The Night I Saw Hip-Hop Almost Die: Reflections from a Night with Big K.R.I.T.

On December 15, 2006, Nas, the most significant emcee from his generation, largely because he served as the bridge between what we have termed ‘the golden age of hip-hop’ to the next generation of emcees, released an album titled, Hip-Hop is Dead. The album title was startling, yet also touched upon a major discussion point that those of us who loved the culture dared to only speak about NASbehind closed doors for fear of damaging Hip-Hop. That discussion point was the realization that Hip-Hop Culture, Rap Music in particular, had changed so much that those of us who had not only created the culture, but also nursed it through its growing pains, no longer recognized it. The rapper Common was seemingly listening in on the innumerable conversations regarding the demise of Rap Music when he pinned the ode, ‘I Used to Love Her.’

Although many of my contemporaries argued that there was no sign of life, let alone an indicator that when Nas released his aforementioned album that Hip-Hop Culture was still governed or motivated by any of the original values and objectives. I balked at such assertions and steadfastly maintained that Hip-Hop Culture was merely going through something that should be best considered an adolescent fit that she would emerge from in due time, she always has. I refused to consider the bountiful evidence that others hurled against Hip-Hop Culture when they pointed out the non-sense lyrics that were now passing for lyricism, the KRSdegradation and maligning of Black Men and Women in rap videos, and the disappearance of independently owned and distributed African-American record companies as valid evidence of its demise. I held out hope that the pendulum would eventually swing away from the materialism, misogyny, and lyrical tomfoolery that had so quickly become a fixture within Hip-Hop Culture and back toward politicized rap lyrics, progressive politics, and uplifting imagery of African-American men, women, and children.

Quite possibly the only reason that I was able to hold out while others lost hope was that I have been extremely caution regarding what I listen to. I Cubetended to not listen to the radio for fear of what I may hear. So while others were spiraling further and further into a nihilistic view of Rap Music, my hopes remained buoyed because I was still listening to Rakim, Ice Cube, KRS-ONE, Queen Latifah, PE, MC Lyte, NAS, Scarface, and would slip in a little taste of contemporary artists such as Lupe Fiasco, Kendrick Lamar, and Big K.R.I.T.

I soon settled upon a belief that it was Big K.R.I.T. who was most equipped to be the emcee that served as the bridge to another glorious period of enlightened lyricism. So you can imagine my excitement when I learned that Big K.R.I.T. would be coming to Houston, Texas to perform. There was certainly no way that I would allow this opportunity to an individual who had already established himself as a lyrical genius pass me by.

Although my intention was to enjoy the show, and I must admit that Big K.R.I.T. did his thing lyrically, however, the most shocking aspect of the event was not anything that occurred on stage; rather, it was the audience. I was amazed at how many whites had flocked to hear K.R.I.T., from my observation whites and Mexican-Americans made up the vast majority of the audience. I quickly realized that just as Blacks and whites have varying views upon racial issues, there is another significant divide marring Rap Music, that being a widening gulf between those who are steeped in lyrics and those who are not. Big K.R.I.T.’s place as one of the best lyricist in the rap game is not up for debate, he displays an uncanny flow that he repeatedly displays on club bangers for those who simply want to listen to great music and beats. However, for others, it is K.R.I.T.’s introspective lyrics in tracks such as Something, I Gotta Stay, and Meditate that serve as the best part of any engagement with this emcee.

I was extremely amused by the whites in attendance as they attempted to catch what was apparently an extremely elusive beat to the music being played by DJ Mister Rogers between sets, more illuminating was the reality that their were classic tunes being played such as the Geto Boys’, My Mind Is Playing Tricks on Me, that shockingly did not move the whites, however, any song dealing with superficial bullshit such as drug dealing, Young Thugalcohol, or shaking your ass was celebrated as if it were the best pumpkin pie that they had ever tasted. As the night went forward, I noticed that it was in fact the audience that was dictating not only what DJ Mister Rogers played, but also to a lesser-extent Big K.R.I.T.’s song choice. There was a lull in what came to resemble a hip-hop club whenever a lyrical song was performed; however, uproarious joy ensued the moment a song celebrating cars, materialism, or general bullshit began. It was obvious that the majority of the concertgoers and I had come to this event for vastly different reasons, I desired to hear a poignant lyricist and they, meaning both Black, white, and brown partygoers, wanted to merely have a good time, drink alcohol, and smoke marijuana. The entire scene saddened me beyond measure as I could clearly see what Hip-Hop Culture had denigrated into.

