With former radio talk-show host Don Imus off the air—the penalty for his racist and sexist remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team—many commentators are now focusing on the language in hip-hop music. Drawing parallels between Imus’s use of “nappy-headed hos” on the radio and the common characterization of women as hos and bitches in popular rap songs, people are questioning whether African-Americans should be more outspoken about negative images perpetuated by other Black people.

On Monday and Tuesday, The Oprah Winfrey Show is featuring a panel to address whether or not a double standard exists, and why women are often targets for degrading comments. Panelists will include Al Sharpton, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, former NAACP President Bruce Gordon and rapper Common.

Sharpton, who led a campaign against Three 6 Mafia’s Oscar-winning song “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” says he will continue to be outspoken against those who use public forums to perpetuate racist or sexist stereotypes.

“We will not stop until we make it clear that no one should denigrate women,” Sharpton said at a press conference last Thursday. “Airwaves should not be used to commercialize sexism and racism.”

But some rappers are defending the language they’re using, arguing that their comments were never meant for women who are doing positive things.

“It’s a completely different scenario,” rapper Snoop Dogg told MTV News. “(Rappers) are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports. We’re talking about hos that’s in the ‘hood that ain’t doing sh–, that’s trying to get a nigga for his money. These are two separate things.”

Simmons agrees. “Don Imus’s racially motivated diatribe toward the Rutgers women’s basketball team was in no way connected to hip-hop culture,” he said through his Hip-Hop Summit Action Network. “Hip-hop artists rap about what they see, hear and feel around them, their experience of the world. Like the artists throughout history, their messages are a mirror of what is right and wrong with society. Sometimes their observations or the way in which they choose to express their art may be uncomfortable for some to hear, but our job is not to silence or censor that expression.” Simmons, however, will be holding a “closed-door” meeting with hip-hop executives this week to discuss how to move the music in a positive direction.

Talk about it: Are sexist rap lyrics any different from Don Imus’s comments? Do you agree with Russell Simmons and Snoop about the difference? Tell us what you think and share what you think can be done to clean up rap lyrics.

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