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CNN NEWSROOM

Tornado Rips Through Arkansas; Hip-Hop: Art or Trash?

Aired February 24, 2007 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: A little boy abducted. One minute, he's at a school bus stop. Next, he's tied up with duct tape. Who would do something like this? We'll take you to Florida.
We're also taking you to the Bahamas, where a celebrity death has turned into a legal circus. Anna Nicole Smith's death, the updates and an island turns upside down.

Also, let's see, I'll take a Brad Pitt nose and a Tom Cruise chin. Plastic surgeons, offering you a chance to choose an exact movie star look. And thousands are buying it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is their motivation? Why are they doing that? Am I doing this surgery just so I can look like Brad Pitt? That's ridiculous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: And parents, do you know who this is? Your kids do. He's part of a $4 billion industry, that's lured in seemingly all of our teens.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even if you took the drug dealing, the sex, hoochie girls out of the music, it would be in the streets.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Tonight, my quest to understand the hype behind hip hop. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

And hello again, everybody. And welcome to B control. This is where we've following an awful lot of news on this night. In fact, all night, we've been telling you about this huge weather system. In fact, we've got proof of it. We expected it would spawn a tornado and it has. These are some of the pictures.

Also, some are fighting fires as a result of some of this weather today. Others are going to be getting a big snowfall tonight as a result of this system in case you haven't already gotten part of this big snow fall.

All right, first, the tornado. It tore through Dumas, Arkansas. And that is where Charles Crosan of KTHV has been following the very latest on the story. In fact, he filed this report for us just a little while ago. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHARLES CROSAN, KTHV NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Mike, it is almost out of fiction the things we have seen here in Dumas today. We can tell you that there's about 150 -- oh excuse me, 150 yard stretch here through the main thoroughfare, just off of Highway 685 that has been completely leveled.

As you said, Mike, the old Wal-mart off of Highway 65 now in threads, as well as the Mad Butcher grocery store right behind me might be a little too dark to see the grocery store.

Several homes on the other side of these two department stores, they are completely leveled. Let's take a look at some of the video we took just before sundown this afternoon.

You can see some of the destruction along parts of Highway 65. As you can see here, the Freds, as well as other department stores in this area. The McDonalds, which sits right next to the Freds, is completely ripped to pieces as well as also a Days Inn on the other side of that McDonald's.

Now we're fortunate now to be joined by Ms. Bobby Thomas. She was -- is an employee of Freds here in Dumas. Joins us now. Ms. Thomas, thank you so much. Now talk to me quickly, if you could, about what happened as the tornado came in?

BOBBY THOMAS, WITNESS: OK. I came to work today about 2:00. When I got here, it was about 30 or 40 minutes I would say before it hit. One of our supervisors told us that it was expected to hit here at 2:51. And about that time, she asked all the employees to come to the front, along with the shoppers.

CROSAN: And thank you for everything.

THOMAS: Thank you.

CROSAN: And coming out of there safely. Like you said, Freds completely leveled there. Ms. Thomas joining us. Now authorities say the...

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: OK, that's Charles Crosan in a report that he filed for a little while ago. What we plan to do is go back to Charles live. In fact, we're hoping that we'll be able to join him in probably between the next five and 10 minutes, but they're having a tough time talking out there because communication is down. They're not able to get the satellite links or the phone links.

And that's the reason for it. Take a look at these pictures right there. These are the pictures that have coming in. In fact, we got these just seconds ago. They're from Dumas, Arkansas. And you can see the wide swath that this tornado has cut right through this town.

Several parts of town were affected by it. Exact numbers as to injuries, specifics on the injuries, really still coming in. We're hoping to get some of that information from Charles when we talk to him.

Jacqui Jeras has been following this all day long, too. Let's bring her into this. Jacqui, earlier in the day, you told us you expected the system would bring some tornadoes. It has. What do you know about these particular tornadoes that have hit in Dumas?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, super cell type tornadoes, a very classic situation that caused some widespread damage across the area. A very fast moving storm. The people were warned. Tornado warnings were issued. So we have not heard of any fatalities. There are some reports of some possible injuries. Hopefully, none of those seriously. So hopefully, that advanced warning that we knew that the storm was coming and that the tornado warning was issued hopefully kept most people safe, but just incredible, catastrophic damage.

The National Weather Service has sent a survey crew out there. And I know they've been out there this evening. They have not confirmed yet that it was a tornado, but very, very likely based on our radar signatures and looking at the wind velocity and things. So we think that this is very, very likely a large tornado.

SANCHEZ: Hey, Jacqui? Jacqui, as we look at these pictures, I was just handed some information. Just some specifics, this is what the mayor's saying.

JERAS: OK.

SANCHEZ: This is Marian Gill. This probably, I'm sure, jives with what you've been looking at. He says 27 people have been injured as a result of this storm. He says at this point they haven't been able to confirm any fatalities, but he says that the storm without a doubt has destroyed much of the business sector of his community, including a factory there that, I guess was one of the main employers in the town that produced pet food, Jacqui. That's the information coming out of there right now, just handed to me moments ago.

JERAS: Wow, yes. A lot of this, I believe, happened on the north side of the town, too, Rick. This is a town of about 5200 people.

We also had some reports from the National Weather Service along Highway 65, where a lot of this damage has been, that this storm was so strong, it brought cars, picked up cars, and put them in trees. Incredible.

The reports just continue to come on in. This wasn't the only tornado that touched down. In fact, we had 11 reports overall from the day. And as you take a look at the map behind me, our biggest area of concern right now is across central parts of Mississippi and then moving on up into Alabama. Knock on wood. This is the first time since maybe 2:00 this afternoon that I have not had a tornado warning. And this right here in my hands, all of these papers are tornado warnings from today, just to give you an idea of what an active day we have had.

