"We decided to appeal the R rating to allow teenagers access to see this film because they are the ones who need it most," says Rolle. "After years of working with teens, I know you have to reach them when they are young. Just as I didn't have a parent to take me to the movies when I was a teenager, many of the young people who would benefit most from this film would have been denied access if the R rating stood." Ruskin told the ratings board: "This motion picture is a call to end the destructive forces of violence, misogyny and criminality that dominate the music our children are listening to." Rap mogul Russell Simmons, who helped fund studio time for this film with Willis, recently called for the elimination of the "n-word," "ho" and "bitch" in rap lyrics. (On an editorial note, I guess we're not supposed to notice that Simmons has amassed an incredible amount of wealth from music containing those very words).
The Iraq War documentary Gunner Palace set the precedent for this sort of appeal. That film contained a whopping 42 "F-words," and received an R-rating that the filmmakers appealed in order to get a PG-13. (This was discussed in detail in Kirby Dick's highly entertaining This Film is Not Yet Rated). That appeal had no precedent, and so the filmmakers had to argue the context and purpose of the offending language. They succeeded, and because of recent revisions to MPAA rules, the makers of The Hip-Hop Project were able to cite Palace as a precedent in their appeal. Gunner Palace is now available to be shown as part of high school curriculum. The Hip-Hop team hopes their movie gets into high schools as well, and all net profit from the film will be donated to youth organizations. And that's a rap.