Number 123 /April 1994:

Newt Gingrich recently told Broadcasting & Cable he will "strongly encourage the major advertisers of this country to form a council and pull all advertising from any stations" that broadcast rap music that is offensive to women.

Since the Speaker of the House wouldn't specify what music he was talking about, it's reasonable to assume he plans to use his Congressional clout to compel advertisers to abandon any music the government doesn't like. On a more basic level, Gingrich is merely the latest in a rag-tag procession of male and female reactionaries who pretend to speak for all women in defining hiphop as an enemy. Yet, once you go beyond the handful of hacks the media deems worthy of sound bite status, you hear a different story.

Gingrich would do well to talk to La'Chelle Woodert. Woodert, an ordained Pentecostal minister, is also an attorney in an all-female Inglewood, California, law firm and has defended Tupac Shakur. "Today, rap music is a secularized form of preaching about anger," Woodert told RRC. "People buy rap because it articulates their anger...The potential of rap music is to get people in the streets and say 'We're gonna take what is rightfully ours.'"

La'Chelle Woodert, who has a deep knowledge of both rappers and their music, is exceptional only in that she uses that expertise in court. At Eazy-E's funeral, the majority of the thousands of mourners were women, which wouldn't surprise anyone who's bothered to notice who's actually listening to so-called gangster rap.

It's time to stop allowing Newt Gingrich or Tipper Gore to speak for the millions of women who, whatever their misgivings about rap's sexism may be, know it's a form of music that lives where they live, a vital culture that targets their real enemies in government and law enforcement.

The result of letting the actual fans of rap music in on the national debate over hiphop could be earthshaking. As La'Chelle Woodert put it, when asked if it were possible for a mass movement in defense of rap to emerge, "If we ever understand this is political, yes. But we're not there yet."

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