Follow Us on Twitter

Russell Simmons calls for ban on racist and sexist words

Russell Simmons

Story by Jack Foley

RUSSELL Simmons, the founder of influential hip-hop label Def Jam, has called for a ban on three sexist and racist words on all songs in light of the “growing public outrage” towards the use of them.

The words in question – “nigger”, “bitch” and “ho” – regularly feature in songs by some of the biggest names in hip-hop, including Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent and The Game.

But as America finds itself embroiled in a race row following comments made by radio DJ Don Imus at the expense of Rutgers university women’s basketball team, Simmons has been moved to clean up hip-hop’s image.

The rap mogul believes the words should be viewed in the same context as “extreme curse words” and has asked broadcasters and record companies to voluntarily remove, bleep or delete the words from music.

He has also suggested the setting up an industry watchdog to recommend guidelines for lyrical and visual standards.

“The words ‘bitch’ and ‘ho’ are utterly derogatory and disrespectful of the painful, hurtful, misogyny that, in particular, African-American women have experienced in the United States as part of the history of oppression, inequality and suffering of women,” he commented.

“And the word ‘nigger’ is a racially derogatory term that disrespects the pain, suffering, history of racial oppression and multiple forms of racism against African-Americans and other people of colour.”

Ironically, all three terms frequently find their way into lyrics used by black artists who even refer to each other as “you’re my nigger”, or to love/sex interests as bitches and ho’s.

A backlash has already started against the use of the words with actor Samuel L Jackson appearing to make the first stand in his movie Coach Carter, where he threatens to ban members of his team for using the term “nigger” inappropriately.

There is also a growing divide between hip-hop artists over a perceived gangsta culture in some music that almost invariably courts the repeated use of the objectionable words.

But the situation has now come to a head following the conroversy surrounding Imus.

Simmons, a music entrepreneur whose Def Jam label has released music by Public Enemy, Run DMC and The Beastie Boys, held a private meeting of influential music industry executives to discuss the issue last week.

But although no official moves have been made to censor the use of such words Simmons, speaking on behalf of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, said: “It is important to re-emphasise that our internal discussions with industry leaders are not about censorship.

“Our discussions are about the corporate social responsibility of the industry to voluntarily show respect to African-Americans and other people of colour, African-American women and to all women in lyrics and images.”

What do you think?

  1. Web Site Clearinghouse for Grassroots Efforts to Combat Misogyny in Music

    I think there plenty of us that are equally outraged about the portrayal of African American women in popular culture. Following the Oprah Town Hall meeting I decided to create a website to serve as a clearing house of all of the grassroots effort out there to combat misogyny in music. I think that it is time to DEFUND THE WAR ON BLACK WOMEN! Period. End of discussion. This isn’t about artistic expression. This is about capitalism. People have a right to basically say whatever they want to, but I don’t have to subsidize it in any way. Hence the term “starving artist.”

    We started an online call-in talk show as well called “the Black Women’s Roundtable” Saturdays at Noon CST. Our topic this week is “Does Hip Hop Really Hate Black Women?” If you can’t listen live, you can always catch the archived show at

    gem    May 2    #