It was obvious that what others had been telling me for at least the past decade was true, a multiracial coalition of ignoramuses have captured Hip-Hop Culture and they will never willingly relinquish it. To see a lyricist such as Big K.R.I.T. have to shy away from introspective lyrical masterpieces was a damn shame. The entire situation ironically reminded me of one of K.R.I.T.’s most recent recording, Mount Olympus. Where K.R.I.T. responds to those who have ignored his contributions as an emcee for so long and only now are they becoming receptive to his music, not his lyrics, rather his music. Big K.R.I.T. states in this recording,

Frustrated
Rap battlin’ never got me out of no public housin’
You tellin’ me I can be King of Hip-Hop
And they wouldn’t give it to Andre 3000?
Nigga please, these awards ain’t got shit to do with us
God could physically come down and say “he the greatest
My favorite, y’all should listen, he have potential
To outlive the heatwave I’m a sit through this motherfucker
And rebuild for a whole ‘nother other culture”
And that wouldn’t be enough
So fuck these haters and fuck these hoes
Damn right I still mean that

Now they wanna hear a country nigga rap
5 albums in, I swear a country nigga snap
Thought they wanted trap, thought they wanted bass
Thought they wanted molly, thought they wanted drank
Fuck them niggas

Unfortunately, the audience is so dumbed down that it never dawned upon them that they are the people who are being addressed by Big K.R.I.T. in Mount Olympus. I guess that ignorance is truly bliss.

After experiencing the contemporary Rap scene, I am left with little choice to say that although I do not believe that Hip-Hop culture is completely dead, however, it is at best on life support. The descendants of those who created it have allowed outsiders to initially co-opt it and now take complete ownership of it; an ownership that allows for them to dictate what type of lyrics are put on albums and apparently what types of songs a great emcee like Big K.R.I.T. even performs at his concert. Today’s audiences simply refuse to move if it is something of substance aimed at uplifting Black folk; unfortunately, this fact includes African-Americans concertgoers.

A part of me feels like simply walking away from Hip-Hop Culture and Rap Music completely, however, the larger part of me wants to continue the fight to return Rap Music back to its original purpose of uplifting the Black community. And knowing myself, it will be the Chuck dlatter, the decision to fight, that emerges victorious; so I intuitively realize that I will always stand and fight for Hip-Hop Culture. So let me deliver the initial blow by telling all of those who oppose lyricism, in the words of Big K.R.I.T. “Fuck them niggas.” It’s on, let’s work to reclaim, redirect, and own our cultural creation.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

#ManhoodRaceCulture

“You Promised to GIVE Me a Degree”: The Case of Race, Academic Dishonesty, and Entitlement at UNC

Rarely a day passes when I do not see someone, usually one of my students, totally giving away all of their power in how their life will progress, most notably their failure to capitalize upon incomprehensible opportunities that their ancestors have fought and died for. The alluded to opportunities have historically been denied to African-Americans for no other reason than that dubois2dastardly variable that W.E.B. Du Bois termed ‘the problem of the twentieth-century;’ race. Although I vehemently fight against the assertion that America is now in a post-race period, the truth is that many, not all, of the obstacles that have historically blocked the socioeconomic advancement of African-Americans are no-loner unconquerable. So I was not surprised when former University of North Carolina football player Mike McAdoo filed a lawsuit against the school for not ensuring that he received a college degree.

