Tag Archives: Rap Music

FLOYD QUESTIONS IF EDUCATION IS WASTED ON SOME BLACK MALES

After you have lived enough life, you will learn that experience, and personal observation is powerful entities as they affect following thoughts and observations in a sneaky way. If one is not careful, personal experience will be the only thing informing how you view people. The only problem with such an occurrence is that your experience is in a word, limited. Put simply, if you are not careful your limited exposure will color your views in a most unreasonable fashion.

Now I am confident that you are wondering what I am talking about; such a question is understandable as I would be asking the same thing if I were you. And I realize that it is a bit difficult for you ‘to pick up, what I am trying to put down.’ However, I guess that what I am alluding to is that I felt a major conflict approaching between Floyd and me; a conflict that was most certainly going to boil over during our scheduled meeting at Hank’s Ice Cream.

The source of our disagreement, Floyd had somehow, someway, began questioning the utility of education for African-Americans. I considered this latest line of thinking that Floyd hinted at during previous discussions particularly disturbing, especially for a man of his age.

I must tell you that I hated having any disagreement with Floyd, especially when we were planning to meet in a public space; anyone who knows Floyd will tell you that he has no problem pitching a tent and behaving as if he is the featured presentation in a three-ring circus. There was no doubt in my mind that if provoked, Floyd was going to behave as if he were an absolute fool.

When asked about their favorite ice cream, most Texans will begin to tell you about Blue Bell Ice Cream. And I must be honest with you, when I first arrived in Houston, I thought that Blue Bell Ice Cream was heaven sent, that is until I tasted Hank’s Ice Cream. There is no reasonable comparison between the two. Put simply, Hank’s Ice Cream puts Blue Bell to shame.

I soon learned that not only was Hank’s Ice Cream a superior product but also it was an African-American owned business started by a very industrious man named Hank Wiggins in 1985. Hank, a graduate of Prairie View A & M University, hailed from Caldwell, Texas, and met financial success in Houston, Texas, by opening up what old-timers would call a jitney shop, today we call it a Taxi Cab service.

Apparently, Hank made ice cream for his family for years and always expressed a desire to open an ice cream shop to his wife, Okemah. It was a mid-eighties economic downturn that provided Hank an opportunity to realize his dream of opening an ice cream shop.

For me, Hank’s Ice Cream shop possesses everything that I desired in business: quality product, Black-owned, and reasonably priced. What was there not to like?

After watching the clock in my office, it was with utmost glee and exuberance that I left the office at approximately 11:30 and headed toward Main Street. Hank’s Ice Cream shop, located at 9291 Main Street, was this week’s meet-up location with Floyd at high-noon for yet another battle.

Upon arrival at Hank’s Ice Cream shop, I entered a venue that I always wished could serve as the standard template of hospitality and service for every African-American business. The notable welcoming environment that one finds at Hank’s Ice Cream Shop is not only comforting but also one of the greatest tips of the hat to its creator who has since transitioned to be with the ancestors. It does not take one long to glean an understanding that the employees of Hank’s are several generations of the owner’s remaining family members.

It did not take long before I had not only secured a towering vanilla ice cream cone that took me back to my childhood years. I found a seat in the corner of the establishment and began ravenously consuming it as if nothing else mattered. There was no work splayed before me, as is the usual case, Hank’s Vanilla Ice Cream demanded and received, my singular attention.

My singular focus caused me not to notice Floyd when he entered the establishment. Before beginning what I already sensed would be a round of extreme foolishness, even Floyd was compelled to secure some of Hank’s delicious ice cream before taking a seat.

In a few moments, Floyd, dressed in neatly creased khaki’s, an electric blue button down shirt, and his signature shiny shoes, plopped down across from me and began to lick his towering ice cream cone of Butter Pecan. As is his usual pattern, Floyd started in on me very quickly, but not before flashing that damn ‘Foolish Grin.’

“You see that right there. That’s how I know that you ain’t got no style. With all of these flavors, you picked ‘plain Jane’ Vanilla. I tell you, no style at all. None at all.”

Although I was enjoying my ‘plain Jane’ ice cream, I knew that I needed to respond to Floyd’s jab or run the risk of him considering my non-response as a sign of weakness. Prior experiences with Floyd had convinced me that if he were nothing else, he was an intellectual bully who eagerly pounced upon those unwilling to engage him. I responded with a short quip of,

“Nah Floyd, you looking at this thing all wrong. Before there was any such thing as Butter Pecan, there stood Vanilla. Before Chocolate, there stood Vanilla. Sometimes you need to pay homage to your foundations.”

