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This blog post started off as a comment I left on a youtube video. I realized halfway through writing my comment that it was way too long to post as a comment so I “appropriated” (lol) my words and took them to my blog. I’m explaining all this because my writing style for this one is more conversational because it was never meant to be a full blog post. Anyway, here it is: It’s amazing to see African American culture influencing the entire world. Especially in music, dance, art, fashion, and sports. Descendants of slaves created almost every new musical genre of the 20th century. Rock, blues, jazz, R&B, soul, doo wap, pop, swing, big band, etc. all came from a very concentrated number of blacks crammed into a handful of southern states in the US. Now the world has taken this gift and created some of the best most innovative music the originators probably couldn’t even fathom. Living on cotton plantations our ancestors used song, dance, and rhythm as a way to feel connected to their homeland, and as a way to communicate important information to each other that only they could understand. Living through the hell of slavery and being treated like cattle is enough to kill the spirit of most men, but they created and sang songs to inspire one another which became just as important as bread or water. I’ve heard people say that the most creative and honest art comes from pain and struggle. If that saying is true then it makes perfect sense that these extraordinary gifts were possessed by slaves and passed on to each subsequent generation as a birthright.
I could argue a pretty convincing case for artistic purity while highlighting the unavoidable negatives that come with any appropriation of culture such as compensation, recognition, and commercialization, but to do that justice I’d have to ignore how much music has become a uniter reaching across borders and oceans like a war averse cultural diplomat. Thinking about the history of my country and the deep dark oppressive history of my people both still dealing with the effects of slavery and only 50 years removed from the horrors of segregation and Jim Crow, I feel such immense pride at the things we have accomplished and created in spite of the adversity. My parents grew up in the south during segregation and Jim Crow. Those weren’t foreign concepts I just read about in textbooks. They had to sit in a back corner of the movie theater where the “colored” section was if they wanted to see a film. While shopping downtown all the bathrooms had “white only” signs on them. Just trying to register to vote could get you fired if your white boss found out, and in some cases you could end up losing your life. Coming from that history feelings of proprietorship are understandable. Our slave ancestors didn’t have wealth to pass on to us, but what they did have was culture. Not being protective of that inheritance would be a gross disrespect to the pain they endured to pass it on.
When I see a Russian hip hop artist, or a Chinese break dance crew, or a French Jazz band, respecting the art and doing it justice, it warms my heart. I think it’s pretty easy to discern the artist who are deferential to the culture from those who mimic the culture primarily for financial gain. I think we should let the universe sort them out and while that process is happening, go buy a concert ticket to see a P-Funk or Earth Wind and Fire concert. Go to itunes and download Biggie’s “Read To Die” and “Life After Death” albums. Find some old clips on youtube of the men who invented Rock & Roll (Arthur Crudup, Goree Carter, and T-Bone Walker). Go to your grandmother’s church and sing along to some old negro spirituals and watch the oldest woman on the mother’s board add 2 more verses to the song that nobody else seems to know. I’m suggesting these things because we can’t be protective and selective of parts of our culture and take it for granted at the same time. If you don’t know who Goree Carter is, then I don’t want to hear your complaint about Iggy, Lorde, or Adele appropriating our culture even if I agree that two of 3 named are doing just that.
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Dame Dash interview on The Breakfast Club Morning Show
Dame Dash is the former business partner of hip hop mogul Jay Z. Their partnership ended on bad terms and left Dame in serious debt while Jay Z walked away with roughly $250 million. Although I love what Dame brought to hip hop and he deserves credit for advancing the culture as well as the music, his confrontational bully-ish personality is hard to overlook. This interview isn’t an anomaly, he’s always presented himself in this manner. Watch the video and read my thoughts after.
Before watching this interview I still had a little respect for Dame. I knew he had an abrasive personality but now I see him as a joke. I use to think he was your typical “type A” personality. Extremely confident in himself driven by a need to dominate and that made him seem conceited and self-centered. After this interview I realized I had him all wrong. He’s not confident and filled with high self-esteem, he’s the exact opposite of that. Extremely insecure, filled with self-doubt, and deathly afraid someone will figure this out. This interview with DJ Envy and Charlemagne revealed how intimidated Dame was right from the beginning. You can hear it in his voice at the start of the interview. He’s terrified. The odd way he tries to challenge Envy’s manhood is a textbook example of a psychological coping mechanism called overcompensation. It’s defined as an attempt to make up for a character trait or flaw by overexaggerating its opposite. For example; if you feel your masculinity doesn’t measure up to the masculinity of the other men you’re dealing with, you’ll try to project an image of hyper masculinity. You’ll start talking about testosterone and how much of a “real man” you are. No one who’s confident and secure in their manhood would have to engage in this type of boasting.
