USA: Rap artist Kanye West censored on tv



Rap artist Kanye West censored on NBC

The American rap artist Kanye West spoke his mind on live television – and got censored. A protest remix which features a clip of the censored comment now receives significant Internet and alternative radio play

By Meredith Holmgren

Kanye West is currently one of America’s most popular rap artists. His latest album, “Late Registration,” sold nearly 900,000 copies during its first week of sales – instantly making it the top-selling record in the country.

On September 2, 2005, during a live benefit concert for Hurricane Katrina relief on NBC, Kanye West was a featured speaker. When he was presenting, West deviated from the prepared script:

“I hate the way they portray us in the media. You see a black family, it says, ‘They’re looting.’ You see a white family, it says, ‘They’re looking for food.’ And, you know, it’s been five days [waiting for federal help] because most of the people are black. And even for me to complain about it, I would be a hypocrite because I’ve tried to turn away from the TV because it’s too hard to watch. I’ve even been shopping before even giving a donation, so now I’m calling my business manager right now to see what is the biggest amount I can give. And just to imagine if I was down there, and those are my people down there. So anybody out there that wants to do anything that we can help — with the way America is set up to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off, as slow as possible. I mean, the Red Cross is doing everything they can. We already realize a lot of people that could help are at war right now, fighting another way — and they’ve given them permission to go down and shoot us.”

Mike Myers, whom Kanye was paired with to present, spoke next and attempted to regain control of the script. But once it was Kanye’s turn to speak again, he simply said, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” Once he said this last comment, the camera quickly cut away – but West’s comments still reached the U.S. East Coast and Midwest live broadcasts.

NBC apologized for lack-of-censorship
In a statement issued shortly afterwards, NBC said, “Kanye West departed from the scripted comments that were prepared for him, and his opinions in no way represent the views of the networks.” Although there was nothing illegal or profane about what he said, his last comment was censored by the network when the program was re-broadcast on the U.S. West Coast three hours later. Further, NBC spokeswoman Rebecca Marks later apologized for the lack-of-censorship in the initial live feed, saying that while there was a tape delay, the person in charge “was instructed to listen for a curse word, and didn’t realize [West] had gone off-script.”

Reverend Al Sharpton, an American politician and civil rights leader, chastised NBC for censoring West. “If he got on there calling women names, they wouldn’t have censored him. If he got on there saying something derogatory, they wouldn’t have censored him. For him to stand up for his own people, they censor. I think they should let Kanye say what needs to be said and let the president defend it if he wants to.”

Laura Bush, the President’s wife, responded to the comments in an American Urban Radio Networks interview by saying, “I know what [George Bush is] like and I know what he thinks and I know how he cares about people.”

Thunderous boos
On September 8, 2005, in a live-via-satellite concert for the National Football League (NFL) season opener between the Oakland Raiders and the New England Patriots, West performed “Heard ‘Em Say” and was booed by the crowd at Gillette Stadium. Boston Globe reporter Steve Morse wrote on this event saying, “It was disconcerting to hear his name booed loudly by Patriots fans who evidently didn’t appreciate his nationally televised comment the other night… The boos were thunderous and lasted for much of his number.”

West further explained his statements in an interview on the Black Entertainment Network (BET).
“I just let my heart speak for itself without thinking about my image or how it’s gonna hurt me financially,” said West during a telethon on Friday, Sept. 9. “I felt the world needed to hear from me… I just do it and I say what I really feel.”

Support from rap artists
Other rap artists, like Jay-Z, Nelly and P. Diddy, have since come out to support Kanye West. After donating $1 million to the Red Cross with Jay-Z, Diddy told MTV News, “We can’t wait around for the government to help. We’re not waiting, we’re taking action… We can find money to bomb people overseas, but not to help our brothers and sisters?”

Jay-Z told Billboard, “I’m backing Kanye 100%. This is America. You should be able to say what you want to say. We have freedom of speech.”

David Banner claims that this is nothing new in America, that the media industry has a history of diverting attention away from social messages presented through rap music. “This is what rappers have been screaming all the time. The problem is America concentrates more on our cuss words. They don’t hear the pain in the music all the time. You just finally had somebody who has the power Kanye has, who said it at the right time.”

In an article published by the Los Angeles Times, Robert Hilburn writes, “Because [West] is widely seen by critics and industry tastemakers as an influential spokesman for the American black experience, you could feel the strain of his attempt to fulfill that role — to step beyond the generic comments of other celebrities Friday to reflect on the horror being experienced by the flood victims. You could disagree with his views, but you couldn’t deny his passion.”

Successful protest remix
Another interesting facet of this story is how West’s original comments have made their way back into music itself. Only a few days after the NBC program aired, The Legendary K.O. released a protest remix of West’s hit “Gold Digger” titled “George Bush Doesn’t Care About Black People.” This version included new lyrics set to the music of “Gold Digger” and features a clip of West’s censored comments. This remix has resulted in a significant amount of Internet and alternative radio play, as well as numerous music videos that are also widely available online. Less than 20 days after the song’s Internet release, the Legendary K.O. reported that they’d been downloaded over 500,000 times (Peoples Weekly World, September 24, 2005). 

Kanye West

Script, audio and video of the unedited speech:, 2 September, 2005, 5 September, 2005


Media coverage, including references:

Los Angeles Times, 4 September, 2005:
‘The show didn’t benefit by censors’

CNN, 9 September, 2005:
‘Laura Bush response’

ShowBizData, 5 September, 2005:
‘NBC defends censorship of Kanye West’, 4 September, 2005:
‘NBC Deletes Rap Star’s Remarks on Telethon’

Boston Globe, 9 September, 2005:
‘NFL kickoff show falls short at Gillette’

ContactMusic, 12 September, 2005:
‘Sharpton: Kanye shouldn’t have been censored’, 7 September, 2005:
‘Jay-Z Regarding George Bush’

MTV, 6 September, 2005:
‘TI, David Banner Get Behind Kanye’s Bush Comments’

People’s Weekly World, 24 September, 2005:
‘In the wake of Katrina – Political songs zoom over the net’

Download The Legendary K.O.’s protest remix:

Music video: ‘George Bush Don’t Like Black People’
MP3 audio: ‘george bush don’t like black people’

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