After hearing my response, Floyd’s only response was a playful, “Oh, Nigga please.”

Both Floyd and I knew that the conversation we stood on the precipice of having was a long-overdue and controversial one that had stood like a sore spot between us. From my perspective, there was no point in dancing around the matter; during such moments I always preferred to jump directly to the heart of the matter. However, for strategic reasons, I needed for Floyd to broach the topic.

In a blatant attempt to bait him into the apparent discord that had grown between us regarding of all things, education, or more directly the utility or transformative nature of education for African-American males. I feigned ignorance and asked Floyd,

“So why did you want to meet? What’s up?”

Predictably, Floyd anticipated my move and slid me a copy of African-American News & Issues opened to a recent editorial that I wrote with a particularly harsh tone aimed at addressing a pernicious issue currently affecting African-American males. Although he has repeatedly used this tactic, I honestly did not foresee Floyd using my words against me regarding this matter.

THUG UNIVERSITY:

REFLECTIONS ON AFRICAN-AMERICAN MALES NEW MILLENNIUM EDUCATIONAL PRIORITIES

One of the more peculiar inside jokes shared among those raised in “the hood,” meaning lower-middle-class, working-class, and poor neighborhoods occur when someone has been arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison. It is at this moment that others affectionately relate that he/she is on his way to ‘college’; albeit, not to pursue a traditional Liberal Arts degree, rather, a B.A. in criminality or possibly an M.S. in the robbery of black folk. All agree that the convicted will return from “college” a slicker confidence man or bolder burglar. Many of my peers chose such an educational path.

Fortunately, many career paths and opportunities, including initiatives to save African-American males offer realistic alternatives to incarceration. The alluded to actions serve as a constant reminder of the national crisis facing African-American males. Personally, such initiatives facilitated a host of “firsts” for me: my first collegiate visit, my first academic conference, and a similar program — the Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP) — paved the way for graduate school. Such outreach programs made the mentorship I received from Dr. James N. Upton during my undergraduate tenure and Dr. Paulette Pierce as I pursued my first Master’s degree at THE Ohio State University all the more necessary. The mentorship mentioned above was critical to my academic success as I learned how to “be” inside of collegiate classrooms, academic conferences, workshops, and symposiums.

Consequently, my current station as a tenured professor is a bit surreal. I am now on the other side of the desk and charged with mentoring the next generation of African-Americans. Unfortunately, I am finding this process, particularly in regards to African-American males, increasingly difficult. Put simply, this latest generation of Black men does not appear to be particularly interested in academics, politics, or intellectual thought. In fact, I have watched as many of my current students have done their best to transform institutions of higher learning into an entity best termed ‘Thug University.’

The stages I lecture upon on a daily basis have provided a clear view of the drastically altered demeanor, preparation, goal structure and behavior of many African-American males. From my perspective, the driving force behind this transformation is a flawed understanding of Black manhood.

As previously mentioned, I participated in several initiatives aimed at saving ‘the endangered black male.’ Such programs operated out of the belief that there was a desperate need to provide “historically marginalized minority populations” access to higher education. According to those fighting on our behalf, the most significant obstacle preventing our inclusion into said higher education institutions was institutional racism; meaning, that institutions of higher learning operated in a manner that individuals such as me, a first-generation collegian, would never gain access.

I am confident that those battling for our inclusion during the eighties considered their foe, institutional racism, unconquerable. They never imagined that a decade later a more menacing enemy would arrive; an enemy that makes institutional racism appear juvenile. The latest opponent in the battle to save African-American males is a ‘siren’ that has mesmerized Black men. This enemy is best termed Thug Culture, a lifestyle propagated and delivered to our young people by contemporary rap stars.

For a significant population of Black male collegians, rap icons such as Rick Ross, YG, and Young Jeezy hold more sway over their values, aspirations, and worldview than Du Bois, Baldwin, Hughes, King, X, Newton, or Obama could ever hope to. Mentors of today’s African-American males are in for a rude awakening if they believe that mere exposure to collegiate campuses is enough to repel the omnipresent, seemingly omnipotent influence of today’s rap artists on the values and goal structures of African-American males.

