Do You Hear What I Hear?

One of the most common refrains, really an admonishment, that I remember from my time at Mount Calvary Baptist Church was that “the power of life and death is in the tongue.” This well worn church saying was designed to remind those of us who were learning the tenets of Christianity to be mindful of the language that we bantered about publicly. One was not to curse or represent themselves in a negative manner for the following reason; ‘a little bit of bad will tear down a whole lot of good.’

The popular saying was stretched beyond one’s personal situation, it covered the entire race. As we have repeatedly seen, the actions, or better yet the antics, of one African-American has the ability to mar and malign the image of the entire race. Put simply, the destiny and image of African-Americans are inextricably linked together. Hence, one’s public persona, from your dress to your speech, was a direct reflection of yourself, your family, and the entire race. There was a pride to be found among African-Americans individually and collectively. The alluded to pride was expressed through  our posture, walk, talk, and physical appearance. One abhorred being caught ‘showing one’s color’ regardless of extenuating circumstances.

The above historical realities is one of many reasons why YG’s hit single, “My Nigga“, is not only disturbing on myriad levels, but also particularly damaging to the image and psyche of the entire African-American community, particularly its male population. Although I find it particularly difficult to believe that there is anyone on the planet who has not heard this recording, in the event that there is such an individual, the words follow.

My nigga, my nigga
My nigga, my nigga (My motherfuckin niggas!)
My nigga, my nigga (My nigga, my nigga)
My nigga, my nigga (My motherfuckin niggas!)

My nigga, my nigga (My motherfuckin niggas!)
My nigga, my nigga (My nigga, my nigga)
My nigga, my nigga (My motherfuckin niggas!)
My nigga, my nigga (My motherfuckin niggas!)
My nigga, my nigga (My nigga, my nigga)
My nigga, my nigga?

The word ‘nigga’ is repeated a shocking thirty-one times. Black America’s soul should be troubled by not only the verbal flurry, but also the fact that it has entered the impressionable minds of droves of youth.

As someone who has been addicted to rap music from the first time that I heard Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five’s ‘The Message‘, I thought that it may be time to address YG’s recording, not with a denunciation of it, that is not only easily accomplished, but also predictable, rather I have decided to offer an artistic alternative to a listening audience that desperately seeks close association with the “N-Word”. Unfortunately, many of these individuals believe that YG’s record, and similar recordings, epitomize what rap music is. So, consider this a desperate attempt to fight the blaze of ignorance that YG, Rich Homie Quan, and Jeezy began and Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and Meek Mill, fanned with an alternative vision and take upon the N-Word, nigga, and nigger.

Maybe, just maybe, YG, Rich Homie Quan, Jeezy, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and/or Meek Mill will learn something regarding the power of language and come to understand that their financial wealth is insufficient to hide their intellectual and moral poverty. I am certain that time will impress upon them that no amount of cash is capable of masking such poverty. One of their own, Jay-Z, a self-proclaimed rap God, once issued an admonishment that is particularly applicable here when he related, “you can pay for school, but you can’t buy class.” A lesson that I hope the entire hip-hop community learns before the power of their words leads to more incarceration, death, and destruction of their own.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

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