Really incredible. All the components coming together. We had all that warmth and moisture coming in from the Gulf of Mexico. Cold, dry air coming in from the West. And what a powerful storm that we've been dealing with throughout the day today.

I believe we have some pictures also that we want to show you from Boshir City. This was in Louisiana. It's in the northwest corner of the state. And it is around the Shreveport area. We do have confirmation, here we go, of a tornado there. Weather Service did get out and assess this one. They said it was a weak one, an EF-1 with estimated winds of 90 to 100 miles per hour. 40 to 60 homes were damaged there. I guess we have a live reporter coming back in. Rick?

SANCHEZ: Yes, hey, Jacqui, let's do this. I'm going to get back to you in just a little bit, but there's something else. I told you that I'm being handed information here as it's coming in. We're trying to see if we can share it with the viewers as fast as possible.

We're now getting a report. And this is from the sheriff there. This is Sheriff Jim Schneider. You know, you hate to report stuff like this. I mean, you really do. He says there's now "extensive looting that took place after the storm." And time after what they had to enact a curfew we're told sometime about 6:00 p.m. tonight.

In fact, we're now learning that that curfew's going to go from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. As a result of the tornado, which has now caused extensive looting.

And we do have a chance now -- is he good to go? Is Charles Crosan good to go? Charles Crosan standing by on the scene. He's from TV station KTHV live from Dumas. He's been following the story.

Start us off, Charles. What's the situation look like there to your eyes after the storm has passed?

CROSAN: Well, Rick, as you just mentioned yourself, the town did shut down, a curfew enlisted there just after 6:00 p.m. Darkness everywhere. There's absolutely no electricity of any kind other than the artificial light that we have here. Rescue crews are working their way up and down Highway 65 just to my left, your right. They're on the screen. They are going building to building to check for the structural stability of the buildings that had been damaged, also to look for any survivors. We had no reports of casualties yet. 12 confirmations of significant injury.

Behind me is one of the stores where you talked about looting being a main concern. This is the Mad Butcher. This is -- well, it's what's left of the Mad Butcher.

This is one of the main grocery stores here in Dumas. We had spoken with Wayne Owen of Mad Butcher. He said looting was a main concern for him, a chief concern for him as well as authorities.

We have learned that some of the authorities who have come, some of the response crews are going to man these department stores for that very reason to stop looting. We can confirm four arrests have been made. Names have not been given.

SANCHEZ: What were these -- Charles, Charles?

CROSAN: Yes?

SANCHEZ: We're curious as watch you say this. Because I mean, talk about adding insult to injury. I mean, you know, you get hit by a tornado. It's a relatively small town.

CROSAN: Right.

SANCHEZ: You think people would want to pull together and help each other out. And instead, what kind of people are police telling you came to this area to try and loot from these people who are already devastated?

CROSAN: Well, we spoke with Corporal Rick Schneider there with the Arkansas State Police. He said desperate times basically call for desperate measures. And sometimes these are the acts of desperate people.

It doesn't speak ill of the people of south Arkansas. It's just a very devastating moment today just before 3:00 when that tornado came through. But he says once again, these are the acts of desperate people. And authorities are on hand. And all of these retailers to make sure they can keep that under wraps.

SANCHEZ: Yes, I'm looking at some of the quotes here, Charles, that have been coming in. One person said I hit the floor, Lord. All the debris was falling on us. The iron, the tin. I said, oh Lord, all I want to do is please save us today. It's in your hands. We all got a few scratches and things, but it could have been much worse.

Then we got somebody here saying Charles...

CROSAN: Right.

SANCHEZ: ...boy, we hear this all the time, don't we after situations like this and tornadoes? Sounded just like a freight train. Just not real fast. The mayor saying this is going to be devastating economically for the town.

What are they doing for people who were affected? The mayor's saying that there were 27 people injured. I can only imagine a whole bunch of people are homeless, as well. Have they set up a shelter or something for them? What's being done for these people, Charles?

CROSAN: Right. The Red Cross, Salvation Army, the and Mennonite chapter here in southeastern Arkansas, they are on hand. There's a central command post about two miles north of us here, Rick. And I was going to say, the Red Cross, Salvation Army... SANCHEZ: Yes.

CROSAN: ...and Mennonite chapter, they have come in. They're trying to really work with the displaced people.

It's interesting you said that about the residents. Just on the other side of these department stores that have been completely leveled, there are two neighborhoods. And if you can see in the daylight, painted a much better picture than we can tonight.

This -- the tops of those houses would be sheered off. This is -- this came through as you said the mayor was quoted as saying the economic impact of this. This tornado hit the heart of Dumas, Arkansas. This is one of the main thoroughfares and it was about a half mile wide, about two miles long running to the northeast. And it was just absolutely devastating.

As you said, a factory here. One of the main employers of Dumas was completely leveled.

SANCHEZ: Charles, good stuff. We -- hey, I know you had a tough time trying to -- we've been trying to reach you. And we haven't been able to because obviously...

CROSAN: Right.

SANCHEZ: ....cell phones are down. I imagine some of the towers have been hit, as well.

Thanks for hanging in there...

CROSAN: Sure.

SANCHEZ: ...and bringing us up to date on a story that a lot of people really want to know about.

We might be able to get back to you a little later. So stand by if you could. I know you've got a lot of stuff on your hands.

Let's go back to Jacqui Jeras. Jacqui, given what he's describing, the size of the swath, the length of this damage, can you give us a guesstimate just from your own experience, what kind of storm we're talking about here?