Such an assertion pains me as Rap Music is dear to my heart. In fact, I was politicized by eighties Rap Music; Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Boogie Down Productions Edutainment, Brand Nubian’s One for All, X-Clan’s To The East Blackwards, and Paris’ The Devil Made Me Do It significantly altered my mind. However, the youth culture of my generation was not only politically progressive but also created by African-Americans to serve Black interests. Unfortunately, the days of yesteryear are long gone.

Things have turned so sour within some urban enclaves that African-Americans have begun to fear their own. The Notorious B.I.G. stated as much in his tour de force, Things Done Changed “Back in the days, our parents used to take care of us. Look at ‘em now, they even fucking scared of us.”

Why should previous generations of African-Americans not be concerned about this latest expression of manhood considering its proclivity for drug abuse, alcoholism, misogyny, profanity, immorality, and anti-social behavior? All characteristics, I might add, that are foreign to the way that persons of African descent have historically lived.

African-American male collegians who are in the throes of a nihilistic homo-erotic thug culture fail to realize that they are an aberration to historical manifestations of Black manhood. Their entire existence contradicts esteemed traditions of honorable, smooth, articulate, educated, well-dressed brothers who occupied leadership positions in their public and private lives. Today, the smooth suave and debonair African-American man have been replaced by young people whose lack of style, and trust me style is not achieved by one foolishly purchasing overpriced gaudy European clothing, is rivaled only by their inability to articulate a coherent thought.

Surrounding African-American collegians desperation to be included in ‘thug culture’ is an often ignored query of ‘what is the payoff for relinquishing long-standing African-American cultural traditions for niggardly behavior?’ Apparently, the payoff for African-American male collegians is the opportunity to earn ‘street credibility’ among Common Street hoodlums whom they desperately seek to emulate.

If nothing else, I wish that the young men I view from the stage realize that they are the best that our Race has to offer and they’re allowing the “streets” to influence their cultural values significantly and goal structures make as much sense as a tail wagging a dog. Young collegiate brothers, you are supposed to be the head and not the tail in regards to setting the values, priorities, goals, and future direction of our community. Hence, you are now center stage, the spotlight is shining on you, and we are eagerly awaiting to see if you will assume your rightful position as the next generation of educated “Race men” or will you prove cowardly and continue down a path of aberrant behavior that none of those who came before you would either recognize or celebrate.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

Although I did not necessarily have to read the editorial, hell, I wrote it. I most certainly knew its contents. To appease, Floyd, I reviewed the words that I had pinned during a particularly frustrating moment in my life; frustrations that flowed from the seeming inability of many African-American males decision to not ‘turn the corner’ toward success.

“Now what is your problem with me questioning if education is of any use to these fools?”

I initially attempted to explain to Floyd that he was focusing on the most unfortunate and damning aspects of what I wrote.

“Nah Captain, I am focused squarely upon what you wrote. Those are your words. Even you question if education is wasted on them.”

“Well, there are times, trying times I might add that leads one to question exactly what level of impact education is having upon some African-American males. I simply think that we have not done the best job of balancing educational pursuits and maintaining our cultural identity.”

“Cultural identity? What cultural identity? Oh, you mean what these fool call ‘keepin’ it real?’”

I hated it when Floyd mocked my position in such a manner. However, there was nothing that I could do about it at this particular moment; he created a significant, nearly impossible to overcome, advantage when he used my writings against me.

“Bruh, let’s face facts. The vast majority of these fools out here in these streets are more interested in pretending to be some gangster or pimp. It appears that the only difference between the street thug and the college student is where they are doing their dirt. That’s the ONLY difference between the two.” 

“C’mon Floyd, there is no way that you believe that. We have many African-American males in college who are not only brilliant, but also reaching landings that neither you nor I will ever approach. All that I was saying in the editorial was that they should not allow the streets to unduly influence them toward ignoring the fabulous opportunities before them.”

“You know I hate it when you try and hide behind your words and don’t say what it is that you mean. Quit talking about the streets and call it what it is. You mean this damned Hip-Hop Culture. Because that is where they are getting this foolishness.” 

As much as I wanted to disagree with Floyd, I knew that he was correct in this matter. Hip-Hop Culture was a major obstacle facing this latest generation of African-Americans as it seemingly touched every facet of their lives from their appearance and speech to their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Such influence would not be such a major issue if African-Americans still controlled what I frequently term the Nuclear Bomb of popular culture; however, the harsh reality is that we do not control either the images or the messages that are continuously shared with our children on a twenty-four-hour basis.

