1983 SPECIAL REPORT: "MTV DISCRIMINATES AGAINST BLACK ARTISTS"
We’ve heard it a million times before: MTV in the 1980s was racist against black artists. They rarely aired black musicians, viewing them as bad for business. In fact, it wasn’t until Michael Jackson smashed the color barrier that things really started to change.
There’s ample evidence to back those claims: the programming itself. Quite simply, it rarely included black artists in the early 1980s. Whether that was based on active discrimination is subject to debate, however.
Either way, the festering wound returned earlier this month, thanks to hard-hitting accusations from Grandmixer DXT. Grandmixer is an important DJ in early hip-hop, and was the guy scratching on Herbie Hancock’s groundbreaking release, ‘Rock It’. He was also featured in other seminal productions of the era, including the rap film, Wild Style. Despite putting ‘Rock It’ into rotation, DXT alleges that MTV refused to prominently feature Hancock because he was black. Instead, they relegated him to a TV within the video itself, largely featuring just his black hands on the piano (see above).
Here’s what DXT told the Murder Master Music Show: “The truth is MTV at the time didn’t play black people. In 1983, they did not play black people. Rick James had to sue them. Let’s think about that for a minute and the insanity and how it affects progress. You didn’t see me and the most you seen Herbie was on a little screen that you could barely see and that happened because of racism.”
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