Monday, September 15, 2008

Not Dazed but Confused

Though this has been my first post in this blog I have always had ideas and topics to talk on and bring to the attention of the whole but have never has the time to sit down and get it done. It has since come to my attention that if I don't make my time now, I never will, so here's to the first post of many to come. Now on to the topic at hand.

I came across a video online (hyperlinked here, posted below) and at first I saw it and chuckled a bit. Okay, to be perfectly honest, I laughed my butt off and started to send to it to some friends. After watching it about five more times I had to stop and think. What are the updated stereotypes of the educated black man? In my opinion, we are less openly feared than than ever (at least physically) perhaps due to the upper level education more of us are finding. There has become a larger chasm between the "big, scary, black man" and "the educated, black guy (who happens to be big)" Am I mistaken in this thought? I thought to myself: Are there different expectations/stereotypes/visions of what different types of black men there are?

Now, perhaps it's because I'm a nice guy (more often than not) but I don't think I've ever felt that way entering an elevator. (I can be naieve from time to time though as well). Now I know simply because I've never felt that way doesn't mean others haven't, but that got me thinking about what "others (read non-black people) think of us. Naturally, I turned to what seems to be white America's black indicator: "Hip-Hop" (Read Hip-Pop) music. Some of the most catchy songs in this genre today belong to Lil' Wayne, T-Pain, and oddly enough, an European-bred songwriter of Sri Lankan descent M.I.A. Now this is what kind of bugs me. Yes, music today is simply that music, but when a Sri Lankan girl makes a song like this, that tops charts both in the U.S. and abroad, and it's classified as "Hip-Hop" (you know, black people music that automatically makes little Jess and Jim a bit cooler because they listen to it too and know the lyrics) it hurts us. I thought that maybe it was simply farcical; that the chorus wasn't exactly what the song was about, but unfortunately, after looking at the lyrics I didn't get any relief. Check it:

[x2]
I fly like paper, get high like planes
If you catch me at the border I got visas in my name
If you come around here, I make 'em all day
I get one down in a second if you wait

[x2]
Sometimes I feel sitting on trains
Every stop I get to I'm clocking that game
Everyone's a winner now we're making that fame
Bonafide hustler making my name

[x4]
All I wanna do is (BANG BANG BANG BANG!)
And (KKKAAAA CHING!)
And take your money

[x2]
Pirate skulls and bones
Sticks and stones and weed and bombs
Running when we hit 'em
Lethal poison through their system

[x2]
No one on the corner has swagger like us
Hit me on my Burner prepaid wireless
We pack and deliver like UPS trucks
Already going hell just pumping that gas

[x4]
All I wanna do is (BANG BANG BANG BANG!)
And (KKKAAAA CHING!)
And take your money

M.I.A.
Third world democracy
Yeah, I got more records than the K.G.B.
So, uh, no funny business

Some some some I some I murder
Some I some I let go
Some some some I some I murder
Some I some I let go
There is actually a freestyle to this beat by a rapper named Esso, in it he comments "This what they think about us. They think this is all we know how to do." throughout different choruses. Of course this version of the song will be heard by far fewer people.

But back to my original point. Is it fair that there are stereotypes within stereotypes for black people, particularly black men? Yes , I know white people have it too but it isn't to the same extent. I don't know if I should be speaking in heavy slang, sagging my jeans, wearing designer sunglasses indoors, wearing regular sized polos, speaking very properly, freestyling, writing slam poetry, speaking on the travesties of the Black diaspora, uplifting my community, or all of the above? (My answer for now is all of the above). Should I even care what other think of me as a black man, or should I worry what they think think of me as a person? (For now mostly the person part.) Should I be bringing this up in conversation with my black friends? My white friends? All of my friends? Strangers? I guess like the announcer in the Tootsie Pop commercials told us, "the world, may never know".

video

3 comments:

Amanda said...

"Paper Planes": a metaphor for hustlin'? Selling illegal guns...making illegal passports for immigrants...the list could go on in this song. Although I see where you could think that it's just a f*ed up song perpetuating stereotypes, I believe that this thirty-something rapper born of a rebel Tamil Tiger is subversively and actually talking about radical and revolutionary themes here.

Brother Niceness said...

I actually would agree with that, but who would really stop to think that, especially after watching the music video? Your average consumer won't even come close to beginning to formulate the ideals behind the idea of the metaphorical underlying themes here. But good point

Amanda said...

Alhamdulilah I don't watch music videos then, huh? Most of the people I know just download the newest singles anyway but that's personal experience. Just because most people won't get it, though, doesn't mean it's not there. I'm beating a dead horse. Sorry!

xoxo