“It might be time for you to face the fact that these rappers have more influence upon Black men than even you do. Hell, it is not a stretch to say that they have more influence than their teachers and professors, and maybe, just maybe, they might have more influence than even their parents. It’s sad, but true.”

Floyd’s observation stung for one simple reason, he was absolutely correct. Unfortunately, African-Americans affinity for Rap Music which began for the vast majority of our people with either the release of the Sugar Hill Gang’s ‘Rappers Delight’ or Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five’s ‘The Message’ did not cease when the culture was taken over by white record executives and companies.

“Now Floyd you know that the vast majority of the things that these kids, and yes they are still kids, are out here doing is due to them following trends and fads.”

Apparently, I had said something to set Floyd off because his face communicated an obvious disdain and disappointment, if not anger.

“Kids? Kids? You think that these fools out here are kids? Well you keep hanging in the city and you will more than likely get a chance to see how kid-like these Niggas are. Man, they are committing violent robberies at the ages of thirteen and fourteen. Nah, they haven’t been kids for a very long time.”

“And whose fault is that Floyd?”

“Damn it, man, can’t you understand that it doesn’t matter whose fault it is. All that matters is that it is. And trust me when I say this, it ain’t going nowhere neither. This foolishness is here to stay.”

“It starts in the home and just grows worse and worse. That’s why I am telling you that education is largely wasted upon Black males. They not only can’t hear the teacher, they ain’t trying to hear the teacher.”

Although I never wanted to concede defeat in a debate to anyone, most of all to Floyd, I realized that there was an element of truth in his argument. Someway, somehow, somewhere along the line many African-American males, I refuse to say all, had lost their way and began devaluing educational pursuits and replaced what can be best termed traditional values with gangster fantasies that had their genesis in some white A & R record executives office.

Sensing that I didn’t have a logical response to his assertions, Floyd smiled with that ‘Foolish Grin’ like a Great White Shark circling some much-desired prey. Moving his hands as if he were conducting a symphony orchestra, Floyd stated

“And the truth prevails yet again.”

I shook my head at his foolish behavior and prepared to rise from my seat. Just as I stood, Floyd began to speak.

“Man, I know that you ain’t trying to leave without getting some of this ice cream to go.”

Floyd was correct in his observation; I always got a couple of pints of Hank’s to go.

“Sooooooo, I thought you might want to get me some as well.”

Although blessing Floyd in such a way was not at the forefront of my mind, I shot him an angry look and made my way back to the counter. When I made it to the counter, I heard Floyd shout out,

“And get me something with some flavor. Butter Pecan, Chocolate, Mint; not that bland stuff that you like.”

I could only shake my head at Floyd.

After purchasing both of us a few pints of ice cream, I handed Floyd his portion as we headed for the door. To my amazement, Floyd was walking toward my vehicle with me. Although I was uncertain what this meant, it became clear when Floyd shared,

“Now I know that you are going to give me a ride home. Otherwise my ‘Hank’s’ will be done melted by the time I get there and you know that would be a shame.”

He had gotten me once again! My only recourse was to shake my head before I unlocked his door.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017.

When Attempting to Appear ‘Deep’ Goes Horribly Wrong: How Lil Wayne Made a Complete Fool of Himself by Attempting to Discuss Race in America

One of the most puzzling and bizarre things that I have ever encountered intellectually is the unmistakable reality that the vast lil-wayne-2majority of African-Americans have absolutely no comprehension of what racism, historically the most significant obstacle to Black liberation, actually is. It is truly saddening to repeatedly witness African-Americans, the foremost victims of racism I must add, consistently reveal to anyone within earshot that they have no real comprehension of what racism actually is. The most recent African-American to publicly display their idiotic position on American racial matters is none other than Lil Wayne.

Lil Wayne, a native of New Orleans, Louisiana displayed his intellectual feebleness in regards to race matters when he responded to a Skip Bayless’ query of how he felt about the fact that the vast majority of those in attendance at his recent concert Westchester, New York, were white youth in the following peculiar way, “…I thought that was clearly a message that there was no such thing as racism.”

Although it would be preferable to dismiss Lil Wayne’s mind-boggling response, I do think that it would be an error to do such. The error in dismissing this dim-witted response is not found in the fact that Lil Wayne was anywhere near making a logical statement regarding the highly complex and volatile issue of American race relations, rather, the lack of comprehension that Lil Wayne efficiently displays in this largely inconsequential utterance most certainly highlights the unfortunate reality that the vast majority of Americans, African-Americans included, have absolutely no understanding of the major difference between:

  • Prejudice
  • Discrimination
  • Racism

Although it is routine for people to use the terms prejudice, discrimination, and racism interchangeably, they are quite simply not the same thing. Such lazy thinking is similar to someone saying that pizza, chicken wings, and cake are the same thing because they are all edible. This practice of what amounts to as ‘sloppy thinking’ is undoubtedly one of the most obvious signs that most Americans have little understanding of what the aforementioned terms actually mean.

