Archive for August, 2009

Oprah & Gayle King: hypocritical on hip-hop

August 16, 2009

I listened to a recent radio interview with Gayle King and Oprah Winfrey (listen here). In the interview, Oprah was speaking about how she feels like she made a new best friend in Jay-Z. They argued over who had a bigger crush on him as well. As usual, Oprah stated that she disagrees with some of his lyrics, but that obviously means that she can still talk with him. No disagreements here. The problem came when Gayle King stated emphatically that she “loves Jay-Z’s lyrics.” Oprah asked if she meant the beats or some of the songs and Gayle King clearly said she loves the lyrics. This is hypocrisy at its best and truly unfortunate for us positive rappers.

Oprah and Gayle have arguably done more to raise the self esteem of girls around the world than anyone. Whether it’s Oprah’s school for girls in South Africa or the countless projects they have going on across this country like “O Magazine”, they have been consistent in their mission to give girls a positive view of themselves. So why does Gayle love Jay-Z’s lyrics? I have a great deal of respect for Jay-Z as a businessman and humanitarian. As a rapper myself, I obviously respect the way he puts his words together. He’s the best at that in my eyes. But how can I love lyrics like:

I came in your Betley back seat, skeeted (ejaculated) in your jeep
Left condoms on your baby seat
And since you infatuated with sayin’ that gay shit
Guess you was kissin’ my dick when you was kissin’ that bitch

Is this the embodiment of Jay’s work? Of course not. He’s also dropped classic lines like:

See Martin, see Malcolm
See Biggie, see Pac, see success and its outcome
See Jesus, See Judas
See Caesar, see Brutus
See success is like suicide, suicide, it’s a suicide
If you succeed, prepare to be crucified

Like any artist or even any individual, Jay’s work reflects a range of emotion. However for people like Gayle to say she loves his lyrics wholeheartedly is not only a complete endorsement of all of his music to young girls (and boys), but it is also a smack in the face of those of us who practiced what Oprah preached. Everyone from Oprah to Bill O’Reilly has preached that we should have cleaner music but they never endorse artists whose music is clean. Every rapper from Common to Diddy who Oprah has had on her show or in her magazine has used misogynistic lyrics at some point. Conversely, so many positive rappers I know have to work second jobs or are forced to move back in with their parents because of the economy. Oprah can singlehandedly change the direction of some of this by helping to celebrate these artists. Just as her book club has helped the careers of others, a positive music club could do the same thing.

As a positive rapper myself, I was saddened by Gayle’s comments for two reasons. One reason is that it’s rappers like me and others who have been actively out there supporting Oprah when many in the hip-hop community attacked her for asking for clean music. You can read one of my blogs on this written 3 years ago right here. Despite this fact, she still sees it fit to bring on people who have dismissed her or her message. That’s her prerogative but when will we get our shot? When will those of us who actually do what she asked for get our say on her show? Many of us positive musicians are active parents, pursuing academic degrees, and are avoiding trouble with the law. We don’t rap about sex, drugs, or violence. These are all the things she claims she wants to see but does not actively support.

Lastly, it is we positive rappers who are going into schools, community centers, and even prisons to combat the negative music that is shown to youth around the globe on a daily basis. We are doing the groundwork on this. Much of what we may try to accomplish gets shot down in a 3-minute video on BET or MTV. The messages we try to spread will now get quicker dismissal from our youth with Oprah giving these artists more validation. It’s like in her earlier days when she decided to stop having racists on her show because she felt she was helping them grow their audience. She then focused more on people who were race healers and not race haters. Is it not the same with only having rappers on who have a history of misogyny? Why not support those who uplift women as opposed to condemn them? Who’s next to appear on the show or in the magazine? Lil’ Wayne? What about those of us who got it right the first time?

At the end of the day, I am glad that I listened to people like Oprah and became a positive artist. I like the fact that my music does not disgrace my sisters, my mother, my wife, or my daughters. I enjoy the fact that though some may not agree with my messages on social issues, they at least don’t feel like they have to go home and detoxify their daughters of the negative words I used to describe them. Whether people like Oprah choose to acknowledge or even support guys like us who are not going to get record deals or mass exposure is now irrelevant to me. I can’t wait for that. I’ve learned that this whole movement for clean music was a lie. I’ve learned that many in the media can make their careers talking about what they are against as opposed to what they’re for. This is not entirely true for Oprah, but I just wish she would stop making our job harder.

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The lessons we are refusing to learn from Michael Jackson’s death

August 9, 2009

Whether you are a fan of Michael Jackson or not, his life provides a great example of how irresponsible the media has become. Rather than learning lessons from his tragic death, we are using his demise as a tool to drum up more TV ratings in a down economy. Death is something that is supposed to be sacred in every faith, however, some in the media are still speaking of Michael’s case of child molestation…a case he won. Despite his acquittal, people like Bill O’Reilly and Senator Peter King have resorted to calling him a child molester. O’Reilly even refused to call Michael an icon. This is opinion getting in the way of facts but that’s today’s “journalism”. Across the airwaves, new stories emerge everyday about Michael’s money troubles, alleged drug addiction and more. The problem is that we are not learning the lessons of Michael Jackson’s death.

I have not watched every news broadcast, but I have yet to see a special on the dangers of prescription drugs. Prescription drugs are a serious problem particularly affecting our nation’s youth. Why are we not using this as a teachable moment? In the last year, we also lost the great actor Heath Ledger to issues of prescription drugs. We are spending more time re-burying Michael for the purposes of higher ratings, but we could actively be using Michael’s example to save lives. What better way to honor his memory than by doing so? Whether you feel he is worthy of me using the term “honor”, the point is the same. We should use death as a learning tool for the living.

Finally, it is also tragic that the media is still so focused on how he died, that there is no more talk about how he lived. Though there were obviously some questionable practices as it relates to his dealings with some children, Michael Jackson is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most charitable contributions for any musician. From organizations such as the United Negro College Fund to his work worldwide to help children, Michael Jackson used his curse and misogyny free music to help heal the world. Can we say the same? Are we trying to affect change where we are? Are we so consumed about Michael’s faults that we’re forgetting to look at our own?

At the end of the day, it is my hope that Michael’s legacy will be one of giving. He was an agent of world peace and we need more agents. Because of his death, I am recommitted to doing more, where I am, to affect change. I refuse to allow his passing to be in vain. If you believe that he did not set the right example, you should try to set a better one, even if you don’t have the cameras on you. In this day and age where your faults will magnified 100 times more than your good deeds, you should be glad that the cameras are not on you.