Rapper Paris has posted an open letter to Def Jam. He states:
Peace, Hopefully this letter finds you all doing well. I’m writing you because you are all in definitive positions of power within what is arguably the most powerful hip-hop label in the world.
The recent untimely passing of Jam Master Jay is causing many in our communities to reflect on exactly where we are going as a collective. In this age where life often imitates art, it is no longer acceptable for culture-defining entities like Def Jam to claim that the material it endorses simply “reflects the tastes of the street.” This is definitely not the case, as the street usually emulates and embraces only what is presented to it. Without balance there can only be turmoil, and without exposure to the positive folks can’t want what they never know. Therefore, a blind ear can no longer be turned when it comes to making decisions that reflect the messages and imagery that will be infused into our communities.
I’m sure that there are many people currently working at Def Jam who express both unease and displeasure at the negative, materialistic direction hip-hop has taken. But passive compliance doesn’t change anything, and the music is in this condition only because you and labels like you have allowed it to become this way. Somewhere along the line “Ghetto” became synonymous with “Ignorant” – even though the two are exclusive of one another. Hopefully this tragedy, which I’m sure has hit closer to home for you than most, will force you to demand more of the material and artists you are willing to support. I say this because these negative messages and imagery have contributed heavily to our current climate of violence. Indeed, it never ceases to amaze me what people choose to be upset and offended by. Artists like me, Dead Prez, and PE make records about challenging the system, combating police brutality and fighting injustice – but are consequently silenced and/or ignored by the same labels who profit from our communities. And yet the negative is continually supported, and blood money continually enjoyed. Why? Only you know.
Hopefully your organization, with it’s considerable resources, will make the necessary arrangements to adequately provide for Jay’s family – especially in light of the fact that there would BE NO DEF JAM without RUN-DMC. I also pray that you will switch up your current A&R policies to do right by people who love & support hip hop.
Peace & Strength,