In the last couple of weeks I have been repeatedly asked my feelings towards two people who are polar opposites, Pac Man Jones and Don Imus. Of course, I immediately ran to my Macbook and started my entry for what would be my latest blog. In all of my previous blogs, I was able to crank out my material in one setting, only slowing down to type. However the dynamic of these two individuals in national headlines and in personal struggle thwarted my intelligence to a rare location. Now staring at me were the contrasts young vs. old, black vs. white, words vs. actions. It was a discussion jackpot for a sociologist!
However, when I sat down to write on these subjects, I found the writer in me couldn't restrain himself. My mind went everywhere! In struggle for clarity, I tried to provide structure and a sensible end to this subject without writing 20,000 words about it. I guess none of this would be a problem if I were writing a book and not just a blog.
So as I labored for days on the subject, constantly adding words to the document, it became obvious I was in a different place. No jokes would surface in this entry, no persona of subconscious in parentheses to show introspect, no "Dat Dude" amusement to soothe the slight message I was trying to convey. No, this issue was too serious.
Everyone knows God works in mysterious ways and I lived such revelation this morning while in Virginia with my daughter. After taking her to her grandparent's house in a taxicab, I was heading to the airport, being driven by a black man looking to be in his fifties. What stood out during this ride were the slow jams he had playing through the tape deck. After returning to the car after my goodbye kiss from my little lady, I told Clarence (the driver) how great his selection of songs were. The usual suspects of Earth, Wind, and Fire, The Isley brothers, all the groups that warmed you with their talent and gift of expressing love.
Clarence responded by saying, "Nothing but the best". And hastily finished by stating, "I don't do that rap stuff". Curious for a discussion on the matter, especially in wake of Oprah Winfrey's caucus on the same issue, I asked was it the beats or lyrics he despised? "The Message is poison, and black people don't need to hear any more poison than they have already".
Of course, I could've instantly written Clarence off as an out of touch, elder who doesn't understand or feel the power source and frustration of the music.
In my personal life, we are talking about a guy who has avidly collected rap music since the age of seven. If there is a person who has more love for rap music than me, I haven't met him. Everyone knows that my music catalogue is tops in quality and quantity. Frankly, I love rap music. But in this dear love for the music I currently struggle to embrace, I honestly must admit and conceit defeat in the argument before it even truly starts. I love rap enough to hold on to it and challenge it, even through its indiscretions.
Rap in the mainstream has become poison! Rap is a catalyst in the continuance and promotion of ignorance in our community. Has it always been that way? No, no, no, not at all. But, has it been mis-directed and placed in the hands of artists and businessmen whose bottom-line profit lust blinds them from producing the art and the reflection of reality it was intended to do? Does it still infuse hope, as previous, to all those subjected to lesser-than conditions, while battling and striving for prosperity?
Lets not forget that today's music and its pictorials of violence, its references to niggas, bitches and hoes, its acceptance of ignorance, and the promotion of bravado as cool, and love as weak, has taken our community on a ride that we have now realized that many of us shouldn't have gotten on.
Nas was wrong, hip-hop is not dead. Its alive and wreaking havoc on its own, in a cannibalistic way. Its subscribers are its victims. Its listeners are its prey. I am a victim. I was conditioned from my exchange with this art form in some ways I had to unlearn for my own progress. I don't sit here and say its all bad, because I must reiterate, I love rap. But the cost analysis, the benefits vs. the detriments, has drastically shifted of late.
Do we remember that people have died, and maybe what's worse, lived through subjection over these terms nigga, bitch, and ho? Do we know and remember that most of the blood spilled in our streets during the civil rights era was to protect us from being called something less than sir or maam, being treated less than man or woman, being assumed minor in human intellect and esteemed for nothing but physical labor and entertainment?
So how do we go around now and embrace such terms and project the mindset that have gotten our ancestors, great grandparents, uncles and aunties pigeonholed, ridiculed, or even worse! This slave mentality is alive and has us complacent, now singing the song of prosperity through the aspiration of riches knowing damn well that we can't take any of that with us.
