A month ago I watched an hour of They Made America on DVD, at the recommendation of my friend Michael Simmons, and walked away feeling pumped about the entrepreneurial history of our country and in awe of Ted Turner’s oozing enthusiasm. But it got me thinking back to ghangta culture.
Russell Simmons of Def Jam Records was profiled and he said something which stuck with me: "People say they don’t want to listen to rap, to which I say, man, rap is god’s soundtrack. You gotta listen to it."
Maybe so back when rap truly was a poetry form that talked about the struggle. But now, I think rap culture – or ghangsta culture – is holding back black culture. It’s corporatized bullshit dressed up as social justice free speech that promotes violence, sexism, and homophobia.
The documentary mentioned Simmons’ rise to fame and his near collopase: he almost missed a new trend in the industry, in an industry where spotting the next trend is paramount. What was it exactly? Rappers rapping about violence, sex, and drugs instead of brotherhood were moving to the top of the charts. Simmons realized the turning tide and quickly moved to get his ship in order. A great entrepreneurial how-to: be ready for change!
Um, what about sticking to some principles?
Eminem isn’t poetry. It isn’t class warfare. It’s just about another nigga trying to get by, trying to bang more hoes, trying to kill his wife, his mom, whoever. Don’t get me wrong – I like some of his music, like "Lose Yourself," – but poetry it is not. I like a bunch of rap because of the beat and music, not the lyrics.
Is it condecending for me to say that guys like Clarence Thomas, Cornel West, and Stanley O’Neil should have more influence on black teenagers than 50 Cent? After all, it’s not like white teenagers look up to George Bush or some white intellectual.
Was it any surprise that Kayne West went on TV during Katrina and declared that George Bush hates black people? Is that what a cultural icon (leader?) is supposed to do to bridge a divide – accuse our president of not caring about a whole race?
Black people love laughing at white people who dance and bop to black rappers. What fools, they say, to think they can be us. But they forget that the whites are also laughing, at their own inside joke, and it goes like this: "I’m white. I can listen to rap, put on a black person’s coat, and just act like another nigga from the streets. But when daddy gets me a job interview at an investment bank, of course I’ll speak in plain tongue, of course I won’t say ‘fo sho’ or wear my ‘white tee’. That’s the difference."
For the most part, rap music and its culture perpetuates the racial divide.