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Say no to hip-hop’s excesses

Jackson, Derrick, “Say no to hip-hop’s excesses,” The Boston Globe, 12Nov05, A11.

 

OVERVIEW

 

Can hip-hop regain its original integrity and avoid the mass media’s demand for over-the-edge obscenity and crass mediocrity? African-American journalist, Derrick Jackson, weighs in.

 

White CEOs do not chair meetings in gold chains, railing about “honkies, bitches and hoes. They love black men who wear gold chains and scream about “n……, bitches and hoes.”…

 

Reebok sneaker company which posted $3.8 billion in sales last year and is in the process of being sold to Adidas-Salomon for $3.8 billion, announced that it will… produce interviews with the likes of 50 Cent, Jay-Z, and Tony Yayo. Reebok will make them for Def on Demand, a black-run serviced backed by Russell Simmons.

 

Reebok’s director of advertising, Marc Fireman, said that the company “is excited to partner with an entertainment channel so in tune with youth and hip-hop culture. Def on Demand’s customizable entertainment is a great fit for Reebok’s own spirit of individuality and authenticity.”

 

Reebok had little to say about Rosa Parks and other heroes. So what is the black authenticity and individuality Reebok is here extolling? The writer of this article gives samples:

 

From 50 Cent:

 

There’s a problem, I’m a solve it, a n….. movin’ around with a big a.. revolver…. You f… with me, you see, I’ll react like an animal, I tear you apart. If the masterpiece was murder, I’d major in art.

 

Jay-Z, part owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball team explains and defends: “This is educated thug music, n……”

 

Tony Yayo raps:

 

I’m in that brand new Range: when I pull up, kid, I turn your brains into red concrete stains. That’s the beauty of gruesome violence.

 

Journalist Jackson is not to be intimidated as he cuts to, what he sees as, the heart of the problem:

 

It is tragic enough that black rappers and hip-hop moguls prostitute themselves to the Fortune 500 with the very stereotypes about violence, stupidity, and sexual drive that white society used to justify slavery, colonization, segregation, and lynching…. (Yet) Jay-Z makes millions saying, “I take and rape villages.”

 

African-Americans can no longer afford to coddle these people. The black czars of gutter hip-hop are the new house slaves. And Reebok’s promotion of this material, along with Comcast and other media giants, is just as reprehensible.

 

Of course, we know the defenses raised to defend raw hip-hop: This is realistic art; nobody takes it seriously; it’s the beat not the lyrics. But Jackson reminds us.

 

At the close of 2004, all top-10 rap singles ranked by Billboard used the “n” word in their uncensored versions

 

At Reebok’s annual investor conference division officials echoed Fireman, saying, “These kids hang on every word” of Jay-Z because his influence on youth culture is tremendous and what he represented two and a half years ago he still represents today, but even more so, because he’s evolved.”

 

And how does Reebok describe 50 Cent?

 

This guy is truly a marketing machine and will have a lot of momentum. We’re going to really capture and provide that momentum and be with 50…. 50 Cent is very large and his influence is incredible and he’s really captured a major movement and people are following him and going with him.

 

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION

 

1.  First of all, do blacks and whites have a right to raise criticisms against hip-hop?  Why or why not?

2.  How do you agree or disagree with Derrick Jackson’s article?

3.  Do you like hip-hop and rap music? Liking it or not, are you concerned about its lyrics and images? What do you have to say to the creators of hip-hop?

4.  What influence do you think hip-hop has: on street kids, decent, hard working or studying youth in inner cities, on young white kids (girls and boys) in the suburbs, and on alienated white and other youth?

5.  Beyond personal opinion, what social response to this popular phenomenon would you suggest?

 

IMPLICATIONS

 

1.     Derrick Jackson is not the first to raise serious criticism about rap music. Other African-American journalists have challenged rappers from the time of Ice-T. Adam Sexton (Rap on Rap: Straight-up Talk on Hip-Hop Culture, 1995) collected essays that dared to challenge rap’s excesses. Bakari Kitwana (The Rap on Gangsta Rap: Gangsta Rap and Visions of Black Violence, 1994 and The Hip-Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African American Culture, 2002) lauds the power and the social/political potential of hip-hop while critiquing its negative extremes and commercialism. Finally, too little attention has been given Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, 2000. Its satire attacks white business exploitation of blacks and the willingness of black entertainers to be this generation’s minstrel players, exploiting their own social weaknesses.

2.     Without exaggerating the influences of media or reverting to simplistic and over-generalized arguments, all of us have a responsibility for the healthy growth of young people: hearing the cries of the voiceless and marginalized, bringing justice to all parts of our societies, and promoting all that encourages them to full maturity and dignity as adults and parents.

 

Dean Borgman   cCYS