I'm talking from experience when I said I was caught up! Do I blame rap? Not in the least, but I will admit that its influence weighed on me heavily to the point that my decisions in life aligned with many of the values illustrated in the songs and the videos. I wanted to play the part, I wanted to live in that world, and I wanted to fill in the blanks between songs with my life. The clothes I wore, the way I wore them, the cars I drive, the places I've gone have all had links to this once, beautiful hip-hop culture. And I'm not one of the rare exceptions in this matter. Most, if not, ALL youth listening to rap or any form of music aligns their social paradigm around those that they admire or give energy and attention to.
What's sad now is that rap has imploded. It has eaten itself up alive, spitting out discontented listeners, selling spoiled food for thought, and endorsing a population of menaces to society. No wonder album sales are down drastically. And please don't blame the Internet, because most of these songs are not even worth the free download!
I may be considered a sell-out for thinking such, but I am too keen to recognize the true source of that condemnation. The last times I was called a sell-out, I was speaking proper English, choosing an Ivy-League education, studying for my tests or practicing football instead of hanging out, all criticism driven by ignorance. Never forget the proverb that, "Open rebuke is better than hidden love".
I am even in the works of distributing acts on my Dat Dude record label. Of course, some acts will be rap. I am not a hater of my own music or culture, but I will call a spade a spade. Everyone needs to get out of the rat race and inspire others to seek those breathless moments in life. The moments that bring a joy that no check could purchase. Lets lead more people down that yellow brick road, instead of guiding them through the jungle of these gutter streets to another dead end.
Don Imus was dead ass wrong for making those comments. Because of his level of influence and power, his work places his act and his responsibility on a totally different level. He is a role model, and by being that, must assume that his acts will be replicated by adoring fans. It's no different with athletes, entertainers, or any group that is revered by others.
However, what also is wrong is us to blame him for this same act he blundered. He was conditioned just the same as we were into believing something was cool that by no stretch of the imagination is. Sometimes you have to get out the forest to see the trees and this is what his comments showed us. Don't shoot the messenger, it's the message. If we are pissed at what he said, a distant second place should be who said it. If somebody would've called my momma or sister a "nappy headed ho", it could've been her black boss, white co-worker, or chinese home girl, and with any of the three we would've had a problem!
That's the level of consciousness and connection rap was intended to form. We were supposed to be family. We were supposed to be sick and tired of how it was, and how it is, and in our solidarity would form a new way. A better way!
This 2007 way is not better; it's relatively the same as it was of old master's acreage. So, frankly I'm not mad at Imus for saying something that so many of us black men, including myself, have given him permission to do.
Do u really know how relative our conditions today are to post slavery? Our mindsets are conditioned to destroy ourselves through low expectations, violent acts on one another, crab in the bucket psyches, and wait and see attitudes that get swept away into the mainstream.
Yes, I know, we now have a slew of multi-millionaires and a couple of billionaires. But, economically that's still relative to the slavery era. When the powers that be were earning hundreds of thousands, we were earning pennies. When they made millions, we made hundreds and a few thousands. Nowadays, some of us think we are on top of the world with the stacks we have. I will admit we have come along way financially from our roots, but let me humble some of the ballers that I hear screaming they can make it rain in the club!
I've been told in discussions that you can add up the total net worth of the entire African-American population, which is 40 million plus people and they won't be worth more than two people, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Yes, I'm talking about Oprah, Bob Johnson, Michael Jordan, all of us in the NBA, NFL, etc. and we still are nothing but the remainder to those two fortunes!
In the battle for dominance of our human intellect, we have witnessed the arrival and supremacy of a new victor in our culture clash. Allowed a valet and V.I.P. entrance into our social mentality, this new challenger "Catchy" has toppled over our champion thoughts and sentiments, an old wisdom formerly known as "Content". Gone are the days when meaning is the main ingredient for the soul food that keeps our society vibrant and progressive. In present time, we have succumbed to a state of affairs where splash entertainment has all of our minds playing tricks on us. (The Geto Boys warned us).
