I was just watching a video used as part of the performance in the “Up in Smoke Tour” with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Ice Cube. At the end of the video, Snoop has shot another black man who is taking his last breath, with blood coming out of his mouth. Snoop looks into the camera at the predominantly white audience and says, “What do yall think? Should I smoke this n*gger?” The crowd screams in approval as Dre and Snoop proceed to murder another black man in front of the crowd.
After seeing this sick display that celebrates black-on-black genocide (Imagine if it had been a white man standing over a black man asking, “Should I kill this n*gger?”), I figured out how we might define Commercialized hip-hop. Commercialized hip-hop is a place where black men are financed by white-owned corporations to present themselves to predominantly white audiences as weed-smoking, sexually-promiscuous jackasses who are willing to shoot one another for almost any reason.
In case you didn’t know, gun violence is the leading cause of death among black men. My sister does autopsies in Chicago and said that 90% of her victims are black males under the age of 30. For some reason, the death of Trayvon Martin resonated deeply within the souls of those who followed this tragedy, but there are a few new Trayvons being shot in cold blood every single day of the week.
Congratulations black people, these have become the role models for husbands and fathers of the next generation.
Black men are dying on a regular basis and no one seems to care, but for some reason, we spend our time debating gay marriage, as if it’s the most critical civil rights issue of the last 50 years. All the while, the black family has been decimated to the point that most of our kids are born with one statistical arm tied behind their backs, our schools can’t even buy the paint for the buildings, and black people are filling up the unemployment lines in a way that hasn’t been seen since Dougie Fresh was a teenager.
When I debated hip hop artist accountability with Michael Eric Dyson at Brown University, my point was clear: Hip-hop music can no longer be legitimized as a medium used to glamourize and further institutionalize the most dysfunctional behavior within black America. The packaging and mass marketing of the serial killing, drug addicted, STD-infected gangster-buffoon to white America comes at the expense of children who have the capacity to be productive citizens in our society. The music can be appreciated with limitations, but we’ve got to stop behaving as if this stuff is normal.
The black male handbook for self-destruction is being fed to young boys from birth, and every four year old with an earring and pair of Air Jordans dreaming about his first tattoo has had his future killed before he’s even had a chance to explore it. All of the black men with dreadlocks in their hair (emulating Lil Wayne, with no spiritual value whatsoever) and guns on their hips, seeking out the weed man, and looking for enough “hoes” for the next party have also been taught that this is what it means to be black. It is up to us to stop the flood of wasteful energy and ensure that our boys realize that they can be the next Barack Obama just as easily as they can become the next Lil Wayne. He should be bragging about his law degree, not his criminal record, but our society fails to help him learn the difference.
Hip-hop artists and their corporate puppet masters must be openly and consistently rejected for their buffoonery. The disciples of this behavior must be called out where they stand and reminded that this is no way a black man to behave. The space of black manhood must be reclaimed by those who want our community to survive and for our kids to have a chance. They must hear, loud and clear, that there is nothing cool about ignorance.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Syracuse University Professor and author of the forthcoming book, “The RAPP Sheet: Rising Above Psychological Poison.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.