P. Diddy, Jermaine Dupri Help Announce Hip-Hop Initiatives

Hip-hop PAC, mentoring program, self-regulation touted at post-summit press conference.

NEW YORK — A new era of political activism in hip-hop will arise in the aftermath of this week's Hip-Hop Summit, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Jermaine Dupri and a host of music-industry executives promised in a press conference Thursday afternoon.

Def Jam founder Russell Simmons held the conference to tout several initiatives he said resulted from the summit, which he helped organize (see "LL Cool J, Ja Rule Hear Farrakhan Challenge Rap Community").

Get-out-the-vote organization Rap the Vote, he announced, has joined forces with several civil-rights groups, including the NAACP, to form a new hip-hop political action committee. The committee will raise money to support the campaigns of politicians sympathetic to hip-hop, and it will work to defeat candidates considered hip-hop opponents. It will also attempt to educate politicians about hip-hop culture, according to Simmons.

"We realized how much power we have, and we are prepared to use it in a positive way," Combs said. "We have grown from boys and girls to men and women. ... We are the voice of America, no matter if people want us to be or not. We are the true voice of America."

Responding to legislation introduced by Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman that would allow the FCC to fine labels for marketing music with explicit lyrics to kids, organizers said several hip-hop labels have agreed to a new set of voluntary marketing guidelines (see "Advertising Stickered CDs To Young Audiences Could Get Costly").

TV, radio and print ads for albums with "parental advisory" labels, as well as posters and other promotional materials, will also begin displaying the warning label, according to Hilary Rosen, president of the Recording Industry Association of America, who attended the summit. Record labels will also ask online retailers to display the warnings on every Web page associated with such albums.

Dan Gerstein, Lieberman's spokesperson, said Thursday that the new marketing moves — which also include a promise to post some lyrics online — won't be nearly enough to forestall legislation.

"Those are some worthwhile steps, but they don't get at the heart of the problem," Gerstein said. "The labeling system they use is a one-size-fits-all system that provides too little information to parents. ... Hopefully the legislation we're offering will encourage them to come up with an alternative."

In another initiative, Def Jam President Kevin Liles said his company would begin a new mentoring program for young, newly signed hip-hop artists to broaden their horizons and keep them away from violence. The program will be located in a Harlem building the company plans to purchase and christen the Hip-Hop House, according to Liles.

Participants did not announce any industry-wide mentoring programs, but Liles suggested that his program could be a model for other companies.

One of the central, originally announced goals of the Hip-Hop Summit — ending feuds between artists — did not come up during the press conference. Organizers also did not mention the issue in a series of press releases detailing the results of the summit.

The participants only briefly mentioned what was supposed to be another goal of the summit — the call for greater responsibility in lyrics.

"We're not telling any artists to censor themselves," Combs said, adding that if society wants rap lyrics to change, it would first have to change artists' "surroundings and change the economic environment they're living in."

Simmons, Dupri and other panelists argued that the media have distorted the public's view of hip-hop by emphasizing the work of artists like Snoop Dogg over the squeaky-clean rap of Will Smith, or the politically conscious work of Talib Kweli.

Combs did say, however, that he would urge his artists to be positive and to avoid rapping about crime and violence if such problems haven't really touched their lives.

"[It's part of] me growing up, knowing that the energy you put out there, you have to watch when it comes back," he said.