April 5th marked a year since shock-jock Don Imus got canned for making his “nappy headed ho’s” comment in referring to African American members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team. Public pressure from the likes of Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson ultimately led to Imus’s firing.
Big deal. Imus got another gig-business as usual.
Because of Imus’s comments antagonists of hip-hop have since sprawled out of the woodwork to condemn the harsh lyrics artists often use in their music. Meetings between the likes of hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and music executives have taken place to talk about toning down the lyrical content.
Why bash hip-hop? If Imus didn’t make his racist statement would critics of hip-hop be calling for a lyrical overhaul?
I don’t think so.
In society when you have the ability to freely express yourself you have a certain level of power and dominion. The media is a good example. Over 90 percent of all networks, newspapers, and television shows are owned and controlled by white males. The latter entities shape what we see on television, read in the newspaper, and listen to on the radio. Little parity exists in terms of disseminating information.
Hip-hop represents one of very few mediums African Americans can utilize a platform to express themselves. It helps to combat the often racist images the mainstream media attaches to hip-hop.
The world of hip-hop shouldn’t be condemned as a result of racist statements by a white man. The name calling Imus and others have utilized didn’t begin with hip-hop. It’s been around for centuries.
The legacy of African Americans in this country begins with institutionalized bondage. Slavery was a horrific part of American history that many, especially whites, often ignore. At the height of American bondage slaves on plantations were not referred to as Mr. or Mrs. Jones; were not given respect by saying “excuse me sir,” nor greeted with, “good morning my friend, how are you today?”
After imported Africans names and languages were confiscated by the white man, slaves were routinely called nigger, bitch, hoe, lazy, coon, and any other derogatory term one could imagine.
Another key is economics. For nearly five centuries slaves labored free of charge in erecting this country. There were no vacation days, 401K’s, nor timecards. Masters collected vast profits from the forced free labor provided by slaves. While they labored they were called every name imaginable.
In short, lyrical content would not be a problem if African Americans weren’t making a living from it. Besides, the white establishment didn’t have a problem when white males made billions of the free labor of slaves: why bash some bash black men for realizing their American dream for doing what whites did centuries ago?
I guess it was cool when they were stacking chips of the backs of slaves and calling them nigger everyday: now the script has been flipped a little and now it’s a problem?
Some things never change.
Lastly, it’s about freely expressing ones self. For many years Africans Americans have paid a price for trying to secure the physical and verbal freedom most whites have historically enjoyed. When Muhammad Ali spoke his mind and refused military induction 1967, he was stripped of his heavyweight boxing title. He was exiled from boxing for forty-two months at the height of his career and had passport confiscated along with his livelihood.
Martin Luther King and Malcom X paid the ultimate price in attempting to bridge social gaps through their lyrics. They envisioned a society where African Americans would be treated with dignity and respect. Though King and Malcolm differed in they would accomplish the latter both paid the price for freedom of speech with their lives.
Whites have always eliminated those whom they didn’t understand and tried to make a difference: they are trying to do the same with hip-hop.
Imus’s statement was clearly racist. His “nappy headed ho,” comment is a reflection of what many whites uttered for centuries. The hip-hop industry didn’t create the harsh language whites often criticize: the language was here long before Snoop Dogg, NWA, and P-Diddy ever existed.
To me the preeminent reason hip-hop artists make their music is simply express how they feel. It also provides them the opportunity to utilize their platform and make a living. In many instances they write about what they live and see: the lyrics are often harsh because the harshness is a part of the artist’s everyday reality in being African American men in white America.
To me it would be more productive to stop attacking what the artists say and work towards eliminating the negative conditions many of these artists have often lived.
In the wake of the Imus fiasco Associated Press writer Marcus Franklin interviewed Russell Simmons. Simmons issued the following, “We're talking about a lot of these artists who come from the most extreme cases of poverty and ignorance ... And when they write a song, and they write it from their heart, and they're not educated, and they don't believe there's opportunity, they have a right, they have a right to say what's on their mind."
Antagonists, especially the white ones, of hip-hop should stop and realize when they bash the industry they are bashing themselves. What many of these artists spit in their music is a reflection of what whites have done for centuries.
So for all you haters I say stop bashing hip-hop!