Another thing that bothered me was the things he said about social media. He says “real men” don’t use social media. This is absolutely ridiculous because anyone who considers themselves a business man would realize the importance of social media in promoting your brand. There’s not one successful business or successful music artist who does not use social media. If you’re not promoting your brand on social media then you’re leaving a lot of money on the table that could easily be scooped up with little effort. Utilizing social media as part of a marketing strategy is pretty ubiquitous now… especially in entertainment. Dame should know that.
Another thing that bothered me was Dame’s obsession with being “a real man”. Maybe he feels inadequate in his manhood. Who knows, but that’s definitely not normal. Who the hell goes around constantly thinking “what would a real man do”? If you are a man of honor and living up to what you believe a real man is, you wouldn’t have to constantly define it while trying to convince other people you have those qualities. It would be self-evident. Dame trying to convince Envy that he’s not a real man because he works for the radio station is one of the saddest parts of this train-wreck. I don’t see how Jay hung in there as long as he did. If I found out that Dame was a part of any business deal that I was considering, there’s no way I’d go through with it. No matter how much money I stood to gain. Life is too short to bring this kind of hyper insecurity into any kind of business dealing.One last point about Dame; I hate when famous African American music moguls do an interview and make it sound as if he’s the only smart businessman making money while all of his piers are getting taken advantage of. Why does Dame constantly play that role? “I’m smart with my money and business dealings but every other black business man is really getting screwed”. STOP THAT! It’s annoying and childish and you shouldn’t have to disparage another African American businessman to make yourself feel superior. If he was really as smart as he proclaims he would still be partners with Jay and he’d be worth just as much as Jay. Dame had to walk away from the label with nothing because he wasn’t making smart business decisions. No one gives up that much money voluntarily.
Of course I do not know Mr Insecurity Dame Dash personally so all of this is just my opinion. But after observing him in this interview and others, I think my armchair psychology hits pretty close to home. Some of the points he made about entrepreneurship are 100% valid and I also believe more African American’s should look into starting their own businesses. I started my first business when I was 13 years old. I purchased 200 t-shirts wholesale and sold them all within a week. I did that through Junior High and decided to start a totally different business in high school. I sold custom business cards to almost every student at my school, and then hired students from other schools in the area to sell my product to their classmates as well. I then branched out and started designing advertisements for local churches. I’ve only worked for a boss maybe 2 years out of my entire life. But not everyone is suited to become an entrepreneur, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re happy working a 9 to 5 don’t let idiots like Dame Dash make you feel less of a person for it. Please don’t adopt his insecurities because no one who lives like that are happy and content with their lives.
The CEO of a very successful hip hop record label just finished building himself the biggest house in South Florida. His name is Ronald Slim Williams and he’s worth an estimated 300 million. I read an article where he talks about his success and at the end of that article he says hard work does pay off and if people are willing to work hard they can have the same kind of wealth and success he has. I understand the need to inspire people, especially young African-Americans, but I take issue with the idea that his wealth (and anyone else at his level) is a result of hard work. The super wealthy are always dangling this proverbial carrot in front of the less fortunate even though they know it’s a lie. That kind of wealth has absolutely nothing to do with hard work. More than anything it’s a result of pure luck, being in the right place at the right time, or being born into a family with wealth. I’m sure he works hard and he seems to have a very good mind for business and I know he’s very well versed in the workings of the music industry. All of that is a talent and I recognize that, so I’m not saying this to take anything away from him. All I’m saying is there are a million other people with those same talents who has worked just as hard but all of that didn’t produce hundreds of millions of dollars for them.
The chances of someone becoming that wealthy is 1 in a billion. Less than 1% of this country holds this kind of wealth and over the last two decades the super wealthy have actively pushed legislation that makes sure no one else has opportunities to build wealth, and are currently blocking avenues for the poor to lift themselves out of poverty. I’m not saying that Slim is doing this but I look at it like this, if someone with his power, influence, and political access stays silent while benefiting from the system that creates wealth inequality, they are just as responsible as the people who are marshaling their resources to rig the system in their favor (Koch Brothers, Art Pope, Sheldon Adelson etc are money hoarding pros).
Here’s something that a lot of people don’t understand. For every person who’s worth 9 figures and up (100,000,000+), they aren’t doing anything with their money. 99% of what they spend is money from tax breaks, capital investments, and bank interest. They don’t have to touch a dime of their money because that’s the way the system they created works. Essentially they are hoarders of wealth. It sits in a bank making them richer with interest. Our financial system creates a finite amount of money. In order for mega millionaires and billionaires to exist, there has to be extreme poverty. Children have to starve. Families have to be homeless. To put it in simpler terms lets say I created my own world and named it “Socurb”. In Socurb I print out 100 dollars and that’s all the money in my fictitious world. Socurb has a population of 11 people (including myself). I can distribute that 100 dollars anyway I’d like. So let’s say I decide to keep 99 dollars for myself and let the other 10 inhabitants divide the rest among themselves.
