Dred Scott, Master P and the Case for Freedom

October 1. Wow. Does anybody else have the feeling this year is racing toward its conclusion? Maybe it's the fake Christmas trees that have already started popping-up at my local drug store.

But it's all good, especially when you can start a week the way we just did — with Master P and California GOP lawmaker Rep. Cliff Stearns talking about hip-hop.

Last week, as you may have heard, members of Congress held a hearing to talk about ongoing concerns many have expressed about the way the music is coarsening the culture. Master P, (Percy Miller) as you may remember, was one of the masters of the so-called gangsta rap genre. He's now a force in the second generation of artists through his son Romeo (formerly Lil' Romeo). But now, P says, things have just gone too far and it's time to grow up and move on.

Agree, disagree?

David Banner (Levell Crump) begged to differ in his testimony, arguing that these images represent reality as some artists experience it, and that lawmakers have no business getting in the way.

We only scratched the surface of this discussion, which is ongoing. But I do feel it was refreshing to hear both an industry voice and an atypical (i.e. Republican) voice talking about an issue that affects everyone within earshot of a radio.

On to the Supreme Court ...

A preview of the upcoming session, and a history lesson: If you know even a tiny bit about history, you've heard the name Dred Scott. He was the enslaved American who fought for his freedom, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court ... and was denied. The decision came down 150 years ago this year (in March actually, but who's counting?). His great-great-granddaughter, Lynn Jackson, was with us to fill out the personal story of the man who took such a bold step to secure his and, even more importantly, his family's freedom. You don't often hear about the family.

I think at a time when we are talking about the breakdown of the family and what the culture may have to do with it, it's worth noting that Scott's fight was less for himself because he did not want his children to live as fugitives.

... But let her tell it. Here's my producer's notes from her conversation with Lynn Jackson, who still lives in the St. Louis area:

I am one of several great-great-granddaughters; the mantle has been passed along to me; my father used to be the family spokesperson, and then he retired about a dozen years ago.

Most Americans don't really know the Dred Scott story. Even a very educated attorney will only recall the basics — that he was a slave who sued for his freedom and lost. But the story itself, and the details — why he sued, how he sued ... It took eleven years and five trials. The American people don't realize how dangerous this was for him.

At first, he tried to buy his freedom. He saved and saved, and offered the widow of his owner money to buy his freedom. Dred Scott was only one of 300 slaves who had filed for their freedom. The large number of cases brought by slaves had made the Missouri Supreme Court wary. The state was severely divided over the issue of slavery, and still lives with that legacy.

His first and original intention was to free his family. The same determination runs in our blood. He felt that the courts were the way that any other man would have done it. He didn't want to run ... not with a wife and two young girls.

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"P says things have gone too far and it's time to grow up and move on. Agree or Disagree?"

First of all, isn't the above statement coming almost two decades late after gangsta rap bust into hip hop's arena of social consciousness?

Secondly, I watched the hearing on C-Span last week and it felt like Deja vu. It started with Tipper Gore and the Rock and Roll folks in the 80s, Luther Campbell (whom one of my law professors in college defended) vs. congress in the 90s, now this with P, David Banner and the Hip Hop Professor Michael Eric Dyson. All history has shown me is that congress is wasting its time with this subject.

I believe there are more important things like balancing the budget deficit that could serve as a source of amusement than the hip hop hearings. Only one guy in congress looked like he was hip enough to know who NWA was and others looked like fish out of water. So those are the people P and company are trying to justify hip hop to?

The only thing I disagree with is David Banner's testimony arguing that the questionable images represent reality as some artists experience it. That's a load of bull. Some of these artists are living in mansions in Conneticut, come from middle class families, etc. They use those images because it sells and up their street cred. For example, I heard one of Miami's local DJs turned rapper new hit "I'm so hood." No he isn't. That DJ has had a cushy job for years and hanging around the likes of South Beach; which is no hood.

Sent by Moji | 5:22 PM | 10-1-2007

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