Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Normal Life

Upon being sentenced to community service and a $700 fine for a 2005 incident in which police found loaded firearms in their rental car, hip-hop mogul Percy “Master P” Miller and his brother Vyshonne "Silkk the Shocker" Miller can go about their lives as normal.

But before we write this incident off as one of the familiar breaches of the law that rappers make on an ostensibly daily basis (see: recent arrest of rapper Young Jeezy) let’s reflect on what we characterize as normal life?

Master P. offered his version of reality shortly after his sentencing:

"Black man with gun, white cop panic. I'm a businessman. If the cops stopped panicking for one minute, they would've realized that the guns were registered, and that is legal in America," Master P told AllHipHop.com shortly after his arrest. "It's a different way of life for a person of color with money than it is for others with money."

Aside from the very basic American right to bear arms (see: the Second Amendment), P. Miller’s comments should be no revelation to anyone with at least a peripheral understanding of the dynamics of the plight of the country’s urban, black population. As always, it is dangerous to assume that the problems of the minority are easily identifiable to the unfamiliar majority. For this reason we will briefly examine the issue:

Surely, Master P.’s “Dancing with the Stars” cast mates -- Jerry Rice being the possible exception -- shook their heads upon discovering that the hip-hop reincarnation of Stepin Fetchit would have placed himself in such a compromising position. But what Miller’s well-known dancing competition does not understand is the proverbial hip-hop adage of “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems” that Miller’s urban New Orleans rearing is steeped in:

“I don't know what, they want from me/ It's like the more money we come across/ The more problems we see”.

The fact that these multi-millionaire siblings felt the necessity to ride with “heat under their seat” should raise more questions about their insecurity than their judgment. Simply, this necessity is demonstrative of a larger belief among America’s urban, black population that no matter how high one ascends in life the grim reality is that it can all be lost in the devious efforts of those less fortunate.

A truly disheartening realization, it highlights the value and belief system of those among us who have been coined as “making it”. For all those who desire to emulate Miller’s success, why wouldn’t carrying a weapon of destruction become a standard practice?

Alas, Brother Lightness can admit that he has found himself in a similar situation, riding through New Jersey’s perilous inner city with “heat under the seat”. Surely not of my own volition, but that of my college-educated peers -- and quite legal I can assure you. While my peers and I have achieved no comparable level of success to Miller, the question of our safety is just as immediate. In asking the driver of the car (and owner of the firearm) that night why he felt the necessity to travel with such a weapon I was met with the cold response that in Newark, one of the country’s most violent cities, “Niggas like to act up.” The reality of this sad statement is proven by Newark’s homicide rate, which has been closely detailed by The Star-Ledger (the newspaper for New Jersey), leaving me devoid of any appropriate response.

Let’s be clear: the examination of Miller’s legal woes and my personal juxtaposition are not made to justify the use and right to carry firearms -- our founding fathers made that decision -- but demonstrate a prevalent mentality in black America where the pre-occupation with personal security is a matter of the most immediate importance. While many might criticize Miller’s choice, it is not one too distant from the realm of the comprehensible. Sadly, that’s normal life.


Brother Afrocan said...

Before defending Master P consider that he was not carrying a registered gun on private property with the owners permission which is legal. To travel with a loaded concealed weapon needs a special license, thus it was probably not a case of innocent old percy being harrassed.

Furthermore I think P. Miller totally acts the fool when it comes to guns. Two years ago he was arrested while checking in his registered handgun at an airport. Authorities found the gun loaded with illegal ammunition. The gun had'cop killers'- hollow-tip bullets that can pierce through bullet-proof vests (Maybe he was after 50?).

P. Millers penchant for breaking gun laws aside, I think you raise a good point about what kind of a society we live in where multi-millionaires who never see the hood, living in beverly hills or Greenwich have to carry heat.

Brother Tallness said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brother Tallness said...

"I'd rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6"

Addressing the rappers specifically, I imagine that all these guys that went the crack game/rap game route have a couple associates from their past lives that don't want an autograph if they ever meet face to face. Even in the big homes in the burbs, guys like 50 have scarface type security patrolling the mansion and full security detail whenever he travels. I don't know if P does or does not keep security around him, but I imagine it's notably less extensive to carry a burner than to employ a constant security force

To tie that into all of us none ex-drug dealers, I think that the point brother lightness is trying to make here still applies. If you go strictly the corporate route, move to the burbs and divorce yourself from any association with America's various criminal elements, you're good. However, if you live in the city, make money, and put yourself in the reach of all black people, you're gonna run into all types of folk that would make you think twice about carrying.

Personal anecdote: my pops was a fast food franchisee in a relatively large southern city during the late 80s. This was when crack was big. Just going to check up on his stores at night was an invitation to get robbed. He wasn't really the flossing type, but he did own a bmw (black man's wish) and under the seat of that car he kept a loaded gun. Now, my dad isn't no hood dude. He grew up in rural VA, went to school and got an mba. And it's not that he had some tough guy posture or was trying to be hard. He was just a regular black dude who didn't want to get got.

And the threat goes beyond your local stick up kids or drug addicts. When you get into business world, you run into real gangsters. Mafioso types, ex-drug dealers turned legit. People with a completely different definition of hostile takeover. One such individual was fond of telling other black franchisee members "you know, all I need to do is give a crack head $500 dollars, a gun, and your address, and I could have you cleaned up." This man has been featured in Black Enterprise, Ebony and several other publications as symbol for black entrepreneurship.

Brother Darkness said...

I think this further shows the conceitedness and narcissism of rap "stars." I agree with Brother Afrocan's point at the end. When was the last time Percy went back for the 4th Ward or wherever he's from in Louisiana? When was the last time he went to the slums of Oakland where he spent some of his life? But its not only that, its the fact that rap "stars" think they are so important that they have to be "packin'" everytime they go out. Its like they are so important that murdering them would be grounds of gaining stardom.

These same guys want to be viewed as leaders in the black community when they can't even go back to their humble surroundings. Its a total contradiction in my mind. The guy's son has a show on Nickelodeon and he's carrying around a gun. It's stupid...for lack of a better word.