Carmen Ashhurst Discusses the Music Industry

Photo by Rosamund Hunter

This year’s keynote speaker at the 12th Annual Women’s History Conference was Carmen Ashhurst, former president of Def Jam Records and Rush Communications.  Ashhurst’s invaluable perspectives on the music industry gave her an eager audience for the conference’s theme, “The Message is in the Music: Hip-Hop Feminism, Riot Grrrl, Latina Music, and More.”

Ashhurst worked alongside Russell Simmons before the commercial explosion of hip-hop in the early 1990s.  A former political activist in Grenada, she began working in the music industry at a time when it was more radical and subversive.

Ashhurst’s talk was rooted in the belief that hip-hop’s most popular acts now foster sexist, racist images and that much of the successful rap music today represents a “profound racial self-hatred.”  She emphasized that she and other women executives lost control as hip-hop became more popular and marketed to a mass audience.  Ashhurst asserted, “The music business is about selling music, not making music.” Continue reading