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Is Gangsta Rap Hurting America's Children?

This is a partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, November 12, 2003.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the Impact Segment tonight, last week, the principal of John Reynolds Elementary School in Philadelphia, Salome Thomas-El, told us he believes gangsta rap (search) music is extremely harmful to his inner-city students.

So we decided to get Grammy-nominee Cam'ron, who raps about pimping and bitches -- among other things -- and rap producer Damon Dash, co-founder of Rockefeller Records, together with Mr. Thomas-El, who joins us now from Philly. And here they all are.

Now we're going to have a nice, intelligent discussion here, gentlemen, and I'm going to moderate this discussion.

CAM'RON, RAPPER: Pimping and bitches.

O'REILLY: Yes. You know.

CAM'RON: Pimping and bitches.

O'REILLY: You've got it in your record "Purple Haze" right here.

But, anyway, let Mr. Thomas-El direct his questions, and then you guys can answer, and you can ask him questions or whatever you want.

Go ahead, sir.

SALOME THOMAS-EL, ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PRINCIPAL: Yes. Good evening, gentlemen.

CAM'RON: Hey, how are you?

DAMON DASH, RAP PRODUCER: How are you doing?

THOMAS-EL: Good, good, good. I'm a big fan of yours. I grew up on hip-hop.

CAM'RON: Thank you, sir.

THOMAS-EL: I'm a little older, so, you know, I was a Run DMC fan, KRS1.

CAM'RON: Yes, sir.

THOMAS-EL: But I'm always promoting the positive of rap. I mean Jay-Z's an excellent example of someone who's started his own label. He's an entrepreneur. So always promoting that with my young people.

But I spoke to some students today in preparation for our conversation tonight, and they were just so excited about the fact that I would be conversating with you guys, but also began to talk about the impact of the rap business on our young people, and many of them talked about how they understand that it's to sell records and it's, you know, for promotion.

But there are many young people who are affected by the lyrics, by the example of the videos. They talked about how Ludacris -- many of them knew about a video that Ludacris has where there's strippers and lap dances and those kinds of things, and these are 11-, 12-, and 13-year-old students who are very aware of what goes on.

And I was just wondering what your thoughts were on whether you thought you really had an impact on the lives of young people and whether you thought it was negative or positive.

O'REILLY: Cam'ron, why don't you go ahead?

CAM'RON: At the end of the day, yes, you've got an influence on it, but so do movies. Like with me, I'm just an author. So what I do is I write what goes on in the ghetto. I'm not a liar. So what I tell you goes on in my album, that's what goes on on the streets of Harlem.

Now I'm like a reporter. When you look at the news, you don't get mad at the person reporting the news. A lot of influence, I think, go to movies. A lot of people look at the movies, and then they react. The kids that killed them kids in -- where was that, Damon? Colorado?

DASH: Columbine.

CAM'RON: Columbine. Yes. You feel what I'm saying? I don't think they were listening to rap at all. I think that was more like a Marilyn Manson jump-off, you know, like...

O'REILLY: What if an 11-year-old kid imitates you, Cam'ron? What if he uses four-letter words and he develops a lifestyle based upon the street, he gets tattooed, he gets all of this, do you feel badly about that?

CAM'RON: No, I don't.

DASH: Can I interject?

O'REILLY: Go ahead.

DASH: If an 11-year-old were to imitate Cam'ron, what they would be doing is becoming a CEO Of their own company, controlling their own destiny, taking a bad situation and making it good. He has a record company. He's sold a lot of records. He's acted in movies. I feel like he's a positive...

CAM'RON: I have a cologne also.

DASH: He has a cologne.

CAM'RON: I have a clothing line.

O'REILLY: Well, you know what I'm talking about, Damon.

DASH: Well, no, he's an entrepreneur by his own right.

O'REILLY: If you have a child who is unsupervised and then Mr. Thomas-El has to try to teach and he's using four-letter words inappropriately, he's dressing inappropriately, he doesn't have value of education then that kid's in trouble.

DASH: Who's to say what's inappropriate as far as dressing goes? But, on another level, when Arnold Schwarzenegger was the Terminator, he was shooting up everyone in sight.

O'REILLY: It's a cartoon, though. This is real, though, isn't it?

CAM'RON: Everybody's rap isn't real.

O'REILLY: This is real. It's not a Terminator cartoon.

All right. Mr. Thomas-El, what else do you want to ask these guys?

DASH: You didn't let me finish, Bill. That wasn't very fair.

O'REILLY: All right. Go ahead. Go ahead. I'll let Mr. Dash finish.

DASH: Now we're talking about the good governor of California right now.

O'REILLY: That's right. And I'm telling you his movie's a cartoon, whereas this rap stuff is real life.

DASH: Now -- whoa, whoa, whoa. If there's an unsupervised child, how is he going to know whether it's real or not? How is he to determine what's real and what's not real? Who's the supervisor?

