Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, speaks during a news conference, June 25, 2013 in Jackson, Miss.
Rogelio V. Solis/AP

Was a Senate candidate caught connecting hip-hop to gun violence?


A Mississippi candidate for the U.S. Senate is getting renewed attention for years-old comments dug up from a conservative talk radio show. 

Chris McDaniel—an attorney, state senator, and Tea Party challenger for Senator Thad Cochran’s seat in June’s Republican primary—was also the host of a show called Right Side Radio from 2004 to 2007. The politics blog Darkhorse Mississippi was the first to obtain audio of a teaser ad from the show which included the following quote:

“The reason Canada is breaking out with brand new gun violence has nothing to do with the United States and guns. It has everything to do with a culture that is morally bankrupt. What kind of culture is that? That’s right—it’s called hip-hop.”

That allegation is not borne out by the facts, as noted this week by The Atlantic Wire’s Philip Bump. If anything, Bump wrote, “hip-hop is saving America from crime.”

Bump noted statistics from the FBI and the Whitburn Project that indicated that both overall and violent crime has dropped as hip-hop music has become more popular in America—but that there was no indication of causality either way.

Mother Jones included audio of the Right Side Radio teaser ad in a report last Tuesday. The voice in the ad, not yet confirmed to msnbc as McDaniel, also included support for waterboarding as a method for gathering intelligence.

But comments like these in the teaser ad prompted a Saturday discussion on Melissa Harris-Perry about the merits of hip-hop culture:

“Name a redeeming quality of hip-hop. I want to know anything about hip-hop that has been good for this country. And it’s not—before you get carried away—this has nothing to do with race. Because there are just as many hip-hopping white kids and Asian kids as there are hip-hopping black kids. It’s a problem of a culture that values prison more than college; a culture that values rap and destruction of community values more than it does poetry; a culture that can’t stand education. It’s that culture that can’t get control of itself.”

McDaniel’s campaign responded to an msnbc request with a statement from the candidate prior to the MHP segment:

“Any music, regardless of genre, that glorifies drug use, encourages violence, and condones the mistreatment of women deserves to be critiqued.

“My position on hip-hop culture remains very much in line with msnbc [anchor] Reverend Al Sharpton. In his book Al On America, the Reverend Sharpton challenges the hip-hop community  ‘…to reach higher… to stop this whole glorifying of a reckless lifestyle’ that he claims hip-hop celebrates. Reverend Sharpton maintains that ‘[t]he hip-hop generation has the power to really change this nation for the better.’ I agree with that sentiment. 

“As Al says: ‘The hip-hop generation will not have a real legacy until it is able to move from the flash and the bling-bling into establishing a vision for the future of America and following through.’ Al was also correct when he said, ‘This hip-hop culture must use their music, their influence to correct what’s wrong, not to continue to perpetuate what’s wrong, not continue to promote what’s wrong.’

“While I may not agree with the Reverend Sharpton on everything, I’d say we’re quite close on this issue.”

Reverend Sharpton provided this response to State Senator McDaniel’s statement:

“Hip-hop can be a powerful force yet it should not embrace misogyny or violence. However, as the quotes from my book say, I strongly feel that hip-hop, or any form of music, should be against the glorification of violence, misogyny or bias of any kind.  I appeal to use music and culture for higher goals. It is a complete distortion, however, to say that hip hop or any other form of music is solely responsible for violence or any other social ill and is a complete distortion of my standpoint.”

Watch the MHPdiscussion in full below.

Melissa Harris-Perry, 1/11/14, 12:53 PM ET

The redeeming qualities of hip-hop

Jean Grae, Joan Morgan and Michael Skolnik discuss the progressive work being done around hip-hop music and the moral panic some still feel about the genre.

Melissa Harris-Perry, 1/11/14, 12:44 PM ET

Hip-hop as a global phenomenon

The MHP panel discusses the global reach of hip-hop music and how it can create unique connections and bonds.

Mississippi and Music

Was a Senate candidate caught connecting hip-hop to gun violence?