Most Black Americans are downright giddy over the success of Fox’s “Empire” drama television series and its success. The plot centers around a unique Black family in the world of a hip hop empire. But, with all its “mainstream” adulation and ratings, the question Blacks should be asking is: “what would C. Delores Tucker say about “Empire” and its connotations of imperialism and colonialism?”
In the 1990s, Cynthia Delores Tucker gained fame accusing America’s Blacks of participating in their own disparagement. C. Delores Tucker was an antagonist of profanity-laced rap music lyrics that denigrated women and Blacks. Mrs. Tucker had should be should be remembered and revered as role model, renowned civil rights activist and public servant. Conscious of her race and its needs, led Tucker to an original organizer of the Black and Women’s Caucuses who worked to ensure that Blacks, women and minorities got fair representation within the Democratic Party.
Tucker’s last years were dedicated to condemning sexually explicit lyrics in rap and hip-hop tracks, citing concern that the misogynistic lyrics threatened the moral foundation of African Americans. She fought against the NAACP’s decision to nominate the late rapper Tupac Shakur for one of its Image Awards and filed a $10 million lawsuit against his estate for comments that Shakur had made against her.
As Tucker sounded the alarm on Gangsta Rap’s impact on Blacks, she was lambasted and harassed as being “narrow-minded.” At the height of her campaign in 1994 Congressional hearings were held. When Tucker set her sights on Time Warner’s media empire she focused on Interscope, whose rap subsidiary, Death Row Records, put out the most popular gangsta artists’ recordings. Tucker purchased stock in Time Warner, and went to the 1995 shareholders’ meeting to ask the company executives there to read aloud the lyrics through which their company reaped such profits. Of course they refused.
“Empire” has a sound ground. Over the past generation gangsta rap has become became the most commercially lucrative subgenre of hip hop. “Rap” is a style of popular music, developed by urban Blacks and disc jockeys in the 1970s, in which an insistent, recurring beat pattern provides the background and counterpoint for rapid, slangy, and often boastful rhyming patter. Hip hop is a genre consisting of stylized rhythmic music commonly accompanying rapping (or emceeing).
JayZ, Ice-T, N.W.A. Dr. Dre and other Blacks have accumulated billions of dollars performing the genre but the subject matter inherent in gangsta rap has caused great controversy. The genre’s critics accuse it of promoting crime, violence, The genre’s critics accuse it of promoting crime, racism, promiscuity, misogyny, materialism, and self-importance.
In his eulogy, Jesse Jackson proclaimed Tucker had been “a woman regal and royal and rare non-negotiable dignity.” Tucker gave Blacks the challenge that if a group of people want others to respect them, they have to respect themselves. Tucker reminds us to stand and strong and responsible for our people and history. And, understand that if a derogatory phrase is used against you, you’re not open to repeat it. The people who are part of and sponsors of, this music should reconsider what they say.
As she founded the Bethune-DuBois Institute in 1991, Dr. Tucker began her personal crusade against “gangsta” rap in earnest and rallied against record companies to halt distribution of music she believed derogatory toward women and minorities. Tucker called gangsta rap “the unholy alliance of gangstas in the suites and gangstas in the streets.”
Surely Tucker started to get Blacks to stand by “sets of standards,” “principles” and “values.” That work must go on. Joe Madison is BDI’s current president. An influential broadcaster, Madison is known as “the Black Eagle.” A former member of the NAACP’s national board, Madison has also served as executive director of the NAACP’s Detroit Branch, 1974-77. Rosa Whitaker, a member of BDI’s board of directors, is CEO and President of the Whitaker Group, a Washington, D.C.-based consultancy on trade and investment in Africa. “They have been deeply involved in missions advocated by my wife” says BDI Chair, William Tucker. –
William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and available for projects via Busxchng@his.com.