Put simply, prejudice is the mildest of the three aforementioned terms as it quite simply entails and individual pre-judging another person or group. This should be considered the mildest of the three aforementioned terms as there is little action associated with prejudice.

The simplest way of understanding discrimination is that it occurs when prejudiced people put some form of action behind their bigotry. One must remember that the power wielded by single individuals is relatively limited when compared side-by-side with that possessed by businesses, corporations, and institutions.

Generally speaking, racism is a complex system that involves institutions including, but not limited to — financial, businesses, educational — that work to disenfranchise a group in a host of ways (politically, economically, socially, educationally) for their own advantage.

What makes racism so pernicious is that the reality of its multi-faceted attacks makes it nearly impossible to pin down. If one lil-wayne-3misses the operation of racism in their analysis of American race relations they could very well be convinced that racism should not be blamed for multi-generational racial inequality, rather African-American inequality is the true cause of Black suffering. The impact of racism upon African-Americans is real, despite what someone like Lil Wayne believes. Its effects are most tangibly noticed in the racial gaps that are found in areas such as: home ownership, net worth, and income earned.

I hope that someone, anyone, would explain to Lil Wayne the fact that the presence of whites at his concert is in no way a sign that racism has taken a death kneel. One only needs to look at footage of any Black concert prior to desegregation and they will see droves of young whites screaming and hollering their support for their favored artist such as Ray Charles.

In fact, the suggestion that racism has disappeared from this nation is equally asinine and ludicrous. I have always been instructed that I should always consider the source from which information and opinion emerges. In this case, the source is most certainly not worth paying any attention. This should be considered little more than yet another example of what occurs when some imbecile leaves their lane and attempts to appear intelligent. Hey Wayne, stick to non-sense such as rap and leave the heavy lifting for those who have trained for it because you’re most certainly an intellectual light weight with nothing to offer regarding anything substantial.

This is grown folk business, Lil Boy.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016

 

What Rich Homie Quan’s Lyrical Flub Really Tells Us About Many Current Rap Stars

You wanna sip Mo’ on my living room floor
Play Nintendo with Cease and Nino
Pick up my phone say, “Poppa not home”
Sex all night, mad head in the morn’
Spin my V, smoke all my weed…
Guess you could say you’re the one I trusted
Who would ever think that you would spread like mustard?
Shit got hot, you sent Feds to my spot…
You knew about me, the fake ID
Cases in Virginia, body in D.C.
Woe, oh is me, that’s what I get for trickin
Pay my own bail, commence to ass kickin
Kick in the door, wavin the four-four
All you heard was, “Poppa don’t hit me no more”
Disrespect my click, my shit’s imperial
Fuck around and made her milkbox material
You feel me? Suckin dick, runnin your lips
‘Cause of you, I’m on some real fuck a bitch shit, uhh..

(Notorious B.I.G.)

Let me be perfectly clear about what I am going to say, I love Hip-Hop Culture with every fiber of my body. From the moment that I heard Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five’s The Message on 93 FM WZAK with Lynn Toliver and Ralph Poole I was hooked in a way that only my love for African-American Studies can even approach.

Experience has taught me that Hip-Hop Culture is the Nuclear Bomb of Popular Culture; make no mistake about it, Hip-Hop Culture, particularly Rap Music, has impacted the entire globe. I would be being less than honest if I did not relate that I count the creation of Hip-Hop Culture in all of its facets as one of Black America’s most impressive contributions to global culture. As I am certain that you can guess, I am still in love with Hip-Hop Culture.

Unfortunately, after watching the most recent VH1 Honors show aimed at honoring Queen Latifah, Salt n Pepa, Missy Elliott, and Lil’Kim, I must relate that I am deeply disturbed. What has disturbed me? The thing that has disturbed me is having one of my worst suspicions regarding Hip-Hop Culture verified in one of the most public and unfortunate ways possible.

During Lil’ Kim’s performance of the timeless foundational classic Get Money, Rich Homie Quan, a figure that for some inexplicable reason has been embraced and celebrated by a significant sector of Rap Music fans despite his propensity for mumbling as if he is suffering from early on-set Alzheimer’s, I received definitive proof that many of today’s Rap stars are most certainly not what is commonly termed by those who love the culture, Hip-Hop aficionados.

For whatever reason, someone, most likely a person who has very little vested interest in protecting Hip-Hop Culture from hurt, harm, and exploitation, decided to bestow upon Rich Homie Quan the honor, and make no mistake about it, it is truly an honor, of reciting Notorious B.I.G.’s classic verse on Get Money. It would be a gross understatement to state that Rich Homie Quan fumbled this opportunity in the most shocking manner ever. He literally did not know B.I.G.’s verse, something that is far different from catching a serious case of nervousness and forgetting the lyrics. I have absolutely no doubt that Rich Homie Quan never knew the classic lyrics, an inexcusable offense in itself, and went forth and committed a mortal sin of informing millions of viewers of this grievous error.

Now I am certain that many people may consider this an excusable offense, I do not! Make no mistake about it, Rich Homie Quan’s lyrical flub explains much about why it is rare to find real Hip-Hop among today’s leading emcees.

Without a basic understanding of Hip-Hop history, it is in many ways predictable that contemporary Rap stars will never understand the hallowed ground that they stand upon. Devoid of such knowledge, it is predictable that contemporary emcees will quickly abandon Hip-Hop culture’s rich traditions of politicization, community service, and representing for the African-American community at every turn.

Although it may sound a bit cliché, it is time that those who love Hip-Hop Culture helped it return ‘back to basics’ by educating this current generation regarding from ‘whence they come’. I fear that if we fail, Hip-Hop Culture, particularly financially lucrative Rap Music, will be totally unrecognizable to Hip-Hop aficionados like myself in the not too distant future. This is a cultural crisis; hopefully, we will respond appropriately.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016

Genius Revealed in Time: Tupac Amaru Shakur’s True Brilliance is Being Further Revealed as His Time Away From Us Continues

I have experienced enough life to realize that the vast majority of people are not only unoriginal, but also prone to pattern themselves behind some person that they have little intimate knowledge of Pac 1beyond their existence under what amounts to a blinding spotlight that exaggerates their insignificant presence. Honestly, this is not a process that is endemic to this latest generation, truthfully every American generation has done the same.

Consider the public personas that African-Americans have patterned themselves after throughout the 20th Century; Booker T. Washington, Malcolm X, Minister Farrakhan, Muhammad Ali, George Clinton, Parliament, Richard Roundtree, RUN DMC, Rakim, Ice Cube, and Tupac Amaru Shakur.

Make no mistake about it, the iconic figures placed before Black America do matter, particularly as they simultaneously reflect not only our current position, but also offer significant insight into the direction that we are heading. Unfortunately, when such figures are in our midst we often fail to understand their voluminous cultural influence. Undoubtedly, the influence and importance of such individuals is not truly understood until they have disappeared.

These thoughts rose to my mind when I realized that if he had not been murdered by our people, Tupac Amaru Shakur would be 45 years old today. One can only wonder what Tupac would have been today, however, the more important question revolves around what has happened to Hip-Hop in his absence. The decline of Hip-Hop Culture and Rap Music in particular speaks volumes about Tupac’s brilliance and influence upon the Hip-Hop community.

Since Tupac’s murder we have gradually seen the decline of “conscious” rap and the rise of a materialistic, ends-justify-Pac 5the-means culture that has instilled within our people the idea that it is not the quality of life and the principals that one stands upon that denotes a quality life, rather a successful life is best measured in not only the adoption of Eurocentric values, but also the pursuit of designer labels and items that have little value beyond it providing an individual the opportunity to shout to others, “Nigga you ain’t up on this.”

Into the colossal space that Tupac occupied has appeared a vaudeville circus of rappers who are best termed by an old KRS-ONE lyric of “I’m so and so! I’m this! I’m that! But they’re all wick, wick, wack.” Sadly it appears that it is only now in his absence that we are able to truly understand Tupac’s influence upon our culture as we have yet to say other emcee’s who have been able to tow the fine line between politicization and the ability to remain not only relevant to our people, but also direct their minds toward something more substantial than a “Beamer or a Benz”.