O'REILLY: All right. And you think that the "Terminator" movies are just as damaging or more so than gangsta rap.

DASH: I would have to say being that there's a visual and being there's no explanation to them and being that it's...

O'REILLY: There's visuals on these rap videos, too, though.

DASH: But what I'm saying is it's glorified. There's no justification for all the shooting that goes on.

O'REILLY: All right.

DASH: So if he's reporting on what goes on around the street, he's a product of his environment, he's reporting what is a product of his environment. How is that wrong for him to report that?

THOMAS-EL: Gentlemen, let's be honest.

(CROSSTALK)

O'REILLY: Let Mr. Thomas-El get in here. Go ahead.

THOMAS-EL: Gentlemen, let's be honest. Who do these kids relate to someone from the inner city or someone from another country or someone from the suburbs? Let's be quite honest.

DASH: Well, what I was trying to...

THOMAS-EL: You came up the same way I did, the same way millions of these kids do every day.

DASH: Right, right.

THOMAS-EL: We're growing up in a fatherless society. A lot of our friends -- your friends, my friends -- didn't have a lot of supervision at home. Most of time, they were at our homes. We had good parents. We had parents who didn't allow us to do, or watch these kinds of things.

I'm a critic of the movie industry also. I think that the kids are watching too much TV period. But my issue is that when you rap, you rap about what these children relate to because it's in their environment. You've already stated that they don't know your story because you're a CEO, and I agree.

But, see, you don't promote this and your company doesn't promote that. They promote the four-letter words.

DASH: We don't promote entrepreneurship? We don't promote positive and ownership of your company? I'm making it cool to be smart. I'm making it cool to be a businessman.

O'REILLY: All right. Look, but it's not about business.

DASH: It's not about business for you because you feel like it might give you better ratings to portray something negative with the image of hip-hop.

O'REILLY: It is negative. It is negative.

DASH: It's not negative to be a businessman.

O'REILLY: Sure it is. It's negative to make money, Mr. Dash, if you hurt children.

DASH: How do you hurt children by promoting to be an entrepreneur and a CEO and to do right...

(CROSSTALK)

O'REILLY: Hold it! Hold it! You're looking at a principal...

CAM'RON: Why don't you want to let him talk? You mad. You mad.

O'REILLY: You won't let me finish.

CAM'RON: Where did you start covering up the fear, right?

O'REILLY: No, wrong.

CAM'RON: I'm going to get at you in a minute.

O'REILLY: You go ahead. You get at me.

CAM'RON: I'm going to get at you in a minute.

O'REILLY: Listen, you guys, you're looking at a guy who teaches inner-city kids and who is telling you face to face that he has problems with kids based upon the rap music, and you're rationalizing it all up and down.

DASH: I thought you were going to mediate

O'REILLY: I am.

DASH: No, what you're doing is you're giving opinions. That's not being an objective mediator now, Bill.

O'REILLY: No, I can give my opinion. It's my program.

DASH: Well, now it's your program.

O'REILLY: Yes, it's my program.

DASH: Bill. Come on, Bill.

O'REILLY: We’ll have The Dash Factor some other time.

DASH: Let's stand back. I have The Dash Factor.

O'REILLY: No, I've got a question for Cam'ron based on what you just said.

DASH: Don't yell. Come on. Let's keep this civil.

O'REILLY: This is civil. Come on.

THOMAS-EL: I've got -- I've got...

O'REILLY: Wait a minute. Wait a minute, Mr. Thomas-El.

Now, look, if the principal tells you that there are children in his school, Cam'ron, who are being adversely affected by your music, do you care?

CAM'RON: I care, but you've got to talk to their parents.

O'REILLY: What if they don't have good parents?

CAM'RON: Why are they in school? They have to have parents to be in school. Somebody sent them to school.

O'REILLY: No, they don't.

DASH: No, you don't. No, you don't.

CAM'RON: If that's the case, homeboy, whoever's minding the television -- you need to have parent-teacher conferences with your students. Whether it's they aunt, they cousin, they sister, somebody's sending these kids to school. They're not 11 years old staying at home by their self.

I can't go home and talk to these students. You need to have more parent-teacher conferences if you have problems with your students.

O'REILLY: All right. Let him reply.

DASH: Same with the television.

O'REILLY: Let him reply. Go ahead. Mr. Thomas-El, reply.

DASH: That was a good point, Cam.

CAM'RON: Thank you.

THOMAS-EL: No, it's an excellent point. But, actually, you are talking to these students because they listen to you every day. So you are...

CAM'RON: So I've got more influence than their parents. That's a problem.

THOMAS-EL: No.

CAM'RON: That's a problem. That is a problem.

THOMAS-EL: That is a problem.

CAM'RON: So you need to have parents-teachers conferences because these are your students. You feel me? If you want me to come to your school and talk to your students, I could do that for you.