JERAS: You know -- well, my guess is, without being able to be out there and really assess the situation, you know, you need to look at things like some of the structures that have been damaged. You need to look to see if, you know, it was a roof just blown off? Or were the outside walls blown off? Or were all -- you know, the home completely leveled off of this foundation?

So those are kind of the signs and things that people are going to be looking at. The National Weather Service going out tomorrow to assess some of this damage.

Based on a couple of the things that I have seen, the size of this tornado and just the impressive radar signature that we saw both on the reflectivity as we call it, the hook signature that we saw, and also really good cuplet, as we call it, where we see those winds moving in different directions, that rotation that we look for and the velocity, I would say very likely it's a possibility that this is what we would call, you know, an extreme event. Possibly an F-3, a major tornado or better. Good possibility, but we won't know for sure until we actually get out there.

The other thing that you look at, too, is what direction maybe things maybe were blown into? Was everything pushed over in one direction? Or were things kind of spread out all over the place?

And if the reports that we heard are true about the cars and the trees, that would take quite some force to do that. So we think this was likely a very large tornado that obviously caused just an incredible amount of destruction.

We continue to see the aerials come on in. If we could have tighter views, we might have a better idea of just how strong it is, but just an incredible event. Happened around the 3:00 hour, Central Time. It was a very fast moving storm system, too. It was moving to the northeast at about 60 miles per hour. So when those warnings go off with storms moving that fast, you have to move very quickly.

And from a lot of pictures that we've been seeing here, too, and we were talking about the looting situation, it seems like while there have been many homes that that were damaged as well, a lot of this seems to be businesses. And I wonder if that has, you know, people are in the homes. And their homes are OK. So they're going out to search this. And that's why people really want you to stay in your home.

Also, we can have other problems like power outages or maybe some live lines still staying around. There's a lot of debris out there, pieces of wood and sharp objects. You don't want to get out and get in this stuff unless maybe you're helping out a neighbor and trying to help clean up. Rick?

SANCHEZ: Well, you know what? You're right, Jacqui. Let's hope it was just a mistake. Those people were out there in the area. They were checking on the businesses. Because, boy, you just hate to hear from a human standpoint, from a moral standpoint that somebody living in a small town like that would go and loot after someone has lost their business or their home.

But it's obviously -- this is something we're going to be checking in on. In fact, Roger, if we can, let's go ahead and put those pictures back up and talk about what we're seeing. There it is.

These are the pictures coming in now. We just started to get these. We weren't quite sure just how devastated the area was, but you know, you heard the reporter and you heard the mayor saying that they're economically devastated and that they're -- there was about a two-mile swath that cut right through the town.

I mean, so easy for these tornadoes to miss these towns. And yet, when you see them go right through the center of town, it always leaves you just in awe to see the kind of damage it does.

So we're going to stay on the story. We hope to get more reaction from it. And we'll bring you the details as we get them. There's some things that we need to clear up.

And then, of course, we're also going to be taking you live to the Bahamas to bring you the very latest on the Anna Nicole Smith scandal, I guess, is the best way to call it, the situation with the funeral, the situation with the possible eviction.

And how are Bahamans dealing with this now? Our Rusty Dornin is there. And we're going to be going -- joining her very soon.

Stay with us. You're watching CNN. And you're in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Want to take you once again to Dumas, Arkansas. These are the pictures that have been coming in. And you know, we're just as much in awe looking at this as you are.

We heard that the tornado had, in fact, touched down right through the center of this town. We don't know just how much of a focus it seemed to have on -- it almost seemed to be drawing a beat right in the center of town, because look how much of this town has been affected.

You just heard from one of our reporters moments ago there, describing to us and from the mayor as well, that it's cut a two-mile swath that went directly through the center of town.

Those are big buildings, folks. I mean, we're looking at them from way up above, but those are actually big buildings. And is typical fashion of a tornado. See the house on the right? It looks like it's almost a church or a large building.

It's fine. The house in the middle, destroyed. The house to the left, OK. The one further left of that really destroyed. I mean, it just seems to pick its targets indiscriminately, tornadoes do. And we're going to be getting more information on this. And we're going to be following it for you.

Meanwhile, another big story that we've been following for you, as we bring you the latest here in B control is the mother of Anna Nicole Smith, who's now fighting for custody of her daughter's remains. And this is happening while funeral arrangements are reportedly being made in the Bahamas.

In fact, let's take you to the Bahamas now. And that's where CNN's Rusty Dornin is standing by with the very latest. Have you been able to confirm, Rusty, at this point whether this funeral is going to take place or whether it's been planned? What are the folks down there saying?

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're not saying anything. And the local funeral home that did take care of Anna Nicole Smith's son, Danny, is saying that they have not been contacted yet about any kind of funeral arrangements. And there has not been any activity out at the cemetery, where reportedly she would be buried. So it's unclear if any prearrangements have been made so far.

SANCHEZ: Right. And legally, the Florida judge apparently decided that custody goes to the Bahamas or the jurisdiction belongs in the Bahamas. So that's where it most likely would happen.

However, now there's an appeal by the estranged mother. So that could hold things up a little bit. Hey, how about Howard K. Stern and the possibility that he might be evicted from that home where they were living in? What is that brouhaha all about?

DORNIN: Well, you know, there's a couple of things happening on Monday, Rick, that are going to be in the Bahamian courts. And the first one is going to have to do with the guardianship and custody of Dannielynn here in the Bahamas.

Now that started on Thursday. It was held over 'til tomorrow. Virgie Arthur, of course, Anna Nicole Smith's mother and Howard Stern are expected to be there. And that's huge.

Now, of course, Howard Stern is on the birth certificate. So he is listed as the guardian. But at any time, the Bahamian government could turn the child over to the social services.

