By KYW Newsradio community affairs reporter Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — “I got tired of listening to the radio and hearing music that was just downright bad,” says Carvin Haggins.

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This Philadelphia native knows good music. He’s been nominated 21 times for a Grammy award, and has worked with top artists, producing top hits with the likes of Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild, and Will Smith.

So, when Haggins, a father of seven, got tired of vulgar musical lyrics, he took action.

“It was just crazy to hear murder, sex, drugs,” he recalls. “I feel that I need to be responsible as an adult. There is no way as a man I can turn my back on that.”

The former rapper started a movement he calls “Rage Against the Ratchet,” which calls for an end to sexually explicit lyrics being played over the radio.

“My idea was, let’s go after the gatekeeper,” he says.  “My thinking is, if we stop radio from playing the music, then people will create the music radio is willing to play.”

In many ways, Haggins’ rhetoric mirrors that of C. Delores Tucker, the Pennsylvania civil rights leader who took on “gangsta rap” decades ago.

“I was like, this old lady doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” says Haggins, recalling her protests.  At the time, he viewed the protests as an infringement on his freedom to be creative and his right to express himself.

Today, he has a different perspective.

“She was talking about the future,” Haggins says.  “I’ve learned that you don’t have the freedom to create freely when the record label tells you what you’ve created will not work and to go back and create music like what’s already out there.”

Haggins says record executives have pushed him to create music with more “sex” and “drugs,” yet his approach is not to take on record companies.  Instead, he focuses on radio stations.

Over the past year, Haggins has staged protests at urban radio stations in the region, created a web site, and started a social media campaign with Youtube videos that demand that radio stations play positive music during times when children are listening.

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(A "Rage Against The Ratchet" protest outside a Philadelphia music radio station last summer. Photo provided)

(A “Rage Against The Ratchet” protest outside a Philadelphia music radio station last summer. Photo provided)


Haggins and his supporters also wrote letters to radio sponsors.

The efforts prompted the Wilmington, Del. city council to pass a resolution in 2014 asking the FCC to take action against vulgar lyrics.

“I see that as progress,” he said recently.   “To stop now would be foolish. There’s nothing to celebrate until we change this thing and make our communities better.”

Haggins, who has an Internet radio show and is writing a book and producing a documentary, says his hope is that radio stations will stop playing vulgar music between 6am and 6pm.  He wants artists to make more positive music, which he hopes will lead to less violence in black communities.

“Our music used to reflect a pride in our community,” says Haggins. “I think we need to get it back to that.”

Hear the extended interview with Carvin Haggins in this CBS Philly podcast (runs 14:21)…


Follow Cherri Gregg on Twitter: @cherrigregg

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