Saturday, February 07, 2009

THE NIGNORANCE MUST STOP


That was not a typo in the title.

Professional wrestling has more in common with the contemporary hip-hop scene than most within hip-hop are willing to admit. Both the 'good guys' and the 'bad guys' tend to have bad attitudes. People give vainglorious speeches touting how they're going to roll over the competition. If asked if all of this is 'fake', you might get a verbal dressing-down, or worse. If the mainstream media comes calling regarding a real-life violent incident, the favorite retort is, "Hey, it's entertainment, don't blame us." Vince McMahon would be proud.

Hip-hop's latest "when the hell did this happen?" beef stewing is between 50 Cent and Rick Ross. Both of these performers have new albums coming out, promised by spring. Of particular interest are questions concerning each artist's much-vaunted street credibility. Last year, Ross (real name: William Leonard Roberts) weathered scrutiny because of leaked photos showing him completing a correctional officer's training course circa 1994. The former Mr. Roberts also based his stage name on the infamous 'Freeway' Ricky Ross of Los Angeles, who loomed large in the 1980's crack epidemic in California. Circa 2003, a DVD hit shelves chronicling the short life of Kelvin Martin, a Queens-NY hoodlum who originated the moniker of '50 Cent', years before street-level crack peddler named Curtis Jackson (also from Queens) decided to adopt the name as he started his career in rap. In interviews posted on YouTube and elsewhere, 50 interviews an ex-girlfriend of Ross (and mother of one of his children), as she dishes about his allegedly meager financial status in the years before he signed a major record deal. Ross, for his part, alleges that this woman was an ex-maid of his (if so, real classy, Rick, screwing the help, literally) and that 50 is just paying her money to make waves. Ross also asserts that 50 is desperate to refurbish his star status after his Curtis LP was eclipsed in sales by Kanye West's Graduation in 2007. Other hip-hoppers like the Game and Fat Joe have made public statements concerning their take on the matter.

And now, as of the night of the Grammy Awards, 2009, hip-hop/soul singer Chris Brown turned himself in to the Los Angeles Police Department where he was booked on aggravated assault charges. Curiously, singer Rihanna (the pair collaborated on her song "Umbrella" and have been rumored to be dating) was supposed to perform at the Grammys, but dropped out abruptly; a spokesperson for Rihanna described bodily injuries as the reason for the no-show. Wonder how that happened? http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2009/02/rb-singer-chris.html

In this writer's estimation, whether or not one concerns themselves deeply about these type of misadventures depends one's tolerance level for nignorance (what?).

Nignorance is when young people (of whatever background) are made fun of and/or targeted for harassment for sticking with school and avoiding the street life.

Nignorance is when Prison and Drug-game moral and ethical boundaries are allowed to overtake a young person's worldview at an early age, and further are allowed to creatively and thematically stifle the social-poltiical depth of hip-hop music. Straight-up crime-culture magazines like FEDS and others regularly feature articles with and about rappers.

The term "captive audience" has taken on a new life as the mass-incarceration percentage of blacks and hispanics is higher than their percentage in the general U.S. population (http://www.ppic.org/main/pressrelease.asp?i=635). You have people doing hard time catching fits about who is more of a genuine 'street' artist, writing lengthy letters to hip-hop culture mags like The Source, XXL, and others. Never mind that 'keeping it real' is what lands any number of heads behind bars to begin with.

Nignorance is rap artists not being genuine and upfront about about their lifestyles before they became big names ("i had some tough times, did some things i'm not proud of, but music was my ticket out, and i'm trying to elevate"), but instead concocting elaborate backstories about being major drug-game figures before their record deals.

Nignorance is accepting uncritically the notion that a young black man aged 15 - 25 can have a self-contained drug empire pulling in a 6 - 7 figure income annually, not become a marked man for the Mob/Mafia and the police authorities, and not come out of this in jail for life, dead, or broke. To do so ignores a slew of American realities.

Nignorance is a purportedly prosperous 'street merchant' choosing not to divest from crime and invest their gains in otherwise profitable and legitimate endeavors like real estate, construction, waste management, medical/auto/life insurance, starting a credit union, opening other neighborhood businesses like laundromats, grocery stores, etc., but instead they choose to start chasing down record company A&Rs, hawking CDs out the trunk of their car, competing in open-mic-night contests where the grand prize is a bottle of champagne, to ultimately settling for a few hundred-thousand in advance money from a record label, then arguing with them about all the deductions from their semi-annual royalty statement.

Nignorance is these folks choosing to indulge their vices and bad habits with their newfound affluence instead of easing away from those things that led to trouble in their past.

Nignorance is these folks preferring the title of 'hustler', 'gangsta', and 'thug' over 'entertainer', 'artist', or 'musician'.

Sherdavia Jenkins was one of the deceased victims of the recent Miami, Fla. (Ross's hometown backyard) shootout where a street-corner dice game became deadly. The 9-year old Ms. Jenkins was standing on her porch when one of the bullets from an automatic rifle hit her. http://www.miamiherald.com/multimedia/news/sherdavia/index.htm

One only hopes that both 50, Ross, and Brown both know that life is more important than a record, or even their pride. If 50 or Ross end up having an early demise due to violence, I'm sure that somebody out there will probably propose that one of their childhood streets be renamed for them (so can you call that 'street credibility'?). Whatever the legal consequences end up being for Brown, he's young enough to still have a career ahead of him. But would that really be worth it?

1 comment:

J.R. LeMar said...

OMG. That poor little girl. How tragic.