As long I sit on my 99 dollars no one else has an opportunity to get anywhere close to my kind of wealth, and in order for me to keep my wealth I know some of the inhabitants will starve, some will decide to use force or violence to steal money from other inhabitants, and every other negative outcome that poverty produces will occur. My wealth will protect me because I can afford security and my house will be very far away from the poor people. So any crimes committed will most likely be poor people stealing from other poor people. If I see all of this going on as a result of my wealth hording and continue to hoard my wealth, what kind of person does that make me?
I believe we should look at wealth inequality as a moral issue because that’s exactly what it is. It’s completely amoral for anyone to aspire to be a billionaire. Every single person who obtains great wealth and parks it in a bank or somewhere offshore is without question amoral and is personally responsible for every child who goes to bed hungry every night, for every homeless person they pass on the street, for every death that occurs as a result of a treatable disease, every inner-city neighborhood where crime flourishes and hopelessness abounds, for every dehumanizing hoop we make the poor jump through to receive any kind of assistance. That is the cost of their wealth. So this blog is not about envy. I do not envy billionaires and I have no interest in obtaining that kind of wealth. I could not enjoy the perks of that lifestyle knowing that my money is drenched in blood. I couldn’t live with that on my conscience. Of course I’d love to be rich and I’m not knocking rich people at all. There’s a huge difference between rich and wealthy. 7 or 8 figures is rich and is a sign of a healthy meritorious financial system. Those who are creating new technology, or finding cures for disease deserve a bigger piece of the financial pie. But when a system creates consolidated wealth and distributes it to a few, that is the sign of a very unhealthy system. The larger that gap grows, the more instability and restlessness you’ll see among the 99%.
Proud supporter of Kay Hagan for North Carolina Senate. She represents the constituents of North Carolina with integrity and I believe she has earned another term in office.
Today I watched a segment on MSNBC’s Morning Joe where one of the show hosts (Mika) started a discussion about the NFL Ray Rice domestic abuse scandal. There were three other guests who took part in this discussion (Donnie Deutsch, an MSNBC contributor whose name I forgot, and a black man named Steve Stout). Mika started off the discussion with a news report saying the NFL decided to not use Rihanna’s song “Run This Town” during their game broadcast on CBS like they planned to do before the Ray Rice scandal broke out. Mika voiced her opinion that because Rihanna was assaulted by her boyfriend years ago and didn’t become a spokesperson for domestic violence, the NFL shouldn’t use her song. I think that’s pretty ridiculous and here are a few reasons why.
1. Rihanna did not choose to get assaulted by Chris Brown.
2. Rihanna’s song “Run This Town” has no controversial lyrics and it does not speak of abuse or violence.
3. Rihanna was the victim in her assault so she has every right to choose not to become a political spokes person for domestic violence. She’s an entertainer who loves to sing and perform. That is what she’s good at and we should not criticize a victim of domestic violence if they don’t want to talk about it, or if they don’t do what you want them to do.
4. The controversial song Mika was talking about was not the song the NFL was going to use, and it was not even Rihanna’s song. It was an Eminem song that featured Rihanna. It’s appalling that Mika would criticize Rihanna, a victim of domestic violence, for lyrics written by Eminem for a song that was Eminem’s. Not once did she say anything about Eminem. She decided to attack Rihanna instead.
5. In the middle of her attack against Rihanna they show a photo of Rihanna’s beaten and bruised face that was taken after her assault. This victim blaming and slut shaming has got to end. Mika should be ashamed for her behavior in that segment. I think she owe’s Rihanna and all abuse victims an apology.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, Mika and the panel decided to connect hip hop with Ray Rice’s abusive behavior towards his wife. This pissed me off almost as much as their unfair treatment of Rihanna. Mika and Donnie Deutsch must think all young black men are connected and controlled by hip hop. Why else would they bring it into a discussion about Ray Rice? Many people who are not fans of hip hop think they know what the genre and the music is about. They think hip hop music is excessively violent, and promotes violence toward women. That is not what the genre or culture is about. Of course there are songs with violent lyrics, and some are derogatory toward women. But that isn’t a significant part of the music. Hip Hop is extremely diverse. There are rappers like Common, Outkast, Nas, The Roots, Black Eyed Peas, etc who are very popular and are known for their socially conscious lyrics. But Mika and Donnie aren’t listeners of the genre so they don’t have a clue. Just like some racist, they see a black man with baggy clothes and dread locks and immediately think criminal, or mistake normal everyday behavior by a black man as aggression. Like the black man who was walking around Wal-Mart talking on his cell phone while playing with a toy gun. The police are called and kill him before he could even explain the gun was a toy. It’s sad that we as black men are all painted with the same negative brush.
