by Deric Muhammad, The Final Call
Hip-hop as an art form and a culture is hands down one of the most powerful international social forces in the history of the world. There is no nation on Earth where its footprints cannot be found. Rap artists who create the soundtrack that fuels hip-hop culture become equally influential. They determine trends and the general course of youth culture globally. Yet while it appears these artists who often peddle images of invincibility are in control of hip-hop, we must look deeper to see who may be in control of them.
Rap artist, Jay-Z and his business partner Damon Dash built a hip-hop powerhouse called Roc-a-fella Records. It was a Black-owned Record label that produced millions in sales. As is often the case, these two brothers reportedly had personal and business disagreements and decided to part ways. Legend has it that a Def Jam Records executive by the name of Lyor Cohen played the role of instigator, negotiator and “clean-up” businessman. What is clear is that Roc-a-Fella Records, once known as “The Dynasty”, is now owned by Def Jam. Cohen happens to be Jewish.
In the late eighties, so-called “gangsta rap” took the nation by storm when a young Black entrepreneur named Eric Wright a.k.a. “Eazy E” assembled some of the finest talent to be found in the Los Angeles/Compton area to form the legendary collective N.W.A. The group captured an untapped market selling millions of albums with no commercial radio play. These record sales did wonders to fill the coffers of Ruthless Records, which was owned by Wright who took on a partner by the name of Jerry Heller. Heller was a veteran music executive who once represented artists like Marvin Gaye. The group’s most creative geniuses, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, eventually left the group citing unfair compensation. Accusations flew that Eazy conspired with Heller to rob the other members of royalties that were rightfully theirs. Heller happens to be Jewish.
It should be noted that Ice Cube later made a song threatening Heller. The ADL (Jewish Anti-Defamation League) labeled it anti-Semitic.
Dr. Dre left Ruthless Records and went to Death Row Records, a boutique subsidiary of Interscope Records. Death Row, which was owned by a Black man by the name of Suge Knight, built an impressive roster of talented artists and dominated the charts selling millions of records generating hundreds of millions in revenue. Again, disagreements between the two brothers ended in a parting of ways. Dr. Dre walked away from Death Row Records, who at that time had acquired the legendary Tupac Shakur. After selling millions on Death Row/Interscope Tupac was murdered. A series of personal and professional misfortunes landed Knight in prison and the house that he and Dre built ended up in the hands (Interscope). Interscope is owned by a man by the name of Jimmy Iovine. Mr. Iovine happens to be Jewish.
Before this gets monotonous, let me say that the three aforementioned cases are about as substantive as a teardrop in the Pacific Ocean when compared to the decades of draconian record contracts, usury and the general slave/slavemaster relationship between Black entertainers and entertainment executives who happen to be Jewish. Jewish hegemony in the music world is about as American as apple pie. It has even been said that the second language of the music business is “Yiddish.” Truth be told, the Black/Jewish relationship in the music industry has played a major role in the rotting of Black/Jewish relationships in general.
Some of our greatest icons, such as Sammy Davis Jr., Billie Holiday, “Little” Richard (and the list goes on) lived rich, yet died broke while Jewish managers, accountants, attorneys, business advisors and others fed their families for years off of their largess. Few entertainers in the history of Black America have been able to say that their assets and true net worth were as prominent as their talent and popularity. Sadly, hip-hop is no different. And while hip-hop has produced a handful of millionaires, they are like a teardrop in the Pacific Ocean when compared to the many rappers who, like most Black people, are living “show-to-show” and “check-to-check.”
Over the years I’ve had many personal acquaintances who were in the hip-hop music industry with hit records, global popularity and a healthy fan base. It always puzzled me the way they struggled financially; worse than some school teachers or sanitation workers. I watched many of them try and maintain the image of the rich and powerful, yet couldn’t pay their taxes, child support and in some cases their rent. Popular hip-hop magazine, XXL, recently published an article titled “Hard Times” about fiscal problems rappers face that the hip-hop community doesn’t like to talk about. Truth is, most rappers are broke; owing more money to their record labels than they have in their bank accounts. As a matter of fact, most contracts for rappers are just as horrible as those for entertainers in other genres where artists sell millions and receive pennies while the record companies make out like fat rats. Who are the owners of these major record companies? Forgive me if I sound monotonous, but they just happen to be Jewish.
There have been many examples of independent success in hip-hop’s music industry such as Master P (No Limit Records), James Prince (Rap-a-Lot Records), Luther Campbell (2 Live Records) and others. However, because none of these outfits had the power to control their own distribution they were eventually left at the mercy of those who did. Who are the owners and controllers of the distribution channels that deliver rap music to the world? You guessed it. They just happen to be Jewish. Cash Money/Young Money Records, a popular imprint from New Orleans who houses artists Lil’ Wayne, Drake, Nicki Minaj and others reportedly has one of the last lucrative independent deals in existence, but still do not control their own distribution. So even those Black-owned rap labels who appear to be the front-runners are in a dangerous position.
This opinion editorial is not an effort to weaken the powerful image of our great hip-hop artists. I love hip-hop. I am part of the hip-hop generation. This is why I felt the need to write this article. Hip-hop is leading the youth of the world, but if our artists are under the inordinate control of those who control their careers then where will the youth of the world be led? I’m only trying to, as they say in the streets, “keep it 100.” It’s time for rappers to become just as tough and assertive in the boardroom as they are in the recording booth.
There is only one solution to this problem. I recently heard that many accuse rappers Kanye West, Jay-Z and others of being members of the “Illuminati”, or secret society. It, personally, sounds bizarre to me. However, in my humble opinion, they need to start something similar. Artists need to convene a private meeting of some sorts to determine the best way to chart a course that frees hip-hop artists from such inordinate control. We must learn how to settle differences among ourselves so that our personal disagreements don’t leave Black-owned companies, like Roc-a-fella Records, in the hands of the “clean-up men.” The enormous influence of a collective group of hip-hop artists backed by the Black community could hold enough weight to make these crooked executives bend to its collective will. The only solution to this problem is UNITY, organization, fearlessness, selflessness and the desire to free the art form and its culture from the control of outside forces.
Recently, famed Public Enemy front-man, Chuck-D, filed a $100 million lawsuit in San Francisco Federal Court against Jewish owned Universal Music Group alleging the underpaying of royalties on digital downloads. He claims that UMG categorizes ringtones and downloads as sales of physical records as opposed to licensed work. The former equals less profit for artists than the latter. Even in the age of modern technology and the internet record companies have found ways to manipulate artists royalties just as was done during the days big bands and wax records. If Chuck D is successful in his lawsuit it could set a legal precedent that expands opportunities and contract leverage for artists across the board. This is a bold, but necessary, move.
If hip-hop is to escape the fate of every genre that has come before it, we must pool our resources and combine the genius among us to control our own production, manufacturing, distribution and destiny. Jewish control over artists and entertainers has been the order of the day for much too long. Through the power of right guidance and unity we can break this cycle. But, if we remain disunited, we will pass down to the next generation another cultural force that is under the control of another people.
Last, but not least, artists must follow the footsteps of artists like Chuck D and “fight the power.” Never be afraid to challenge those who you know are robbing you of what is rightfully yours. If we don’t we are not being true to the root of what we say hip-hop culture represents. Artists should not be afraid of what will happen if we stand up to the outside forces that control hip-hop; artists should be afraid of what will happen if we don’t.