There is no more recent example of the length that the Hip-Hop Community has gravitated from its political roots than a run-in that I had with a young brother last night while performing the mundane task of pumping gas. As I pumped my gas, a young brother who Pac 3appeared to be in his late-twenties screams to some unidentified person in his vehicle, “Turn that shit up!!!!!!” He then begins to perform a dance that was eerily reminiscent of something that you would see in a far-off African village by a ‘Witchdoctor’ that included intricate hand movements that could have only been some desperate attempt to ‘throw gang signs’; everyone pumping gas just stared peculiarly. One of the white patrons approached me with a humorous look and said, “There goes the future of America.” I privately mused, “Nah, there goes the future of Black America.” Absent of an understanding of how to conduct oneself in public, brash, braggadocios, and truly not giving a fuck about me, you, or any portion of Black America. I could only muse, “Is this hip-hop?”

On what would be his 45th Birthday, I have no choice but to salute Tupac Amaru Shakur for all that he did for our people, including the complexities and contradictions that appeared to fit him like a tailored suit. His genius is truly missed. There is quite possibly no better evidence of his voluminous influence is the reality that we are now living in a cultural moment where in the words of Redman, “All the monkeys have come out.” And they have seized Hip-Hop Culture and chosen to prostitute her out to anyone willing to bid upon her. They should all be ashamed.

Rest well Pac, real Hip-Hop heads have not forgotten you and most pray that you will return, even though we know that you fight against the idea of re-incarnation, to help correct this mess that they now call Hip-Hop.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016

THUG UNIVERSITY: THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN MALE PERSONA ON THE COLLEGE CAMPUS

One of the more peculiar inside jokes shared among those raised in “the hood” is that when one of their peers is sentenced to prison, this individual is on his way to ‘college’; meaning he is away from the community receiving an education in criminality and bound to return with an advanced criminal skill set. President Barack Hussein Obama’s ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ is an initiative aimed at preventing such college visits.

The African-American community has known long before President Barack Hussein Obama arrived on the national political scene that obama2there was a crisis concerning Black boys. I know that these initiatives have been around for at least thirty-years as I was previously a participant in such programs. Considering that Malcolm X’s admonishment that a person is merely the sum of their life experiences, I attribute a portion of my current success to such initiatives.

My participation with outreach programs specifically aimed at uplifting African-American males provided me with my first opportunity to visit a collegiate campus, attend/participate in an academic conference, and receive mentorship at both the undergraduate and graduate levels by unbelievable faculty members at THE Ohio State University, my alma mater.

With hindsight I can attest with extreme clarity that it was the latter occurrence, the opportunity to be mentored that has proven most beneficial in regards to my future endeavors. It was during mentorship sessions that I learned how to “be” inside of a collegiate classroom, an academic conference, a workshop, and a symposium; just as importantly, I had lessons my parents had taught me reiterated behind closed doors that I had done absolutely nothing to earn the opportunities being placed in front of me, it was an extended line of my elders who had facilitated this moment, and since I had not created these opportunities, I had absolutely no right to behave in a manner that would cause these opportunities to cease. Put simply, we, meaning a larger community, have worked tirelessly for you to even be allowed to compete in the collegiate arena, don’t you dare get out there and embarrass us at any moment, at any time, or for any reason.

Such experiences and mentorship makes my current status as a tenured professor of African-American studies surreal. I am on the other side of the desk and charged with the responsibility to keep the tradition from whence I emerged alive and well.

Although I, and many of my colleagues, concentrate upon keeping the traditions going; the truth is that the process of mentoring today’s African-American male collegian is markedly different from anything I could have imagined. Ironically, I have had an up-close view of the dynamic decade long process that facilitated collegiate campuses transformation from institutions of higher learning to what can be best termed “Thug University” for a significant portion of African-American males.

From the stage that I lecture on, I can attest that the past decade has been a period of dynamic change in regards to the African-American male persona on collegiate campuses, a shift that has been greatly prodded by Hip-Hop Culture. Put simply, much of the ignorance infecting so many African-American male collegians is an outgrowth of Hip-Hop Culture, Rap Music and Videos in particular.

As previously discussed, I participated in several initiatives aimed at saving ‘the endangered black male’. The logic behind such initiatives Collegewas that there needed to be some mechanism that provided “historically marginalized minority populations” access to higher education institutions. The most significant obstacle preventing our inclusion was an entity referred to as institutional racism; meaning, that the entire system operated in a manner that individuals such as myself, regardless of our best efforts, would never gain access. To their credit, policy makers and government officials took decisive action by allocating funds for African-American male initiative programs that worked to combat occurrences of institutional racism.