Mr. McAdoo told CNN that during his recruitment that athletics were not emphasized, rather they convinced the McAdoo’s that UNC was the place for their son by telling them that “…we can’t promise your son that he’s going to go to the NFL, but one thing that we can promise him is that he will get a college degree.” Mike McAdoo’s recollection of his recruitment is particularly insightful as he remembers the promise that “…he will get a college degree.” mcadooThe papers filed in federal court actually state that UNC ‘broke its promise to give him an education.’ Mr. McAdoo’s continuing failure to recognize that UNC provided him an opportunity to EARN a college degree or be positioned to EARN an education, represents the perspective of so many students who expect that after four, five, more commonly six years, they will RECEIVE a college degree. Such a perspective reminds me of a favorite rap line by Grand Verbalizer Funkin Lesson Brother J when he states that our people are always “trying to obtain with no attempt to achieve.

Without a doubt this class action lawsuit filed by Mr. McAdoo is merely ‘a sign of the times’ for this latest generation of African-Americans. From all indicators, a wide swath of our latest generation are absent the determination and perseverance that has under girded racial progress throughout our storied history on the th (2)North American continent. However, it is obvious to me that the mantra I was taught by preceding generations that my success hinged upon my realizing that ‘I would have to work twice as hard, to get half as far’ seems to be lost upon this latest generation.

Although it is going to be considered politically incorrect to state this, I believe that the onus for this matter falls upon the shoulders of Mr. Mike McAdoo; bear in mind that my assertion does not mean that I am absolving UNC from wrongdoing, obviously their treatment of student-athletes during this 18-year academic scandal that was solely motivated by an admirable determination to ensure their eligibility is reprehensible. However, it is time that African-American youth abandon their victimized status, assert agency in regards to the determination of their lives, and thereby become the architects of their future.

I do not doubt for one moment Mr. McAdoo’s assertion that the UNC Student-Athlete support areas “…sole purpose (was) ensuring that football student-athletes were eligible to participate in athletics, rather than actually educating them.” Nor do I doubt the allegation that “UNC has reaped substantial profits from football student-athletes’ performance for the school, but it has not provided them a legitimate education in return.” However, I studentsmaintain that it is Mr. McAdoo’s responsibility to go forth and earn his degree and education by long hours studying and researching in the library. There is an unwritten rule in academia that students should study for at least 9 hours a week for a 3 semester credit hour course.

One of the issues that we as a community have glossed over out of an attempt to be politically correct and ‘not air our dirty laundry’ is the reality that the vast majority of African-American students are simply unprepared academically, not to mention extremely comfortable in the lackadaisical study habits that serve as the primary catalyst behind their lagging behind in every academic statistic used to evaluate achievement, to deal with either the students 2rigors or display the necessary discipline to succeed in college. For example, although Mr. McAdoo’s high school GPA was 2.9, the typical non student-athlete admitted to UNC earned a GPA of 3.6 – 4.3. Federal prosecutor Ken Wainstein is most certainly remarking about African-American student-athletes when he remarks that UNC was admitting students who were simply unprepared for collegiate work. However, such a discussion is best left for another day.

Mr. McAdoo, assuming the role of the ultimate victim told CNN that “I lost an education. I lost trust in the school — someone I thought had my best interest.” In time, I pray that McAdoo understands that the onus is upon him to act upon his best interests and not allow others to dictate his present and thereby control his future. Failure to do such is not only ridiculous, but also guarantees that in the end you will feel as if you were cheated. sharecroppingAlthough UNC’s actions were wrong, Mr. McAdoo’s failure to EARN his education by capitalizing upon the voluminous unprecedented opportunities his athletic prowess afforded him is tantamount to a personal injury that exceeds anything that the institution he once entrusted with his future ever did.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

#ManhoodRaceCulture

A Delayed Response: Twenty-Three Years After Magic Johnson’s Announcement and We Still Have Not Learned

It was one of those “I remember where I was at when _______” moments that rocks you to the core. I remember very vividly that I was in my dorm room on November 7, 1991, when my best friend came in and announced, “Man, Magic Johnson just announced that magiche has Aids.” Although we had all heard of the disease, I had already had a close family member die from the disease after contracting it from intravenous drug use. However, in the early 90s, there was an unspoken belief in the African-American community that the disease was one that only gay men contracted through sex.