Then later in the afternoon, there's going to be a hearing about the house that's been in question. The original owner of the house claims that he was allowing Anna Nicole Smith to stay there. She had -- that he had given her a promissory note, which we actually have a copy of, but she tore it up and threw it away.

So he says he still owns the house. However, the attorney for Anna Nicole Smith is saying, no, that the man gave her the house. So they're fighting -- but is saying he gave it was a gift. The other saying, no, I didn't give it as gift. She was supposed to pay me for it.

SANCHEZ: Yes. So now in court, it's all going to be revealed when somebody has to show papers because it's really all about signed contracts in deals like this.

Hey, by the way, you know, growing up in Miami, I obviously spent a lot of time in the Bahamas. I got a lot of friends down there. These are really low key people. They usually don't get involved this kind of scandalous stuff. How are they taking to all of this media attention?

DORNIN: Well, you hit it right on the head, Rick. Because when we first got here, people said, we're really not interested in this story.

Then a couple of days later, the front page of "The Tribune" here there were pictures of the Minister of Immigration Shane Gibson in an embrace with Anna Nicole Smith. It started a furor. People were talking about it everywhere. You couldn't go anywhere without people yelling at each other even in stores and debating it.

And it's election time here. So it became sort of a political football and a big scandal. So that's the bad side.

The good side is looks like it's been a bit of tourist boon. They've had a lot of taxi drivers locally and that sort of thing are being asked to take the tourists by Anna Nicole Smith's home, you know, where the baby reportedly is and also, out to the cemetery where her son is buried and where she may be buried over the next couple of weeks.

SANCHEZ: You're doing a heck of a job on the story, Rusty, as usual. Thanks so much for filling us in. We appreciate it.

Well, here's what we're going to do for you throughout the rest of the night. We're going to be concentrating on two other stories as well.

Obviously, the situation that's taking place down in -- I should say across from where we are right now in Atlanta, over to Dumas, Arkansas. It's serious enough that if we're able to get back with some of the correspondents, show you some of the more -- some other pictures or bring you later details, we're going to do that, of course, and bring it to you right here.

But we're also focusing on something else tonight. And this is this trend and these statistics that we're learning about hip hop and the United States, and just how many kids are involved with hip hop, whether they're Asian-American, African-American, white Americans, Hispanic Americans. Above 90 percent.

Most of the parents and grandparents don't know the music, but they do. And many consider it to be outrageous. Who's to blame for that outrageousness in this music? We'll look at that, as well. Stay with us. We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Welcome back to B control as we all look at these pictures together with you. They're continuing to come in. They've been doing so for the last 10 minutes or so.

Jacqui Jeras is standing by. She's been looking at them, as well. Jacqui, you know, typical tornado damage looks like, right? One house standing. The one next to it, certainly not so good.

JERAS: Yes, looks really spotty actually right in that area, too. It looks like we've got things kind of hanging in the trees, as well.

You know, the severe weather threat is still ongoing tonight. Not in Arkansas. They're done, but look at this massive storm. And it's not just the tornadoes, too, by the way. We've got some massive winter weather across the upper Midwest and stretching into the Ohio River Valley for tonight. A lot of ice in Iowa. Blizzard conditions in Milwaukee. And the threat of tornadoes then ongoing across the deep south.

And this is going do go on through the overnight hours and the early morning. The latest watch, which has been issued, that covers parts of eastern Mississippi, into northern parts of Alabama and including Birmingham, up towards Huntsville.

That watch is in effect until 3:00 in the morning. And that's why you need to have a NOA weather radio when you go to bed because this thing is going to wake you up in the middle of the night and get you out of bed, and get you down to your basement or the lowest level of your home away from doors and windows to a safe place. You can program it just to your own county. And this could really save lives.

Not everybody's got tornado warning sirens in their county that go off. And so in the middle of the night is the most dangerous time.

So if you live in Meridian, if you live in Columbus, if you live in Birmingham, into Huntsville, even into Montgomery, be aware that these storms are moving your way.

And we also have a chance of seeing some severe weather, we think, across parts of the southeast tomorrow afternoon or evening.

We're not anticipating the widespread outbreak that we saw this afternoon and this evening. We think things will slowly begin to wind down. Isolated severe storms will be more likely for tomorrow.

But boy, what a storm system. We also had some real big problems in the state of Texas with some grass fires and also some blowing dust. Visibility down below a quarter of a mile. And the Dallas/Fort Worth area, because of the wind so strong on the backside of this storm, Rick, 60 to 70 miles per hour wind gusts. Just incredible the power of this one storm affecting millions of people.

SANCHEZ: Thanks a lot, Jacqui. We certainly appreciate it. Boy, I hope those folks in Dumas and other areas were listening to you earlier, because you really called it. You said this is an area that could get hit. And boy, unfortunately it was. Thanks a lot, Jacqui. We'll get back to you.

Meanwhile, we're going to be talking about hip hop. Is it an insidious poisonous stuff? Or is it just a new trendy art form? This is what we're going to be looking into. Stay with us. We'll be right back from B control and the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: We got something for you tonight that really may surprise you. As you just saw, some of the words and some of the images are likely going to be offensive. This is about hip hop and how little we all seem to know about it and its effect that it's having on our kids, our grandkids.

When rock n roll was king, controversial meant, what, Elvis Presley? Jerry Lee Lewis. Well, times have definitely changed. Hip hop is the new king. And there's still plenty of controversy to go around when it comes to hip hop.

Whether your kids are white, whether they're African-American, whether they're Asian, whether they're Hispanic, whatever, chances are they are listening to hip hop. And that means we as parents probably should be listening to hip hop, as well.

CNN did a series of reports this week. And we were really -- we were startled by the response from people just like you. So we asked my colleague Paula Zahn to put together this encore report on hip hop. Is it art or is it poison?

PAULA ZAHN: Rick, hip hop is one of the most controversial forms of expression today. It is huge, a multibillion dollar business. So huge that we spent three days on a program taking an extensive look at the music and the culture. And it comes down to a very prickly question. Is hip hop art or poison? A quick heads up. This is a provocative subject. And some of you may find the images and language in this report disturbing.

Then again, your kids are probably watching the versions we haven't cleaned up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): Thirty years and counting, hip-hop, with its hard- driving beat, rhythmic, in-your-face lyrics, and streetwise attitudes, launched a look, an industry, and gave voice to people who didn't have one.

DANYEL SMITH, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "VIBE": There was this idea that, finally, in rap music, we have the microphone, and we can speak.

MARY J. BLIGE, 2007 GRAMMY WINNER: The freedom to actually show people what it is that you've come from, how you have come through it, you know, and, if you're still in it, to share with people what you're living.

ZAHN: Hip-hop today encompasses many styles, party rap, Gospel rap, socially conscious rap.

But the most explicit music is often what sells the best. And that's what gives hip-hop a bad rap. Some critics call it violent, materialistic, and exploitative of women. Others worry that it's lost its socially conscious message.

GRANDMASTER CAZ, RAP PIONEER D.J.: All these guys were out talking black nationalism. And then here's come gangsta rap, when we're shooting and talking about liquor and drugs and this and that. And the whole black movement went out the window.

BYRON HURT, DIRECTOR, "HIP-HOP: BEYOND BEATS & RHYMES": I'm concerned about the direction of it.

ZAHN: Byron Hurt grew up in the hip-hop generation. And his new documentary critiques the music he loves, especially its depiction of women.

HURT: What you're seeing mostly, though, is, you're seeing repetitive images of women as boy toy, as sex kitten, as sex objects. And I think that's a problem.

ZAHN: But hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons maintains that rap simply mirrors the problems in the real world.

RUSSELL SIMMONS, CHAIRMAN, HIP-HOP SUMMIT ACTION NETWORK: We're a violent and oversexed country. That's our sad truth. You know, and rappers are reflections of -- sometimes reflections of our sad truth.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Rick, the one thing that is clear about this heated debate, we have touched a national nerve by asking if hip hop is art or poison. Radio stations around the country took up the question. And on Thursday, I called into one popular show, along with rap artist Yung Joc, who is upset because there weren't more rappers on our first night's special, but I told him all the rappers we called, and believe we called a lot, couple dozen of them, they all turned down our invitations, but Young Jacque did agree to come on CNN that night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

YUNG JOC, RAPPER: As far as the women and misogynistic messages as we spoke of earlier on the radio, you know, I think sometimes we can be little more responsible as artists with our music and the way we use words. Derogatory words such as the B-word, the h-o-word and things of such.

I don't think that we try to depict our women or just women in general as that. This is a term that, you know, we use sometimes in hip hop. And at the end of the day, it's not just hip hop. It's not just our culture. If you look at any movie from -- I mean, right now, Bart Simpson can use the word 'ho'. And it's cool.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: And Rick, there is one more thing to add. We conducted a web poll on whether hip hop was art or poison. Here are the results, split straight down the middle showing, again, how divisive this subject is when we bring it out in the open. Back to you, Rick.

SANCHEZ: That's great stuff. Paula, we really thank you for bringing us up-to-date on that and so well told. And we're going to be discussing -- we've got some guests who are going to be joining us here in the studio in just a little bit, to talk about this -- the controversy surrounding hip hop.

But we've also, as you know, got breaking news that we're following. Let's go ahead, put that up here. This is that swath, almost two miles we're being told now, that's cut through Dumas, Arkansas. You see the video that's been coming in. You see the damage. It's really left us in shock as we saw the pictures. We knew it had been pretty bad, but we didn't think it would be this bad. This is probably that factory that is the one that employs or hires the most people in Dumas.

In fact, I'm told now we got Tina Owens on the phone. She's the spokesperson for the Department of Emergency Management in Arkansas. Ms. Owens, are you there?

TINA OWENS, DEPT. EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT, ARKANSAS: Yes, I am.

SANCHEZ: Boy, you know, we're shocked by looking at this. We thought it was bad, but we didn't think it would be this bad. What's your reaction been to this so far?

OWENS: Well, it has been quite a lot of damage in that area. Highway 65 that runs through the city of Dumas, most of the businesses on that street have been destroyed. A Freds Dollar Store, as well as a McDonalds, and then several homes that are up and down that street have also been destroyed.

SANCHEZ: Yes. And there's that factory there. We were just looking at it moments ago. I was pointing it out to our viewers. That's a huge building and I'm told it's probably the biggest employer for the town. That's going -- you know, the mayor said that they're going to be devastated economically by this storm. What are we going to be able to do for these people?

OWENS: Well, right now, we're just trying to assess the damage and take care of the citizens' needs for this evening. You know, we'll definitely look at the recovery efforts. But right now, our immediate effect is to deal with those citizens, the injuries, and make sure we've got those people taken care of tonight.

SANCHEZ: We are told 27 injuries at last count. That came from the mayor's office. Can you confirm that? And are any of those life threatening?

OWENS: As far as I know, there are none that are life threatening. I cannot confirm the number. We've been getting multiple reports in from different areas. I do know that we have some shelters open right now. We have about 78 people in the shelters.

SANCHEZ: And are those shelters going to be in a place where everyone can get to them? I mean, you know, sometimes after storms like this, the biggest problem we have is communication.

OWENS: Yes.

