New York's Hot 97 was the setting for two recent high-profile shootings, and now the radio station has become a target itself -- of artists and activists who charge that it promotes violence in the hip-hop community. On Friday, in the wake of the much-hyped February 28th shootout between associates of 50 Cent and the Game and the beginning of the Lil' Kim perjury trial involving a 2001 shootout, rappers Afrika Bambaataa, M1 of Dead Prez, Roxanne Shante and other members of the newly formed Hip-Hop Coalition held an anti-Hot 97 rally in New York's Union Square Park.
"Hot 97 actively promotes conflict within our communities and among our artists," journalist and rally organizer Rosa Clemente told Rolling Stone. "We have to target [Hot 97's parent company] Emmis Communications, because they're fueling controversy between artists to get ratings."
"The violence is sensationalized," added M1, "and I think more than anything they intend to benefit from it."
The typically cryptic Afrika Bambaataa saw the rally as a chance to address a broader issue. "Many people are still being blind, deaf and dumb to what's going on due to the mind control of the masses of people," the Bronx rapper said before launching a diatribe aimed at corporate media.
The Coalition contends that the recent incidents could have been prevented instead of promoted by the station's employees. The "Tsunami Song," Hot 97's parody of the December tragedy in South Asia, also drew criticism at the rally, with Queens councilman John Liu accusing the station of "insensitivity" to its listeners. The Coalition also voiced its list of demands -- which include the station airing anti-violence public service announcements and having its employees attend town hall meetings with community educators, parents and youth.
A spokesman for Hot 97 refused to address the demands, telling Rolling Stone that the station is being targeted unfairly. "It's interesting that they single out Hot 97," he said. "Why not the artists that make the music, the record labels that produce the records, the record stores that sell them and then the consumers that buy them? . . . Hot 97 has been number one in the eighteen-to-thirty-four-year-old demographic for close to ten years, so obviously there are a whole lot of people that enjoy the station and feel differently. We only play what's out there: If the violence didn't exist in the song, they wouldn't hear it on Hot 97."