In the early-nineties, Aids was little more than an urban legend to many of my contemporaries. Not even Magic Johnson’s announcement that he was ending his professional basketball career as a result of contracting something called HIV changed that fact. Apparently little has changed during the nearly twenty-five black aids 2years since Magic Johnson’s announcement. Magic Johnson was so affable and engaging that many of us felt that we actually knew him. One would logically expect this unprecedented moment to have changed Black America in unconscionable ways, unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

The Center for Disease Control relates that African-Americans are currently the group, above all others I must emphasize, most affected by HIV. As of 2010, African-Americans were acquiring HIV gayat a rate eight-times greater than the white population based on population size. “Gay and bisexual men account for most new infections among African-Americans; young gay and bisexual men aged 13 to 24 are the most affected of this group.” (http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/racialEthnic/aa/facts/index.html)

According to the Center for Disease Control the following facts are true:

  • African Americans accounted for an estimated 44% of all new HIV infections among adults and adolescents (aged 13 years orblack love older) in 2010, despite representing only 12% of the US population; considering the smaller size of the African American population in the United States, this represents a population rate that is 8 times that of whites overall.
  • In 2010, men accounted for 70% (14,700) of the estimated 20,900 new HIV infections among all adult and adolescent African Americans. The estimated rate of new HIV infections for African American men (103.6/JL King100,000 population) was 7 times that of white men, twice that of Latino men, and nearly 3 times   that of African American women.
  • In 2010, African American gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men**brepresented an estimated 72% (10,600) of new infections among all African American men and 36% of an estimated 29,800 new HIV infections among all gay and bisexual men. More new HIV infections (4,800) occurred among young African American gay and bisexual men (aged 13-24) than any other subgroup of gay and bisexual men.
  • In 2010, African American women accounted for 6,100 (29%) of the estimated new HIV infections among all adult and adolescent African Americans. This number represents a mimidecrease of 21% since 2008. Most new   HIV infections among African American women (87%; 5,300) are attributed to heterosexual contact.c The estimated rate of new HIV infections for African    American women (38.1/100,000 population) was 20 times that of white women and almost 5 times that of Hispanic/Latino women.

Source (http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/racialEthnic/aa/facts/index.html)

Unfortunately, the numbers do not lie. The greater question facing the African-American population, I use the word population and not community intentionally, because a community bonds together to aid one another and solve common problems, I am personally unsure if we are a community, is a simple one of ‘how long will you act as if this issue, and a host of others that pivot upon matters of personal responsibility, should not be at the forefront of issues on our collective agenda. Maybe it is time that we lay the cross of victimization down in regards to repeated reactionary responses to racism and begin with a stern movement toward socially responsible individualism.

On this date, the twenty-third anniversary of Magic Johnson’s announcement that he had contracted HIV, I think that it may be imperative that we each take a moment to recognize those that have fallen victim to this horrendous disease, but also take nickiproactive steps on an individual and collective basis to address the matter. As a college professor, I am constantly bombarded with the issues of unprotected sex among collegians, I hear male students, hetero- and homosexual, bragging about their sexual conquests; rarely do I hear any mention of safe sex or any type of protection being used. I am almost certain that similar conversations occur among my female students. Regardless of if we want to admit it or not, we are each inextricably linked with one another and my Lord, what a tangled weave have we created?

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

#ManhoodRaceCulture

Will the Real Panthers Please Stand-Up?: Protecting the Panther Party Legacy and Image

It was not until I reached my forties that I began to understand a malady that commonly affects my elders, that being their forgetfulness. I considered it hilarious when they filled in the gaps caused by receding memories with sensational recollections that amount to little more than half-truths. I mention this for one simpleHuey and Bobby reason; recollections and reconstructions from yesteryear cannot be trusted. Faulty memories lead each of us to unintentionally change historical events. Of all the protest groups that attempted to achieve revolution during the highly-volatile 1960s, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, the Vanguard of the Black Power Era, has been victimized by historical revisionism than any other group.