SANCHEZ: Getting word out to people of what they need to do, so they can be helped. You know, I'm looking at the pictures now and I'm seeing people walking through the debris, which is obviously as you know, another problem because people can end up getting hurt after the storm not during the storm.

OWENS: Exactly. The shelters are in a nearby neighborhood. So pretty close knit community. So they've been able to get word out very effectively to those people.

There are several churches that have opened up their doors for shelters this evening. So we have been able to get word out to most of the people.

There's also a curfew that's been put in place. Started at 6:00 p.m. this evening Central Standard time and will end at 7:00 a.m. in the morning.

SANCHEZ: Here's a Google Earth image that we have for you now. I think we'll be able to share this with the viewers. There it is. It's up on the screen. And you can see the town. How big is this town, Ms. Tina?

OWENS: There's about 5200 people in the town.

SANCHEZ: Wow. That's a pretty good sized town. You know, isn't it something the way these tornadoes can just zoom in? I mean, it so easily could have missed the town, right?

OWENS: Exactly, exactly.

SANCHEZ: And it would have hit nothing but cow pastures and fields. Instead, it went through like what seems to be main street here.

OWENS: Yes. You just never know where it's going to hit.

SANCHEZ: Tina Owens, spokesperson, Department of Emergency Management. We thank you for joining us tonight and bringing us up- to-date on this. And we send our best wishes to all the people there. And we hope they can get through the night.

OWENS: Thank you so much.

SANCHEZ: We're going to be keying in on hip hop and the effect it's having on all of our children. Is it a poisonous, devastating art form that's affecting our children? Or is it just a trendy music?

Well, there's arguments on both sides, as you might expect. And we're going to talk to both sides. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Welcome back the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rick Sanchez. In hip hop, well, keeping it real can mean a lot of different things. Some call it a raw language.

If it's too real or raw for kids, who should act as gatekeepers? Well, maybe the deejays could be a good place to start. So we got two of them. Two deejays who are joining us right now.

Corey Hill from jamming 94.5 joins us from Boston. There he is.

COREY HILL, RADIO DJ: Hey, Rick,

SANCHEZ: Also Greg Street from radio station V 103 in Atlanta joins us here in the studio. Let's get right to it.

Greg, let's start with you. You're here. A lot of people say, why are you playing this music? Why are you making my kids listen to this stuff with some of the outrageousness that's involved in it?

GREG STREET, V 103: At V 103, we monitor a lot of the music that we play and a lot of songs, a day card. A lot of radio stations around the country program their radio. They program their music a lot according to research. And a lot programmers don't understand that some songs...

SANCHEZ: Do you decide what songs go on your radio station?

STREET: Some of them. A lot of deejays don't. A lot of deejays go strictly by what's programmed through programming.

SANCHEZ: Can you decide, you know what, that's a nasty song. I'm not going to let my viewers -- or my listeners hear that song?

STREET: Well, normally by boss will come to me first and say I don't think we need it.

SANCHEZ: And who's that? That's a program director?

STREET: Reggie Ross.

SANCHEZ: Same situation for you, Greg? Are you there, Greg? I'm sorry. Corey, are you there?

HILL: I'm right here, Rick. What's up?

SANCHEZ: I got your names mixed up. I apologize. Corey, do you decide what songs you play?

HILL: I'm a similar situation to Greg. I mean, some songs I get to determine whether I play them or whether or not. But you know, to back up what Greg said, you know, all these radio stations across the country spend hundreds of thousands of dollars researching certain songs, and you know, when they should be played, and if they should be played. So to a certain extent, you know, 10 percent of what I play, yes, I have influence on. The 90 is not in my hands.

SANCHEZ: Do you have songs where you decide, you know what? This is nasty? I should not be -- this song should not be on our air. And do you feel comfortable enough walking into your program director's office and saying, guys, I'm really uncomfortable with this music? We shouldn't put this kind of music on the air, because it could have an influence on our kids.

HILL: Well, the good thing about radio, and Greg can back me up on this, is you know, all of our songs are edited. Some for content, definitely all the foul language is definitely edited out.

So there's not any song on my radio station that I don't feel comfortable playing at this point in time. SANCHEZ: Well, you know, some of these songs and you know maybe you can help me here, Greg, you know, the word -- the B-word that we hear of so much, you know, that rhymes with itch. It's a way of referring to women.

STREET: Right.

SANCHEZ: You know, the other way of referring to women as prostitutes, much nastier word. I mean, do you want -- I don't want my kid listening to that kind of stuff.

STREET: Well, I worked for CBS Viacom CBS. And after the situation happened with Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl, I mean, they're on us constantly about music, constantly about the content of songs.

SANCHEZ: Yes.

STREET: So you know, at V 103, we happen to be the only major market station in the country that has double digit numbers. So we make sure we research our music.

SANCHEZ: So some of that stuff is taken out?

STREET: All of it's taken out.

SANCHEZ: Corey, yours too?

HILL: Definitely, definitely. No b-word, no h-word, nothing like that.

SANCHEZ: And you're still viable, competitively? I mean economically you're able to beat the other stations? Are there stations that don't bleep that stuff out?

HILL: No, that's against the rules. There is a window. After 10:00 p.m., the rules do open up a little bit as far as the FCC is concerned. As far as we're concerned here in Boston at jamming 94.5, WJMN, our rules apply all day, every day.

SANCHEZ: But the message gets through even after you bleep it, though, right? I mean, it's still denigrating women. It's still reinforcing violence. That's a problem.

STREET: But what it is is the world is a ghetto.

SANCHEZ: Yes.

STREET: And rappers write movie scripts. Rappers write TV shows. They write about what go on in their communities. If you Google the top violent movies and see what comes up on the screen, if you Google the top TV shows on daytime television, you watch the content, rappers are rapping about what's going on in the world every day. Drugs, violence, sex, cars, jewelry. That's what's going on.