Today's media is now directed with the derivative of popularity and profit, vomiting out all elements of profoundness. What saddens me most is that we have become comatose, in majority, to this reality. The fortunate few who are cognizant of this said reality are seemingly paralyzed to inspiring others at that fork in the road; being mesmerized by short-lived trinkets into following the mainstream, rather than challenging the norm, which doesn't offer major support nor notoriety.
So it is of no surprise to me that Don Imus' descriptive of those young ladies as "Nappy Headed Hoe's" has created outrage and opened the floodgates to every liberal, minority group to hold forum on this countries most worn subject, Racism. In meaning, underlying the effective execution of racism has always been its attachment to power and its ability to enforce such a mindset upon its victims, in which the potential of true influence resides. Because of the backlash of those comments, which was naively unforeseen by Imus himself, the strength and stranglehold of this historical, well-entrenched "power" must now also come under investigation.
Slavery has been enigmatic since its first display of terror and influence, even in its physical form. . The days of the slave ship have sailed away. The sighting of black men, women, and children, attached to trees by the dangling of their necks, has seen its prime. The drenched street of water-hosed people of color has lost its subscription in our society. Those images that have been spray-painted into our psyche for over 400 years of detriment now seem more infrequent in occurrence, frankly. Slowly, the walls of our cerebral membranes have slowly been painted over with a new reality of equality and affluence.
Some naysayers may disagree with this progressive paradise as being true to life. Well, obviously they haven't sat down with a black youth lately.
Gone are the days of separate water fountains, separate bathrooms, and separate social conditions. With less incidents relative to the past to make mention of, gone are the normal identities and expressions formerly attached to racism and its display in our day-to-day lives. Now blacks are not only encouraged to be apart of mainstream society, but more than ever show an affinity to excel when given these opportunities. We are living in a world where we have second, even third, generation black multi-millionaires! So what are all the complaints about racism coming from? Seems to me that we should be holding progression parties instead of protests, right?
If only these conditions were truly reflective of the actual temperature of our race relations!
The transformation that has occurred over time has been subtle in its movement. The mask and costume of the villain has changed throughout history as well as the power of his movement.
The slave master walked proudly, without veil, amongst his acreage while establishing his superiority of the mind and body over his servants of color. In contrast, the Klansman disguised his face in attempt to deepen the psychological impact he had on his victims. This gave him the blueprint to live the double life, a member of the community by day, and a hate-filled vigilante by night. All of this afforded him the opportunity to live a normal existence with a disguise to protect his true identity.
So in what form is this still existing population of primal evil displaying itself now? Some would say in uniform as policemen, but that argument is flawed. Despite their many documented cases of harassment, assault, and even murder, the police force lacks the socio-economic status per man to inflict such terrors of the past. Some say politicians, but the progress is too tremendous for people of color to swallow that pill in one gulp. They definitely have the necessary means to alter progression, but there are too many cases of support that would fuel this debate. I think we have all but forgotten the concept of "The Man", who sits behind a cherry wood desk across from a dart board filled with the faces of Oprah, Bob Johnson, Tavis Smiley, Jay-Z, and takes target practice at the dark leaders of today. I assume it's pretty tough to say where this group of society now has its large support or headquarters in its display of power and wealth.
But, I did ask you earlier have you sat down with a black youth lately, and I don't remember your answer, but rest assure that I have. In discussion with our next generation, what is startling is the pervasive negative attitudes and beliefs that have now been internalized by Black America.
