will discuss the issue at a Stetson Law School black history event Saturday.
"It's sort of a racist Catch-22," said Darryl Wilson, who teaches the law of sports and entertainment, among other subjects. Regulators like the Federal Communications Commission and others could get involved in rating hip-hop music lyrics as they do with movies and video games, but they don't, he said.
"All of the information that I read says that it is political, they don't want the fallout, don't want to be accused of being racist," he said. But at the same time, he said, there is an attitude that hip-hop music is confined mostly to minority communities and so not of concern to mainstream America. "People say, "They're hurting themselves.' so they don't care."
Wilson will be speaking at noon as part of Stetson's Black Law Student Association event. The event starts at 11:30 a.m. and includes history discussions, a slide show, a lunch and music and dance performances. The Black History Festival is in the Great Hall, Mann Lounge and Courtyard on the Gulfport campus at 1401 61st St. S.
Wilson said he was inspired to delve into the subject of "Hip Hop and Censorship" after the recent death of Coretta Scott King, which capped 12 months that also saw the death of Rosa Parks and C. DeLores Tucker, a civil rights activist and founder of the National Congress of Black Women. He said all three women spoke of their "disdain" for graphic lyrics in hip-hop music.
Wilson said he does not advocate outright censorship of hip-hop music, but he feels it should be restricted as are adult movies, for instance.
"You can't walk into Wal-Mart and buy pornography, but you can buy a CD that has the same sounds and words on it," he said. "I'm not a bleeding conservative. I have these CDs. I think people can listen to it, but in a proper place.
"To let it stream through the public airwaves is not helping."
Wilson said he thinks there is a connection between the proliferation of explicit lyrics or hip-hop videos and higher rates of minorities in prison or lower rates of high school graduation, but he can't prove that connection.
"I do know these people in music portray a certain lifestyle," he said, "and none of that leads to a productive lifestyle in mainstream life."
Wilson also said the entertainment industry caters to many niches of inappropriate content, not just explicit hip-hop, that are small enough to go unnoticed by regulators. He said sometimes these niches find public attention, but they generally are invisible while still being harmful to society.
"Sometimes they're given a lot of publicity for their power to mislead those who worship them and support them," he said. "I wouldn't say it's been ghettoized, but they are splintering genres.
"There's been a conscious effort by the music and entertainment industry to find cheap, quick entertainment sources. That's why you have the proliferation of so many subgenres."