SANCHEZ: So what they're doing is they're telling a story that too often has been ignored by the rest of us in the mainstream media, , right?

STREET: Well, we haven't been -- it's not been ignored because everybody goes to the movie theaters. And we watch it. I mean, a woman takes her shirt off for "The Jerry Springer Show" every day to get (INAUDIBLE). Maury talks about women who don't know who their baby daddy's is every day on TV -- on daytime TV.

SANCHEZ: But does it need -- you know, Corey, I'll get back to you. Does it need to be so graphic to tell the story? I mean, if this is the poetry of an inner city, does the poetry need to be so nasty?

HILL: Well, to some people it is nasty. To some people, it's not. I mean, for the person that doesn't live in that environment, is not familiar with that environment, doesn't have any friends or family that's in that environment on a daily basis, of course, it's going to sound crazy.

But the true reality is...

SANCHEZ: But what environment? You know what? Because let me tell you something. I don't think this is a black/white thing because...

HILL: Not at all, not at all.

SANCHEZ: All my friends who I think -- all my African-American friends who I play basketball with, and play golf and do all the other old boring stuff with, when we sit around talking about our kids' music, whether it's their kids or my kids, we all say I don't get it. Why do they want to listen to that stuff? We don't get it. Make us understand why our kids are so enthused with this stuff?

STREET: What it is is your TI's and your Geezes (ph) and your Ying Yang twins and your Franchise Boys, and your Defoils (ph) and your Rick Ross and your Trick Daddies, they're nothing more than the new Rick James, the new Little Richards, the new -- they're the new guys.

SANCHEZ: Well, did Little Richard go that far? I mean, Elvis shook his hips and they took him off TV.

STREET: Prince did it. Prince talked about sex in all his records. Rick James talked about smoking marijuana Mary Jane, and talked about sex.

HILL: And take it even a step further. The Beatles, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds."

SANCHEZ: They were talking about drugs.

HILL: Exactly.

SANCHEZ: So the message has been that bad ever since. It's just that now, it seems a little more -- it seems -- it does seem more outrageous to the rest of us. STREET: It's really a problem now because rappers, they're making publishing money. Budweiser is giving Jay-Z $1.5 million to shoot a video.

SANCHEZ: But you know, the question here, and this is what we're going to be getting to later on, is where is the emphasis on doing these type of outrageous songs? And it seems to me, you know, there's an old expression that we've all heard. Follow the money. And that's what we're going to do.

Gentlemen, Corey, Greg, thanks for being with us. We really appreciate it.

HILL: Thanks a lot for having us.

SANCHEZ: No, it's great. We appreciate the information. We're going to talk about that. And kids speak out as well on hip hop and society as we continue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think you need both art and poison, because what people fail to realize is that rap isn't meant to be real life. Rap is entertainment, which makes it an art.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Hmm, that's one take from the young people. And now we're talking hip hop. Is it art or is it poison? Up next, we're going to ask rap's first female voice. MC Lyte joins us. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: So you may be asking yourself, where did hip hop begin? It didn't start out as a $4 billion industry. No, in fact, it had a pretty humble beginning.

So what we want to do now is take you back to the Bronx where it all began.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Take yourself back more than 35 years, back when "Good Times" was a number one show, when penny candy was really a penny, and when kids were safe to play hop-scotch and hide and seek until the street lights came on.

In the Bronx, a deejay by the name of Kool Herc decided to give bored, inner city kids something else -- a way to express themselves, while at the same time, giving them something that would occupy their time, thereby keep them out of trouble.

(MUSIC)

SANCHEZ: Kool Herc dragged deejay equipment down to the playground and taught youngsters how to break dance, how to make a unique sound called scratching, how to beat box, which is a way of blowing air through their cupped hands, and eventually, how to rap. It grew into a cultural phenomenon.

One of the kids in the Bronx group later became known as KRS One. He grew into a social rapper with a tendency toward more moral and intellectual songs. He married poetry with music.

Artists say hip hop started with a message of peace, and love, and unity. And yes, even respect for women.

It was essentially happy music, a way to escape the negative realities that plagued the streets. By the early '80s, the hip hop movement had spread all over New York.

Flash forward now to the early 1990's. What started as art in the Bronx is now a global phenomenon filled with bling-bling, naked women, expensive cars, guns, violence. Where did the tide turn?

Some blame corporate greed for turning the hip hop culture into hip hop, the product. Here's what KRS One says. "True hip hop is going to have to look at its own shortcomings and immaturity, and take responsibility for contributing to its own negative exploitation."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Joining us now is somebody who's going to tell us how hip hop changed and not necessarily for the better. And she ought to know. She's one of the originals. MC Lyte is a distinguished artist.

Thanks so much for hanging in there with us, MC. How has it changed?

MC LYTE, RAP ARTIST: Oh, goodness, it's big business. I think because we were the ones who started everything. And now it to see -- it sort of switched hands now as to who controls it. We've sort of lost control of hip hop.

SANCHEZ: That's interesting. And who's controlling it now? And how are they different than the folks controlling it back when you got started in this?

LYTE: Well, I mean, corporate America is basically holding on to it right now. There's -- they're the gatekeepers. If you are not on the front of magazines, then you're not hot. If you're not -- if you can't buy a spot to be played on radio, then oh well. If you can't buy your spot on video channels, then oh well. So you can only hope that there can be some new format that allow new music to get through.

SANCHEZ: Well, you know, the part about the hip hop that a lot of people look at it, and certainly a lot of CNN viewers, is the part that seems insulting and degrading. Are you telling me since corporate America took over hip hop, it's actually gotten worse in that regard?