The first example of this conversation would highlight the usage of the term "Nigga", derived from the term "Nigger". I have had many an argument, some even sober, about this term. I'm certain you have heard these points as well, "It's cool,….it's a term of endearment…..we have flipped it and made it an expression of love instead of hate!" I'm sure we have all put on our used car salesman hat and tried to sell this term to others and ourselves knowing damn well that it's a piece of junk! How in the hell did something that was derived from an intention to mentally degrade and suggest and insist inferiority transform itself into a salutary form of expression? Look people, dude started from dude, partner started from partner, homeboy started from homeboy, in expression and intention. None of these terms have made quantum leaps in meaning in the dictionary to portray its better side. So trust me, you can say what you want about it, but Nigga is still the same word and has the same affect, whether you are conscience of it or not!
That bridges me into our relationship with modern day racism. What racism has transformed into in this day and age is an evolution from the conscience into the sub-conscience, especially in Black America. This pattern of behavior follows the blueprint of imprisonment to the letter. As a villain, you are short-lived in subjecting the physical of the individual. True power is having influence over the mind. This is the grand prize in controlling the masses. Daily, the negativity is showing its ugly head as a symptom to a problem that is deeply rooted in our conditioned being.
In this particular slice of the game of life, the coach doesn't have to lead the team anymore. He doesn't have to drill us on which plays to call and how to run his scheme. We have learned his lessons time and time again to the extent that we have passed down his psyche as a playbook. We now know how to do what he wants us to do OURSELVES!!! And this is where the responsibility and blame, if necessary, lies.
Racism displays itself in conscience, but not by any comparison as to it's previous haunting. But, it is still well alive in our subconscious and in our subtleties. It shows it still lives every time we exchange one another as niggas. Why do you think most elders refrain from the usage of the term. Because they have wisdom!
The internal despise that we register within our race has risen to the point of disappointed acceptance. We have now tiered our own community in hopes of gaining clarity to our own dispositions of ethnic hate. Comedians joke constantly that blacks can't do anything right, ruined by a random shooting, an ignorant gesture or act, or an inability to sustain progress while enlightening others. Underlying their entire belly busting amusement is a spirit that whispers doubt, suspicion, and ineptness amongst one another. Listen!
As every song plays on the radio reminding my conscience of it's subconscious crippling, I am marketed and suggested to support such a medium. At the same time, the mental offerings of today's music do nothing to the vitality of my mind and spirit. How do I juggle both? I love rap, I love hip-hop, I love the culture, but I hate the state of affairs that presently exist. Artists have dimmed their lights in this mainstream expression solely to make a couple of dollars or for the fleeing grasp of fame. What saddens me most is that now this professional settling is presented to everyone as a viable option, instead of another bad decision.
Is today's rap for real and reflective of reality, as originally intended, or is it like wrestling, just for sensationalism and entertainment purposes only? Rappers mention that actors display far worse behaviors in their roles to the masses to consume in the visual experience. Therefore, rappers feel that actors should receive the same negative publicity, as does their art form. The biggest flaw in that argument is that movies are based off of a script, which lets you know it isn't real. However, raps are assumed to be based on the individual's life and reality. At least that's what I thought was meant by the term, "Keeping it Real". And if it is not real, then you are truly in violation of the original code of our music.
The black conscience was idle and elected to implode and turn on itself. Negating the need for master anymore in the fields, we have the slave mentally in our mind in these expressions. STILL!!!
Clarence told me an analogy that involved the Ford brothers. Through their creativity, ingenuity, and work, they produced a company that made cars. Inside every car they produced an owners manual. When read cover to cover, it gives you the ability to know how to maximize your cars performance. If it says, keep your tires at 35 lbs, you do that. If it says use premium gas, you do that. If it says service it every 3000 miles, just do it. If not, there is no question your car will have problems. Well, God has constructed something more complex and magnificent than the ford brothers did……US! He also gave us an owners manual that when read cover to cover will help us know how to maximize our lives. If we don't follow the truths and natural laws in that manual, their is no question your life will have problems. I have been skimming over my manual. But, who am I to complain? I'm still trying to figure out how to switch gears!
"What we inhale is the only capacity we have to exhale." -Bishop Noel Jones
P.S. I promise to make ya'll laugh next time!