By Daniel Trotta
Prominent U.S. hip-hop executive Russell Simmons on Monday recommended eliminating the words "bitch," "ho" and "nigger" from the recording industry, considering them "extreme curse words."
The call comes less than two weeks after radio personality Don Imus' nationally syndicated and televised radio show was canceled amid public outcry over Imus calling a women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos."
Simmons, co-founder of the Def Jam label and a driving force behind hip-hop's huge commercial success, called for voluntary restrictions on the words and setting up an industry watchdog to recommend guidelines for lyrical and visual standards.
"We recommend that the recording and broadcast industries voluntarily remove/bleep/delete the misogynistic words 'bitch' and 'ho' and the racially offensive word 'nigger'," Simmons and Benjamin Chavis, co-chairmen of the advocacy group Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, said in a statement.
"These three words should be considered with the same objections to obscenity as 'extreme curse words'," it said.
Ho is slang for whore and commonly used in hip-hop music while nigger, a derogatory term for blacks, is among the most highly charged insults in American culture. The slur "nappy," used by Imus, describes the tightly curled hair of many African Americans.
Monday's statement changed course from another one by Simmons and Chavis dated April 13, a day after Imus' show was canceled, in which they said offensive references in hip-hop "may be uncomfortable for some to hear, but our job is not to silence or censor that expression."
The Imus controversy stoked a debate in the United States about how to deal with inflammatory words that are widely considered highly offensive but at the same time commonly and casually used in youth culture.
U.S. black leaders such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have led the charge to suppress offensive words while many artists have argued for freedom of expression. New York City declared a symbolic moratorium on the so-called N-word in February.
"Our internal discussions with industry leaders are not about censorship. Our discussions are about the corporate social responsibility of the industry to voluntarily show respect to African Americans and other people of color, African American women and to all women in lyrics and images," the statement from Simmons and Chavis said on Monday.
The network recommended the formation of a Coalition on Broadcast Standards that would consist of leading executives from music, radio and television.