The reason that this matter weighs so heavily upon my mind is that I am currently exposing my survey class to the Panthers. Although I am no longer surprised, I remain a bit stupefied by how little my students, whom I think are smart and courageous, know about African-American History. In their defense, they have not been eldridgeexposed to Black history during their K-12 educational experience. When asked what they know about The Black Panther Party, they struggle to name the Panther Party’s co-founders, any of the points on their ten-point platform, or the ideological underpinnings supporting the group. Instead they rely upon popular misconceptions that portray the Panthers as a vagabond group of lawless, criminal-minded, racist, irrational militants.

In addition to knowing next to nothing about the Panther Party, my students have no clue regarding the luminaries who made up the organization. The names Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, Fred PantherHampton, Kathleen Cleaver, Geronimo Pratt, Lil’ Bobby Hutton, Elaine Brown, Eldridge Cleaver, Assata Shakur, Bunchy Carter, Mutulu Shakur, William Lee Brent, Bobby Rush, John Huggins are all foreign to my young students. My students are not alone in their woeful ignorance of the Panthers.

To my amazement, several contemporary groups that have seized the Panther name are equally oblivious as they have betrayed the very foundations of the organization with their myopic, xenophobic, misogynistic, politically directionless posturing that they illogically believe is revolutionary politics. They are not only out of step withAssata the Panther legacy, but also damaging the Panther brand in a manner that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) could never achieve. The vast majority of these expressions of Panther politics are ill-informed half-witted cries from directionless individuals seeking to aid their community in some manner; although their intentions are admirable, good intentions fail to mask their ignorance of Panther ideology as it is so much more than posturing with guns, shouting “Black Power”, and trying to scare white people.

Even a cursory examination of Panther Party politics reveals that the basis of Panther ideology was a Ten-Point Platform that called for things such as: freedom, jobs, housing, and education relevant to KCLeaverBlack people, an end to the exploitation of the Black Community by all Capitalists (including Black ones), clothing, and justice. Although it is understandable that many people remember the Panthers only for the guns, the group’s greatest legacy had nothing to do with guns. I allude to their often forgotten community service programs:

  • Free Breakfast for Children
  • Free Grocery Giveaway
  • Panther Patrols
  • Sickle-Cell Anemia Testing
  • Physical protection for the Black Community against external aggressors
  • Free Lunch Program
  • Free Ambulance Service
  • Legal Defense Fund

The above activities represent the Panther spirit, not the faux groups who are attempting to co-opt their image and legacy by brandishing weaponry that is today as useful as the Hollywood props used in contemporary actions movies.

Huey P. Newton, one of the Panther co-founders, recognized that it was imperative that we work within our community to stabilize and strengthen it. Only after Black folk were taken care of were we to gobpp4 forth in a revolutionary manner. This is a lesson that too many of the contemporary Panther groups have forgotten. Many of these new groups are merely posturing and “talking loud and sayin nothing.”

I would like to warn those who are best termed the “paper Panthers” of this admonishment from Minister of Defense Huey P. Newton. “The revolutionary is a doomed man as he will either die in the revolution trying to achieve revolutionary change or successfully lead a revolution and then be discarded by bunchythe people as he has outlived his utility.”

So my question is how many African-Americans are willing to bypass these faux Panthers with their juvenile antics and enlist in a true expression of Panther Politics? The Panther Party is here waiting for you.  Who is willing to take on that challenge? If you’re courageous enough, the Panther Party would love to hear from you.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

#ManhoodRaceCulture

Committed to investigating, examining, and representing the African-American male, men, and manhood by offering commentary regarding the status of Black Men and Black Manhood as it relates to African-American Manhood, Race, Class, Politics, and Culture from an educated and authentic African-American perspective aimed at improving the plight of African-American men and African-American Manhood in regards to Politics, Culture, Education, and Social Matters.

%d bloggers like this: