Malcolm X director Spike Lee blasted hip-hop culture for making pimps and strippers role models to young African-Americans, during a questions and answer session with students from the University of Mississippi, Feb 9, 2006. Lee said, “When I was growing up, I didn’t know any guys who wanted to be a pimp. I didn’t know any girls who wanted to be a stripper.
“We looked up to those who were smart. These days if you speak one sentence without being profane, then you’re not black. If you’re not in the corner smoking a joint, drinking a 40, holding your privates, you’re not ghetto, you’re not from the streets, you’re not gangsta.
“Thinking like that, that’s genocide. The infatuation with being a gangsta is madness.”
Spike Lee has always been a very vocal person and never shy about expressing what he feels. He creates works of art that get you talking and discussing issues even if you don’t agree with his point of view. He gets you talking about them. I try to accomplish the same with my writing. I just told someone in an email a few minutes ago “Even if you don’t agree, if what I wrote gets you talking and opens up discussion on the topic or issue at hand than I feel I have done my job for that day.”
Now that said, I do believe their is too much of an fascination with pimps, hustlers, gangsters etc, but where I would differ from Mr. Lee is hip-hop did not create this attitude it was around way before hip-hop began and will be around far after the hip-hop era ceases to exist.
Sure when we were growing up no one was walking around saying they wanted to be a pimp or a stripper, but lets not pretend movies like Superfly and The Mack, just to name a few didn’t exist and weren’t very popular in that generation. Not to mention often imitated in many of today’s music, videos and movies. Don’t forget Pam Grier in Foxy Brown, every dude wanted her and sistahs wanted to be just as bad as her! I love all these by the way, but I call them out to show it existed before and actually influenced hip-hop!
Everyone I knew couldn’t get enough of movies about characters like Jesse James, Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Frank Nitty, Billy The Kid, just to name a few. We all wanted to be the gangster or the bad guy in those flicks and America has always had love for the Gangster or bad boy, no matter the color or culture.
The problem is ghetto has become the modern day gangster and kids in Suburbia, USA are emulating everything they see. They are eating it up and can’t get enough. The argument from artist usually goes something like, ‘We are making music for our community.”
But let’s be clear, any artists that sell more than a 100,000 units, is selling to suburbia ie: those outside of our community. Our music, movies, television shows and music videos are the windows that America is looking at our community through. Just thought I would throw that out there! So the problem with what you are putting out there is you are moving the majority of the unit to those who are not in our community.
Now I do think there is far too ghetto and gangsta in our music, movies and videos but I do think that flicks like Boys In The Hood, Menace II Society and Hustle & Flow are relevant. The only problem for every Hustle & Flow there is too much garbage and cheap imitations without the same creativity or talent pushed for profit. The same goes for the music we hear all day on all the stations where hip-hop lives.
The only difference is we had more or a variety back then. Let’s not front like we wasn’t rollin’ with NWA (F*ck Tha Police) but we was also getting knowledge from Public Enemy (Fight The Power) at the same time. Actually those 2 records played right after each other at many parties and clubs.
With that being said there are far too many step n fetch it, buffoons in today’s (c)rap music than street griots and those trying to educate us. We have many sides of us and many stories to be told. I feel a joint, where there artist paints a picture of urban reality, but then shows you the consequences of your actions at the end of the movie or song. I do think there is hope with the Mos Def’s, Talib Kweli’s, Lauren Hill’s and Common’s out there, as well as in what many are calling holy hip-hop.
It’s the non stop glorification of gangsterism and ghettoism that Hollywood and corporate America, pushes to make all the money they can while keeping us ignorant at the same time as long as it stays on our side of the tracks. The problem is we don’t only except it and embrace it we beg for more. Everything has a place, as long as it’s in moderation. There is as much a place for Young Jeezy and Jay Z as there is Mos Def and Common. One cannot, nor should it be forced, to exist without the other.
If it’s real, and it really exists in our society, and there are gangstas, pimps and players as much as there are educated brothers, then they too have the right to a voice. The problem comes in with the corporate structure that emphasizes the negative because that is, for them, the easiest sell. Why bother to appeal to the intellect when it is so much easier to go for the eye candy?
There is no way to listen and watch the negativity in your music, movies and video games all day/ every day and not react in a certain way. If you listen to Blues or one of those somebody done somebody wrong songs of in country music all day you will become depressed at some point. If you listen to Gospel music all day you will feel uplifted. If you listen to those good ole fashion club songs you wanna party. So what do you think listening to negativity all day does to you? We need to realize we are influenced by what let or take in. What we put in is what comes out.
Bottom Line we need more balance, to say the least. We need to turn off the radio and television for awhile and pick up a few books. Comic books and magazines don’t count!