Is BET in the business of silencing smart hip-hop?

Published on July 21, 2011

Is BET in the business of silencing smart hip-hop?

Rapper Killer Mike backstage at the Philips Arena on May 24, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images)


On July 18th, BET became the target of heavy thumbs and repeated exclamation marks following the ban of Georgia-native rapper Killer Mike’s latest video, “Burn.”

Politically charged, the artist expresses his sympathy for the Oscar Grant‘s of our country, the financial plagues of lower-income neighborhoods, lies and deceit within church communities, and the prison industrial complex to name a few.

Despite the strong profanity used within the lyrics, and violent atmosphere portrayed in the video, the song within itself is comprised of all of the ingredients that hip-hop is often criticized for not having as of late. With artists like Killer Mike attempting to take a stand to help assist in changing the paradigm of music today, BET opted to reject the video from its network and banned its play.

Click here to view a Grio slideshow of the top 20 political rap songs

Killer Mike took to his Twitter account to report to his fans and fellow hip-hop connoisseurs about the ban, engaging in dialogue with his supporters and opposition alike. “Have we as American[s] and Hip Hop head[s] gotten so lazy and apathetic that we let ‘Burn’ go unnoticed by the masses? I, on the behalf of the poor and disenfranchised, [ask you] to reconsider the decision NOT to play ‘Burn,” he wrote in a direct tweet to BET’s President of Programming, Stephen Hill.

“[Because] of Teen Summit and Rap City showing Cube, PE [Public Enemy], Goodie Mob and other videos, I grew smarter,” he insisted. “Why not play this? If the violence in ‘Burn’ offended you, we [could’ve] shown it at [night] and had a discussion with kids around it, but to NOT play it is shameful!”

This past April, an optimistic Debra Lee defended “the new” Black Entertainment Television during a nationally broadcast interview on Fox Business Network. Stating that she and her colleagues had gotten “more strict” with what they allowed on air because the “hip-hop industry got a bit more risqué, raunchy…” she began, “we actually had to bring that back some and say ‘just because it can be on the air, doesn’t mean it has to be on the air.”

Even so, in the previous years and the months to follow, there has not appeared to be significant change in the use of derogatory language or stereotypical images of women, besides the discontinuation of BET Uncut.

Ironically enough, there appears to have been a decline in videos altogether and a spike in material banned from women, such as Ciara’s “Ride” and Teairra Mari’s “Sponsor,” which sparked controversy when compared to their allowed equivalents of Trey Songz’ sexual “Neighbors Know my Name” and Fabolous’ money-driven “Throw it in the Bag.”

In 2005, a list of banned artists began to circulate with the speculation that it was sent fromBET’s video department.

Deemed “irrelevant” to the BET audience whose target was 12-19 year old females, this list of 55 artists included Mos Def, Brand Nubian, A Tribe Called Quest, Method Man, KRS One, Black Sheep, Goodie Mobb, Ice Cube and De La Soul.

Although the rumor has neither been confirmed nor denied, it goes without question that these groups of artists, along with Killer Mike, belong to a similar style and dialogue of rap and have rarely been seen or supported on the network since, especially following the fall of Rap City.

Killer Mike’s video would have easily gone unnoticed as hundreds of others in the past from Little Brother’s “Lovin’ It” to De La Soul’s “Shopping Bag;” both in which were banned, rumored being “too intelligent for the BET audience.” The power of Twitter has proven time again to be the new Almighty of social networks when it comes to voicing opinions.

On July 20th, a BET representative solicited a public response to

“BET always listens to its audience. Thanks to the power of Twitter, BET has reassessed Killer Mike’s ‘Burn’ video and has decided to accept the video for BET Networks. If we decide to air the video on 106 & Park, we will have a conversation and discuss the issues presented in the video.”

So what exactly is B.E.T set out to prove? Does it want to be the voice of the people or the voice of the youth? Over the years, the network seems to have remained in a struggle over critical programming versus a suitable audience for revenue. If people really yearn for “real” music back or at least variety, start a collective movement or move on. Once the proof is in numbers, the rest will follow. Welcome to the world of capitalism.

“Burn” is the latest single from Killer Mike’s newest album entitled PL3DGE

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