While discussing Ray Rice, Donnie Deutsch proclaims he’s going to end hip hop with lyrics he thinks are bad. He says Jay Z is responsible for young black men committing crimes. The music influences them to do it he says. But he has never called for Martin Scorsese or Quentin Tarantino to stop making violent movies. This double standard is unfair and the racial implications are clear. I bet Donnie isn’t even aware that whites purchase more hip hop albums than all other races combined. Inner city crime has ZERO to do with hip hop music. Before silencing artist and trashing their 1st amendment rights, maybe we should do something about the lack of opportunity in those poor black neighborhoods. Maybe we should improve the schools in those neighborhoods. Maybe we should look at the over-policing of those neighborhoods, maybe we should stop giving tax cuts to people like Donnie and Mika and use that money to spark growth in those neighborhoods. Maybe we should stop locking up black people for things that white people get a pass on. They don’t understand that hip hop music reflects the current conditions in the artist neighborhood. Right now it’s the only outlet that gives them a platform to speak to the world. Killing the messenger will only make things worse.
My closing advice to Mika and Donnie,
1. I know young black men may scare you but every thing we do shouldn’t be viewed as aggression. Listen to some of the artist I referred to in my 2nd paragraph. Instead of watching a hip hop video, listen to the song and read the lyrics. That’s the only way you can dissociate the thug cliché you have in your head from the socially conscious artist who wrote the song.
2. Ray Rice is not a rapper. His skin color may throw you off a bit, but trust me. He’s an ex-football player who abuses women and should be in prison right now.
3. Hip Hop culture is not the same thing as black culture.
4. Hip Hop music is entertainment. Just like movies, tv, and other music genre’s, it’s an art form. Your network (MSNBC & NBC) programming depicts a lot more violence than hip hop music does. It’s incredibly hypocritical to chastise Jay Z and hip hop for its violence while being silent about the violence your network makes millions off of.
5. Football is a very violent sport. You praise them for pulling a Rihanna song because some other song she was on with another artist contained a lyric you thought was promoting violence. Your logic makes no sense and once again you’re BLAMING THE VICTIM. Stop it!
I hope my harsh critique adds some much-needed perspective so these mistakes and misrepresentations do not gain credibility. I’m actually a really big fan of Mika and she usually serves as the voice of reason on “Morning Joe”. I want everyone to understand that I am not calling Mika racist. Her misguided commentary definitely seemed out of character, so I won’t hold it against her. We all make mistakes.
I’ve noticed something very strange and troubling going on in African American social media and entertainment blogs. I’ve watched it grow over the past year hoping it would die down and people would come to their senses but surprisingly it has only grown bigger and it’s beginning to cross over into mainstream media. I’m talking about the myth of the Illuminati. Somehow rumors began to spread online that certain famous, powerful and wealthy African American’s all were a part of and owed their success to the Illuminati. Some nutcase African American bloggers began to analyze lyrics by people like Jay Z, Kayne West, Beyonce, 50 Cent, and P Diddy (among others) and use random words and lines from their songs as proof of their affiliation with the occult, and a lot of their African American readers fell for it. They’ve come up with all kinds of crazy conspiracy theories about Oprah, Sam Jackson, and Lebron James which in a way robs them of their success. It feeds into a long-held racist notion that successful African Americans aren’t responsible for their success. Not their intelligence, nor their talent or hard work. Those pathways to success are never questioned with whites. I challenge readers to do a quick google search for any famous or successful African American and attach the word “illuminati” behind it. You’ll have pages and pages of nonsensical conspiracy theories about all of them (please hold all searches until after you’ve finished reading my blog lol).
Here’s why this frustrates me so much. We have enough obstacles & real issues to deal with. There’s no need to add an imaginary one to that list. The Illuminati and satan aren’t the one’s making laws that are designed to lock up as many Black men as possible. They aren’t trying to disenfranchise minority voters to keep them from the polls. They aren’t keeping your wages low while rewarding a few at the top with the profit from your blood sweat & tears. They aren’t destroying our neighborhoods with liquor stores & fast food joints at every corner. They aren’t killing our youth for wearing hoodies & racially profiling them because of race. The people doing all this are real. When we’re not focused on reality the real life villain’s get away while injustice not only survives, it flourishes. People like Roger Ailes, Charles & David Koch, Michael Bloomberg, Art Pope, Rush Limbaugh are real people causing unimaginable problems for our community. Not satan Not the Illuminati. It’s time to be adults and stop believing in the boogie man. So the next time you hear one of your friends repeating some dumb rumor about the illuminati being involved in the struggles in the African American community, please please please try to educate them. Can you imagine what might happen if the entire community started to focus their attention on something real?… exactly, so WAKE UP!!!