THOMAS-EL: No, I don't...

CAM'RON: All right. I don't want you...

(CROSSTALK)

O'REILLY: Go ahead. Go ahead. Let him get in.

CAM'RON: You have to talk to your parents.

THOMAS-EL: You're cutting me off, sir.

DASH: You mad.

O'REILLY: Go ahead, Mr. Thomas-El. Go ahead.

THOMAS-EL: No, what I'm saying...

(LAUGHTER)

THOMAS-EL: What I'm saying to you is that you're making millions of dollars off of these kids, the same kids that you're now denigrating...

CAM'RON: How do you know how much I'm making? How do you know how much money I'm making?

THOMAS-EL: The same parents that you're now denigrating, you make millions of dollars off these people.

CAM'RON: How do you know how much money I'm making?

DASH: Cam...

O'REILLY: Go ahead. Now you reply.

DASH: Let me ask you a quick question.

O'REILLY: Go ahead.

DASH: I think it's pretty unfair for you to judge the circumstance without properly understanding it. But every opportunity we get, we try to say as positive things as we can, which is why when we do make this money, we give back to our community.

Me and Cam'ron our self are from 142nd Street at Lennox. We do have a program there that teaches kids to be positive. We make them go to school. We support a basketball program.

And we personally know 150 kids in the neighborhood and speak to them and tell them to stay in school, incentivize them to stay in school. What's not positive about that?

OREILLY: Mr. Thomas-El, we're going to give you a minute to make a statement. And then we're going to go to Cam'ron, and then we're going to go to Damon Dash. And I think that's the fair way to do it. So you go first.

THOMAS-EL: OK. I'd like to thank you gentlemen for what you do. I'd like you to promote more to these young people, and maybe even if you can influence the folks who are around you to promote the positive things that you're doing. I know you're doing positive things.

But also these children are watching you tonight. Many of these children have parents who are incarcerated, parents who are drug addicted. They don't have the parental involvement they need.

They look up to a lot of you guys. A lot of you are men. They don't have a lot of contact with positive men. And tonight, you're making a mockery of their situation.

So, you know, tonight to an intellectual people, you didn't make rap look good, you didn't make the industry look good. And we aren't highlighting the positive.

I'm hoping in the future that we can send a better message not only to our young people but to America that this industry does have some talented people who do care because you're out there doing some good and great things for the young people.

O'REILLY: All right. Good.

All right. Cam'ron, you go.

CAM'RON: Cool. I just want to say I think that we got off to a bad start tonight, but I think everything that we said was very positive. I think that what me and Dash are doing is very, very, very positive for the youth.

You just jumped on everything that we done bad, and there's nothing that we done bad. You took it based on one song of lyrics. Like I think what you need to do is get more in tune with your students. You know what I mean? You need to have parent-teacher conferences.

If you need some of these rappers to come in, call the record company, call Rockefeller Records, call Diplomat Records, and ask us to come in and speak to your students. We do things like that.

THOMAS-EL: I want...

CAM'RON: No, your statement is over. It's my turn to talk. You're done for the night.

THOMAS-EL: OK. Well, you cut me off earlier.

O'REILLY: No, no, no. Come on. Let him talk.

CAM'RON: You're done for the night. Take it to school tomorrow. You're done for tonight.

O'REILLY: All right. If he needs you to come in...

CAM'RON: Call us. Diplomat Records. We'll come speak to his kids.

O'REILLY: Good.

(CROSSTALK)

THOMAS-EL: Thank you.

CAM'RON: You're done for the night.

O'REILLY: Let Mr. Dash wrap it up.

DASH: Going along with what Cam'ron said, I think a lot of what we said was positive and informative.

It's kind of obvious that maybe you don't understand that everything affects everything, whether it be movies, books, literature, a reporter on television, and if you're going to promote anything, I would think that to the culture of the kids that are watching, you'd promote the positive aspect of it.

So, if you know there is negative in something, try to find the positive as opposed to always talking about the negative. That's the thing I don't understand, why we're criticized so hard within hip-hop.

No one talks about the jobs we create, no one talks about the things we do within our community, and no one talks about the businesses we've done, how we've opened the doors and shown people that it's cool to be smart, it's cool to be a CEO, and it's cool to not to take advantage but to reap the benefits of all your labor and to do it fairly.

I can't see how that could ever be considered a negative, and I'm disappointed in the fact that you would be thinking that.

O'REILLY: All right.

DASH: But, anyway, I just want to say one thing.

O'REILLY: Quick.

DASH: Rockefeller Records will be all in stores soon. Cam'ron's album's coming out along with a lot of...

O'REILLY: All right. That's capitalism.

OK, guys. We appreciate it very much. And, you know, I just want you guys to think about, as the principal said, the kids...

DASH: Are we off?

O'REILLY: No. The kids who don't have responsible parents. Just think about that.

DASH: And we need to you think about that as well.

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