LYTE: Well, no, I think what has happened is there's no -- there's no longer the A&R person that really puts everything into that one artist and builds that artist. It's more so about a hit song.

SANCHEZ: Has hip hop cheapened by the commercialization of it?

LYTE: To a certain degree, I believe so. But there's such a surge of real hip hop. And we're not hearing it, because there's no format for it to be heard.

SANCHEZ: When we look at hip hop, those of us who truly don't understand it, because maybe it's generational thing, the one thing I respect, and I think a lot of people respect, is that there's a message there from people who weren't hearing that message from anywhere else. It's -- there's almost a poetry to it. And by commercializing this product, you lose some of that, don't you? And you're just putting out the same old dirty words over and over again. That's a problem.

LYTE: Well, yes, it is. It absolutely is. And I'd like to say, like Chuck D says, hip hop is supposed to be the CNN of the hood. You know, we're supposed to tell it like it is and tell -- you know, just the -- just what's happening on the scene.

However, it's just to me one sided and one dimensional. And it's time for us to loosen up the strains on hip hop and let it be what it is, all of the color, you know, all of the color that exists within hip hop.

And I think, you know, Kanye West is a perfect example. Eminem is a perfect example of being able to tell you who they are, and it not be totally in the midst of just sex, drugs, and murder.

I say to all of those folks who don't have a major record deal, and don't want to fall into the gaps of trying to be like everybody else, you keep your own identity. Be unique. Be original. And you will shine.

SANCHEZ: You know what's interesting is the point that you make, and I think the thing the viewers come away with is, the idea that corporate America gets involved in something because there's a lot of money to be made. And they don't necessarily strengthen the product or "make it morally better" for those of us who'd like to enjoy it as well. That's an interesting point that you've made.

MC, we thank you for being on. Really an interesting perspective on this.

LYTE: Thank you very much for having me.

SANCHEZ: All right. Appreciate it.

And there you have it. So I guess the question is, as we finish that one, is it possible that big business has done more to pollute this art form than anything else?

Well, let's talk to a record executive official. It's John Frank. He's with Coach Entertainment. He's good enough to join us now from New York to take the heat. You've heard the charge. What do you -- how do you answer?

JOHN FRANK, COACH ENTERTAINMENT: Hey, Rick. How are you?

SANCHEZ: Good. Who are you doing?

FRANK: Doing great tonight.

SANCHEZ: What do you think about that, that you know, the fact that we commercialize this, and guys like yourself have actually hurt what hip hop really originally stood for, and that was a voice for people in the city...

FRANK: Right.

SANCHEZ: ...in the inner city. Go?

FRANK: Well, you know, Rick, I mean, hip hop has become a huge multibillion dollar business. We are -- I work for an independent label. And you know...

SANCHEZ: Yes, but it's -- has that -- here's my question. Has that been good or bad from hip hop? Because I'm hearing from people tonight, who are telling us, that it hasn't been good, that it's been bad for hip hop. It's over commercialized it, and actually even made it nastier.

FRANK: Well, you know, it's been really good for commerce. And at the end of the day like, you know, the root of this whole conversation is what is it about it? It's really about money. Right? And hip hop is...

SANCHEZ: You're not going to go there are you? I mean, it's really -- I mean, don't you have some sense of moral register here? To say, you know, what, you're right. I wish we could pull this thing back, but right now, it's too caught up in the money? I mean, are you saying that it's in the money? Are you saying that critically or are you praising it?

FRANK: You know what I'm saying? What I'm saying to you, Rick, is there's a lot of great hip hop out there. Hip hop, when it's great, is truly an art form. And I think it's probably to a certain degree still not understood by a lot of people in white America.

SANCHEZ: Let me show you something that I don't think is an art form. Go ahead, guys, if we could. Play this for him if we could.

(MUSIC)

SANCHEZ: All right, this is the guy here, right? Unc? And the name of the song is "Walk It Out." We're going to put it up on the screen. Bear with us, viewers. We're going to cover you, but we're still going to be able to see you, Mr. Frank.

The words on this song, ready? Ho ho, the N-word, the N-word, more of them hos. The B-word that rhymes with itch. I mean, your response? FRANK: Fun, club party song, that actually has been edited in every possible incarnation. There's a clean version of this song. Kids love the ringtone.

You know, at the end of the day, we create entertainment. There's nothing -- this is a really fun, down to earth song. Part of the words and part of the lyrical slant was put in there by the artist. He's got to do what he's got to.

SANCHEZ: Yes.

FRANK: But this is a very light hearted, fun song.

SANCHEZ: You almost wanted to hear you finish the term. He's got to do what he's got to do to make his money.

FRANK: But you know what?

SANCHEZ: And that's a problem, but you what...

FRANK: But let me finish.

SANCHEZ: You've got 10 seconds, if you can close it out.

FRANK: There's nothing offensive about this particular song. Kids love it. It's a huge ringtone. It's a fun party song. It's not a gangster rap song.

SANCHEZ: I would disagree with you, just looking at the words in there, but we thank you. And we thank you especially for taking time and for taking the heat as well.

FRANK: Thanks for having me.

SANCHEZ: John Frank, record executive.

FRANK: I appreciate it.

SANCHEZ: Well, finally tonight, it does seem like audaciousness and outrageous is generational. (INAUDIBLE), John Lennon's God reference. Drugs, rock and roll, and now hip hop.

We thought it was a shock thing. Some call it a black thing. But if we learned anything tonight after conversations like this, for parents like me and yourself, the real problem in hip hop may be it's really about a money thing.

My final thoughts. Hope to hear from you soon. Thanks for being with us. See you again soon.

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