Just A Thought

April 24, 2007 at 2:45 pm | Posted in Editorials/Opinions | Leave a comment

Our mothers preached it, society accentuated it, close friends revealed it through experience; “Too much of anything is not good for you.” In recent years there has been a growing but familiar phenomena, America continues to rapidly ingest and regurgitate everything Black. This preexisting yet budding fascination has resulted in increased media outlets whether it is via the airwaves or the idiot box. At first glance, the immense exposure appears gratifying and overdue; when in actuality, the media spotlight is in fact detrimental often reinforcing stereotypes as seen on television and film. Likewise; on radio, this coverage has diluted and oversaturated what was once an elitist creative musical platform.

With regards to television, it is as though we have come full circle. Gone are the days of blatant racism when Caucasians donned black faces, ate chicken and watermelons in attempts to depict black culture. Blacks aren’t forced to occupy designated roles, i.e. the Mammy, Buck or Sambo archetypes; instead, we have more choices with the roles we portray and the characters with depict. Blacks are now a permanent fixture on the Hollywood circuit acquiring notable awards as exemplified by Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Halle Berry, Louis Gossett Jr. Despite receiving these awards, if one was to analyze, say the film histories of Denzel, it could be suggested that this talented black actor was more deserving of the prestigious Oscar prior to 2001. It was not until Denzel played a corrupt, despicable police officer did Hollywood recognize his talents. Correction, it was not until Washington played the familiar hoodlum that America has comfortably grown to associate with the black man did Hollywood come á knockin’.

On television, there are an increasing amount of black programs; we even have our own television stations namely BET, or rather the “Black Exploitation Network” as it is known in certain circles. Initially, BET was an outlet, a revolutionary platform much like the hip-hop culture. However, today it brings about harmful stereotypes by airing videos and programs that are suggestive of materialism, violence and ignorance. Tavis Smiley has been replaced with College Hill, a rehashed Real World with color. Relevant social commentary has been supplanted with cat-fights as exemplified in a recent episode of College Hill. Sure this makes for entertaining TV, which might translate to increased viewership, but aren’t the physical confrontations on VH1’s Flavor of Love ( In which Flavor Flav assumes the modern-day reincarnation of Mr. Bojangles) and I Love New York enough? News programming is limited and as a result viewers are misguided and unaware of black reality. Furthermore, with the influx of black programs as exemplified by “Black Monday” on UPN 9 and now My9, one would imagine that we would have more black writers penning our stories. Instead we have the likes of Kelsey Grammer, from Frasier fame, producing shows that are supposed to script black lives. Consequently these shows often lack substance and are not viable. Granted, while the highly successful Cosby Show was a far-fetched depiction of a traditional black family, it still offered substance and an overwhelming sense of positivity. Clearly, we have more liberties in our creative processes and character roles, however with freedom comes great responsibility; a responsibility that has been discarded much like the latch-key kids of our generation.

Since meager beginnings in the mid Seventies, hip-hop has transformed into a multi-billion industry. More recently, the quality of available hip-hop has seen decadence. What was once an elitist platform has now been oversaturated with average rappers. True emcees have been shunned, pushed to the precipice of nonexistence. Consumers no longer appreciate positive and uplifting lyrics a la Public Enemy or Brand Nubian; in their place we have redundant acts that along with their lyrics and videos divulge unnecessary images of sexuality and materialism. Moreover, these images are often suggestive of a get rich scheme; instant success. Subsequently, the youth; the children of tomorrow, are presented with the wrong messages, sneakers, gun talk and cocaine raps replace the knowledge and positivism attributed to its free flowing form.  Today any rapper can get air play if his money is right as even suggested by Sean Price, on STOP from his 2007 release Sean Price Superstar. He spits: I remember when DJ’s would check for a record/ Now these niggaz want a check for a record. The radio and the capitalist machine that underwrites it have bombarded impressionable listeners with profanity, homophobic messages, misogyny, and violence while turning away its faithful. The problem is that there is no governing body, no system of check and balances that promotes the variety of our music. We need to reclaim our music in its entirety, otherwise label executives who may as well reside on the moon will continue to fuel an imbalance that would not otherwise exist. Hip-hop is a spectrum containing several subgenres, ranging from Dead Prez to D4L, yet only a very small part of this revolutionary movement is made accessible. Back in ’98, when the late Tupac Shakur said, “I wonder why we take from our women/ Why we rape our women/ Do we hate our women/Time to heal our women/ be real to our women”; this extract almost appears as a forewarning of the down-spiraling nature of the culture; a premonition of the debauchery of a culture that transcended above racial and sexual barriers. Now in 2007, our women are no longer our queens instead their relegated to bitches and hoes. Accessible hip-hop is immersed in a terrible hierarchy where the rappers look up to the thugs as role models while the children look up to the rappers. “It’s a shame, sha-ame.”

Written by: Eldorado Red

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