Hear we go again. Yet another artist is being attacked by who the hip-hop community calls the “hip-hop hater,” Bill O’Reilly.
His latest overzealous attack aimed at R&B artist Beyoncé was in various media outlets last week. He accused the R&B artist of being “raunchy,” stating, “She puts out a new album with a video that glorifies having sex in the back of a limousine. Teenage girls look up to Beyoncé, particularly girls of color. . . . Why on earth would this woman do that?”
O’Reilly continues to expose his overzealous, passionate bigotry for high-profile African-American artists. I don’t recall him being as critical with Madonna or Miley Cyrus, who have both clearly crossed the fine line from sexy to nasty. David Letterman described him best as, “An angry out-of-touch jealous old guy.”
Why does his message not have the same credence as Al Sharpton’s movement to hold hip-hop artists accountable for the misuse of the N-word? The root of a person’s actions comes from the heart. It is safe to say that what motivates O’Reilly’s criticism of hip-hop and R&B artists is quite different from that of PBS political talk show host Tavis Smiley, who has proven to have a vested interest in the well-being of the community as a longtime youth advocate. I have also been very critical of hip-hop and R&B artists in this column. So why am I challenging O’Reilly for doing the same thing?
The most prevalent evidence that reveals O’Reilly’s motives is how selective and strategic his onslaught of corporate pressure is on a certain artist. He seems to consistently target African-American artists who have recently landed lucrative endorsement deals. He also aggressively pursued Ludacris, who had been working with Pepsi and Snoop Dogg to arrange a brief appearance on a children’s television program. Is he really concerned about the effects of the unhealthy messages that these artists have on this generation of youth or is he simply bothered by the amount of wealth these young artists are building through endorsement deals and commercial success?
It is not far-fetched speculation to believe that there could be a measure of jealousy that may be the driving force behind O’Reilly’s aggressive public attacks on the character of these artists. It could also be that the older generation of conservatives such as O’Reilly will never understand or respect this generation of youth or hip-hop culture. Or is he just another self-serving media personality who looks for any controversial issue to advance his TV program through sensationalism?
Many highly respected voices of the hip-hop community, including Def Jam co-founder and Phat Farm CEO Russell Simmons as well as hip-hop legend and activist KRS-One, have commented on how high-profile hip-hop and R&B artists have been targeted, exposed and pursued by media or law enforcement agencies to a degree that raises the question of racial motivation.
However, these same individuals have also raised similar concerns about the accountability of high-profile artists. If the end result is we have motivated mainstream artists to send more positive messages through their talents, then the means that we’ve taken to get there does not matter whether it’s due to the activism of Al Sharpton, the encouraging words of “Do You!” from Russell Simmons or the fear of corporate retaliation inspired by O’Reilly.
If bad publicity leads to awareness and action, so be it.
Maybe O’Reilly’s criticism of Beyoncé is not cut from the same fabric as that of concerned parents, but we can utilize his effort to continue the discussion on the power of influence through music and the entertainment industry.
He may be a racist knucklehead, but if the threat of loss of corporate sponsorship leads to mainstream artists thinking twice about the messages they send that glamorize criminal or high-risk lifestyles, then maybe we should appreciate the efforts of O’Reilly in spite of his questionable motives.
Deon Price is an author and youth life skills coach who lives in Fairfield. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/youthgeneration.