This Fu*k Everybody Attitude Ain't Natural
On September 28, 2019 my organization (The Men of the Tenth Inc.) hosted the first-ever Hip-Hop Read-In. During this event participants read their favorite rap lyrics and shared why the lyrics were important to them. I created this event to show not only the complexity of hip-hop but also the power it has to motivate individuals to achieve their goals. Simply stated, the read-in was designed to change the narrative that many in society believe is the cause for Black and Brown dysfunction.
According to research, Hip-Hop’s identity is intertwined with a racial identity that supports a “badman” narrative. An example of this badman narrative is Tekisha 69 and his “I don’t give a fuck” attitude. Granted, Tekisha’s badman attitude helped him reach the top of the music charts, that same “I don’t give a fuck” attitude has also made him a punching bag for memes. So, why do people possess such a neurosis to be cool (and display a badman attitude). Why do so many people try outlandish things to project themselves as cool? In New York City you constantly see countless people with red hair, purple hair, orange hair, nose rings, and face tattoos trying to appear as cool and interesting. In so many ways, they want to be as cool as Mr. Fly Guy from the movie I Gonna Get You Sucka. In the movie, Mr. Fly Guy (played by Antonio Fargas) thought he was so cool that he walked city streets with fish tanks on the bottom of his shoes. Unfortunately, today we have many people that are like Mr. Fly Guy and think “stylin” affirms their self-worth. According to scholar, Michael Jefferies in the book Thug Life: Race, Gender, and the Meaning of Hip-Hop we celebrate luxury items and stylin as a coping strategy because many of us have been denied “traditional paths to positive self-images.” Under these circumstances, we believe our social esteem can only be achieved through purchasing and ownership of luxury goods.
Given that hip-hop uses material items as a symbol for self-worth, why isn’t the artform used to promote and uplift the culture? Some people may consider this a difficult question however, it really isn’t that hard to answer. The question is not hard to answer because we are a part of a system that does not promote positivity in hip-hop culture out of fear that it will unify our society. In other words, the elite limit promoting positivity within the culture because they know it will knockdown the invisible wall of racism as well as the glass ceiling so many try to climb. For example, hip-hop is now the most popular genre of music because of its freshness, creativity, and excitement. However, majority of its revenue has been made by promoting images that praise street culture such as soliciting strippers, dealing and using drugs, betrayal, and other disruptive behavior.
Legendary marketing guru, Steve Stoute suggests in the book The Tanning of America such promotion happens because executives involved in promoting the culture really do not understand or care about the culture. They project this badman narrative because it’s easy. It’s clickbait. Simply stated, executives follow the old saying that “if it bleeds, it leads.” Unfortunately, this thinking encourages a world filled with chaos. As an educator, I see many of our youth influenced by these negative images because they do not see a balance in promotion. To put it another way, hip-hip culture is always in a fight because man is always in conflict between good and evil. Today, we must make a conscious decision to promote music that is uplifting and displays behavior that avoids leading the world into self-destruction.
Therefore, here are three things we can do the ignite this change:
Request for artists to make more uplifting music. Today, majority of musicians have Instagram pages so, contact them and request for some positive content.
Start supporting more positive artists by streaming their music, wearing their apparel, and attending their concerts.
Participate in community service events and highlight more positive perspectives in hip-hop culture.