“You never thought Hip Hop would take it this far..”-Notorious B.I.G.
Things has definitely gotten ‘juicy’ these days in the sports world as the verse above from the entitled song called Juicy indicates. I know you maybe wondering, “What does hip hop have to do with this post?” The answer is everything. Unless you’ve lived under a rock or something, there were two stories that made national headlines involving the NFL and the issue of race. One, involving Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper, who was caught on video saying “I will fight every n*gger in here,” while attending a Kenny Chesney concert. Yea, I said the same thing. The the latter involved two Miami Dolphins offensive linemen, Richie Incognito and Johnathan Martin, where Incognito was accused of bullying tactics against Martin. Of these tactics, the most sinister included a voice mail message in which Incognito left racial slurs such as “Half n*gger piece of s**t.” With the national press, sports and televised media pinning the NFL into a corner, the usual question is always asked “Is racism still alive in America?” Even though in the eyes of many is the negative narrative, (it’s not really an issue anymore) the media will still satiate at the chance to cover any story about race, even if it’s at the cost of cheap ratings. This why those who “race bait” for a living have a never-ending career as political media pundits. Don’t believe me, just ask MSNBC.
Recently, the NFL has decided that the use of the “N” word will fall under the”unsportsmanlike” conduct rule which usually results in a 15-yard penalty during an NFL game. Richard Sherman, of the Seattle Seahawks, called such a rule “atrocious” and it’s often used in the locker room. Then Sherman went on to say “It’s almost racist, to me. It’s weird they’re targeting one specific word. Why wouldn’t all curse words be banned then?”(Espn.com) Although I agree with his statements, I personally commend the NFL for taking a stance against a known historically offensive word. Yes, there are other words which are used in our society which are considered lewd, profane and even blasphemous. However, we’re dealing with more than just a word, but a racial slur. A word, that when used by whites, would elicit intense rage due to its ominous past and how it was used towards blacks. By far, there is no other word in the English lexicon that breeds more contempt, hatred, discrimination, humiliation, degradation-yet many African-Americans, use this word as a term of endearment with each other. As posthumous rapper Tupac Shakur once said, “N*ggas are the ones with gold [chains] ropes, n*ggers where the ones hanging on the ropes [noose].” Interesting, Hip-hop’s most decorated and transcendent figures would make such a statement. But I’ll leave Tupac alone because you got people (just like Elvis) who still believe he’s alive, so I don’t want to catch the backlash after another album of his drops.
Hip hop originated over forty years ago in the South Bronx area of New York City. Some of its pioneers include: Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five, DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and KRS-One. Hip hop derives its art form on the strength of four fundamental elements which include: rap music, (oral) turntablism, (aural) breaking (physical) and graffiti art (visual) (Wikipedia.com). Since its start, hip hop was primarily a form of escapism for inner city youth through music and dance held at local neighborhood block parties. As the momentum of this new genre began to spread, Hip hop became more than just fun party music, it also became a social and political voice for many young African-Americans. One significant song at the time was Grand Master Flash’s “The Message, ” which spoke on issues such as poverty, violence and the neglect for the lives of black youth. There would be other socially conscious political groups such as Public Enemy, but through the years Hip hop has always managed to balance itself between being socially conscious, and culturally relevant. Even if it’s at the displeasure of others; including itself.
Hip hop heads and black people in general, have always used the “N” word, however it’s usage and popularity wasn’t always commercialized and acceptable as it is today-at least not by black people. Prior to the 60’s, African-Americans despised the word because of its negative connotation, and it served as a reminder of slavery, lynching, segregation and discrimination. In fact, some African-Americans didn’t even take kindly to the word negro, although it became a more accustomed name versus its earlier term, colored. Fast forward to 2014, the”N” word has become more ‘endearing,’ I mean popular, than ever. A word so repugnant, yet so widely celebrated and embraced not only in Hip hop, but by many African-Americans. Again, I know hip hop, heck black people didn’t create the “N” word. However, we as black people have a responsibility in how we carry ourselves and how we are perceived. It’s almost like hip-hoppers have become like the black Christian in a way. You know, the one that says “Don’t judge me, God knows my heart.” All while living a lifestyle that contradicts what the bible teaches entirely. Likewise, this is what the (black) rapper does when they make excuses for the usage of the word. Don’t get me wrong, even I used to use the word. When I say I used to use the “N” word, it was my favorite transitional word!! However, when I started hearing younger kids and females use the word openly in front of other non-black people, I thought to myself “Do we have no shame?” I implied ‘we’ because I was part of the problem-a problem which originated from my adherence to Hip hop music.
My point is this, if the NFL can take a stand against this socially deviant word at the price of protecting its business and image, why can’t Hip hop? This is not my attempt to be a reincarnation C. Delores Tucker or sound like those bought off so-called ‘black’ leaders. It just amazes me no other ethnic people group embraces or condones a racial slur as term of “endearment.” Even if other ethnic groups may call one another a slur, it doesn’t go outside of their community. Maybe that’s Hip hop’s, wait a minute, black America’s most troubling problem-the absence of community. See, when one comes from a community, the people ‘police’ it’s own. They don’t allow what is frowned upon or something that brings shame to their people, be looked at as an overall representation of their culture. They don’t glorify ghetto behavior. In relation to Hip hop, most of its participants unfortunately, come from environments which lack a sense of family AND community. Also, Hip hop in some peculiar way, became a Father figure to an otherwise fatherless generation. Now what does a natural Father demonstrate? They give structure, discipline, affirmation and most importantly, they teach honor. When you have no honor, you have no respect and rebellion becomes your alter-ego. Also, if we really look at Hip hop, you see many of its artists stuck in adolescence-arrested development I tend to call it. I could go deeper, but I’ll digress for now. In closing, I’m not saying you can change overnight in regards to using the “N” word. It has become a word that in all actuality, feels good to use (speaking from personal experience) but carries destructive results. I’ve heard black people from the preacher to educator, from the sweet old lady to the vile speaking thug. Some African-Americans believe there are some ‘black folk’ who actually personify the very meaning of the word! (that’s another story for another day, ha ha.) I just wish the so-called ‘elders’ of this Hip hop culture would call out this type of language and make it a serious matter. They have the platform, the influence and (to some degree) the power to promote change. If Hip hop can inspire young people across the U.S. to “Vote or Die” for our President a few years ago, why can’t it lead the charge on something that directly affects Hip hop it’s self? Sometimes we can’t hear or see exactly what’s really going on. That is until the music stops. ***drops the mic***