I am certain that those battling for our inclusion during the eighties considered their battle with institutional racism a Herculean effort, little did they know, a few decades later there would be a far more enchanting enemy that would make earlier battles with institutional racism look like taking candy from a baby.

The latest frontier in the battle to save African-American males must be fought against a much slicker enemy, one that the vast majority of African-American males admire, embrace, and seek intimate knowledge, that enemy is Hip-Hop Culture.

Despite the plethora of outreach programs being created to influence/guide African-American males down a productive path, the truth is that for a significant population of our males, rap icons such as Rick Ross, YG, and Young Jeezy hold more sway over their values and worldview than any initiative could ever hope to. Now this is by no means suggesting that such initiatives need to be ceased, as many participants, such as myself, will maximize the opportunity, however, the administrators of such initiatives are in for a rude awakening if they believe that exposure to collegiate campuses or professional mentors is sufficient to stem the omnipresent, seemingly omnipotent, influence of today’s rap artists on this latest generation of African-American males.

The above assertion is particularly disconcerting for someone who to this day holds Rap Music near and dear to my heart. I was literally incubated by Hip-Hop culture and its musical wing, Rap Music; entities that paved the way for first my politicization and my pursuit of a career of the mind.

Outside of my parents voluminous influence, my mind was molded by Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Boogie Down Productions Edutainment, Brand Nubian’s One for All, X-Clan’s To The East Blackwards, and Paris’ The Devil Made Me Do It. As I reconstruct my past, it is clear that the youth culture I was steeped in was not only politically progressive, but also created by young African-Americans to serve the interests of young African-Americans. Unfortunately, the days of yesteryear are long gone.

If the saying that a tree is best known by the fruit it bears is true, one needs to look no further than the current state of young African-American males to discern that Hip-Hop culture is doing untold damage by curtailing their worldview and opportunities.

As stated in his tour de force, Things Done Changed “Back in the days, our parents used to take care of us. Look at ‘em now, they even fucking scared of us.” The antics/attitude/actions of African-American males have made many of their parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles scared of them. Why should previous generations not be afraid of these recent manifestations of African-American manhood with its proclivity for drug abuse, alcoholism, misogyny, profanity, sagging pants and anti-social behavior? All foreign characteristics to how the majority of our people have lived throughout the annals of time.

Unbeknownst to the young men who are attempting to serve two masters, one being the altar of collegiate studies and the other the altar of ‘keepin it real’ Hip-Hop Culture, they have signed up for an sagging pantsimpossible task; in fact, it will the latter of the two that will always win out as it invariably taps into the carnal nature of mankind. The young men currently in the throes of a nihilistic homo-erotic thug culture fail to realize that they are an aberration to the way that educated African-American men have lived for centuries. The alluded to individuals entire existence contradicts storied traditions of honorable, smooth, articulate, educated, well dressed brothers who were in leadership positions in both their public and private lives. The smooth suave and debonair African-American man has been replaced with young men whose lack of style, and trust me a measure of style is not conveyed by adorning one’s body with overpriced gaudy European clothing that was not created with you in mind, is rivaled only by their inability to verbally express themselves.

The proverbial elephant in the room regarding African-American collegians desperation to be included in this type of lifestyle is an often ignored query of ‘what is the payoff for relinquishing long-standing African-American cultural traditions in favor of adopting behavior that would shame a nation of uncultured savages?’ Apparently the impetus behind the actions and mindset of so many African-American male collegians is a pursuit of ‘street credibility’ among those that they consider, or desperately desire to be like, uneducated criminal-minded thugs and hoodlums.

It is my fervent hope and prayer that African-American collegians quickly conclude that there is no salvation for them to be found in the streets of America, let alone any feelings of admiration to be hewn from a segment of society, criminal-minded African-American males, Gangster Disciples1that loathes their existence. If nothing else, I wish that the young men sitting in my classes realized that they are the best and brightest that our race has to offer and their allowing those who have less education than they do to direct their cultural values and goals makes as much sense as a tail wagging a dog. Young collegiate brothers you are supposed to be the head and not the tail in regards to setting the values for our community. So take your rightful places as the trend-setters and leaders within our community. Only you can reverse this tide of cultural dysfunction and flawed political priorities.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016.

#ManhoodRaceCulture

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Author, Creating Revolution as They Advance: A Historical Narrative of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense

Author, ‘Foolish’ Floyd: The Life & Times of an African-American Contrarian

Author, O’Bruni: An African-American Odyssey Home?