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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Black Men of Substance(what are we full of)

What if you could be on the cover of a magazine? A well respected publication read by millions? Flipped through by bespectacled professionals in Dr. offices all over the country. Read cover to cover by people who have college degrees, houses, businesses, children in College.

People that hire, fire, vote and educate could read about you; able to get a peek inside your easy or difficult life. They could fill in mental gaps of curiosity about people they think are similar to you.

You could explain , in detail how you make it day to day, how you got to where you are. Why you do what it is you do. Obviously you would probably take great care to leave out any unsavory or illegal activity. Why would you or the very mainstream publication that chose you for the cover want to celebrate that?

Enter Jay-Z , in Vanity Fair, explaining why he will be a good sports agent for the November 2013 Issue :

Jay’s checkered past taught him a few things that he says will come in handy in his new role as a sports agent: “I know about budgets. I was a drug dealer,” he tells Robinson. “To be in a drug deal, you need to know what you can spend, what you need to re-up. Or if you want to start some sort of barbershop or car wash—those were the businesses back then. Things you can get in easily to get out of [that] life. At some point, you have to have an exit strategy, because your window is very small; you’re going to get locked up or you’re going to die.”

Lets dissect this. Look at this closely. He is on the cover as a successful businessman. Chosen for that cover by other successful businessmen. The same type of men that chose Kendrick Lamar as a coverboy for The GQ Man of The Year issue( ironic choice considering the unflattering 'new minstrel' article they wrote).

The difference is Lamar, an emerging voice in contemporary hip-hop, shunned the short shrift he was given in the article which depicted him and his crew as a malt liquor drinking, ho pimpin' mob without knowing them. He was so angry he refused to enter the annual, star studded bash in Los Angeles a week ago. The writer of that article tried to portray the same low brow path to riches that all black boys gone good achieve after they master the game of crack dealing and hustling. A path too many are ready to sign on the dotted line to pave. A path that is also avoided by thousands of hard working kids today.

So Jay-Z A man who has built an empire based on wise, well timed decisions. About whether to kill someone or not? No, he runs a  label and has clothing deals. He owns publishing rights and is involved in multiple business ventures. I'm sure he is done with decisions relating to transport and safe houses. I'm inclined to think he never really sold drugs for a living, he would literally be jeopardizing all his childhood friends by even admitting it, which they would probably resent. The fact is, real hustlers don't go on magazine covers and talk about it. But it sounds good in an interview and on a make-believe album bio doesn't it? Even Vanilla Ice lied to get 'street cred' (who made that up?)

Equally shocking is Jay's quote relating to a re-up. Backing up the subtly, sinister notion that every car wash and barber shop in a Black Neighborhood is involved in drugs. With that quote, he is even validating , in a way, profiling by law enforcement. Thanks Jay.

The dude can buy city blocks and he is using 'couch 'mack' terminology. Belittling the powerful platform that he barged onto.It would be different if he was a white dude talking about a moonshine empire, but he's not. He is a black man. Much maligned and rarely trusted. He is part of a group of men that go to jail at an exponentially higher rate than anyone else. Often for doing the same thing as everyone else, drugs.

Because of shit like this we are getting close to minstrel status and no one wants to say a word. I'm sure his knowledge of the pros and cons of buying a car wash or barber shop with kilo profits will help a lot with all the clauses that can be in a multi million dollar sport contract.

It is time rid ourselves of The old 'crack dealer gone good' narrative, it is not doing us Black Folks any good. Like dealing somehow 'prepares' you. His success, and the celebration of it, in this context, is an insult to all the Black MBA's that still sell crack (see where I'm going here?) and aspire to Rap.

We also have to consider the readers of the publication. Crack dealers are exciting to them. They don't know any better, Jay-Z does know better and more importantly, Jay-Z needs to remember what he knows, bstarting with who we really are, who he 'really' is. Inventors, builders, survivors, Warriors and Leaders.

The Question lingers: Why do they, GQ, Vanity Fair, choose Jay-Z, Kendrick and write what they write?
Each and every African American that has people around them that 'really' achieve need to ask that question as well.

Ok enough of that, we will revisit Jay-Z later. Harvard is up next. Did anyone know there is a fellowship of of Nas at Harvard University? Its rhetorical, I'm here to tell you there is. They are attempting to canonize, what I consider to be the most desperate form of art in existence.

Unlike singing and dancing which makes the person doing it feel good. Hip-Hop often describes (it didn't at first) and even glorifies the struggles in life. The tight fitting, suffocating existence in poverty that stifles dreams and can offer escape through clever use of words. The goal? To be rich. Pretty simple right?

I consider myself a hip-hop historian. A product of Generation X that helped cement the artform into popular culture. But I don't need to defend it or attack it, I'm just wondering why Harvard wants to discuss Nas and ignore the phenomenon of Mass Incarceration.

Apparently an anonymous donor put up the money. A quote from Nas in The Guardian about The Nasir Jones Hip-Hop fellowship at The WEB Dubois center for multicultural studies alleviated some of my apprehensions :  

"Hip-hop is important like computer science," he said. "The world is changing. If you want to understand the youth, listen to the music. This is what's happening right underneath your nose."
The fellowship was first announced in July, when Nas declared himself "over-the-top excited" about the scheme. "My hopes are that greed for knowledge, art, self-determination and expression go a long way. It is a true honour to have my name attached to so much hard work, alongside great names like Henry Louis Gates, Jr and WEB Du Bois and to such a prestigious and historical institution, and all in the name of the music I grew to be a part of."

Lets Dissect this. Look at this closely. Nasir was approached by Professor Henry Luis Gates (A Black Man). He mentions computer science, a greed for knowledge, art, self-determination. What is more important is what he left out. The obvious asides about 'the hood' and dead homies. That narrative is tired, out of style like The Doo rag. One that we all, including Nas, know has not served us well.
Here Here for Hawvud!!!!!

1 comment:

Crunch Labs LLC said...

I consider the co-op'ing of rap to be the same thing that the old white establishment's children did with blues and jazz. On the other hand, I feel that the inability of the marginalized portions of this country to band together against their rich beholden puppet-masters to be the most successful crusade they have leveraged against us. I was poor, I am white, but the older I get the more people think I am just a fox news conservative because I'm white. You don't my friend, but how many of your categorically equals would scoff at me because I am big and white and have a beard. Their ability to make us believe that we are different is what keeps them in power and the rest of us down.