Words by Chris Smith
"No matter what we do or say, we always end up as Whitey's entertainment." - John O. Killens, The Cotillion
Imagine waking up one morning to your television set broadcasting some random talk show with two people that look like carbon copies of an H&M advertisement. Bored, you decide to change the channel and see a YouTube clip of Brooke Shields, Miss Blue Lagoon herself, telling her child in a skit, "don't make me use my pimp hand!!" And this was the choice quote of the clip. You pause for a minute. After letting out a sound of disgust of your preference, you change the channel once more and see a commercial for Jerry Springer with two broke-down sisters wailing on each other screaming "ho" at each other in between punches. Does this all sound too farfetched? Well, this was yesterday morning for me. And while I can laugh at it with ease, I can't shake the symbolism of what I watched that morning all in the span of three minutes and what it means.
We're at a point in time where every day, hour and minute is a definition of hip hop culture. What it is, who lives it, what it stands for across the board. And right now, we're no longer in control of defining ourselves. And slang, the language of hip hop, is a telling touchstone to this fact. We've worked ourselves into popular language and it's not so much the words but their meaning that carries serious weight. For example, I have a co-worker who's an eccentric white woman. This woman says "word" to almost everything. And out of her mouth, a phrase used for affirmation becomes a comic gag. In the wake of Don Imus' verbal miscue, "nappy headed ho" has become a twisted clarion call for certain individuals to attack people of color. You even have a brothel owner, Dennis Hof referring to himself as "the pimpmaster general." Our words have become co-opted, consolidated and given back to us en masse like so much fast food for profit. And what gets me upset is this sudden moral impetus driven by the media that seeks to envelop people of color. And some of our leaders falling for this line with good intentions but no real insight.
What is really taking place is similar to that scene in 'The Matrix' where Neo notices the cat appearing twice and mutters, "Deja vu" before being ambushed. Right now we're dealing with a similar situation. Recent events have ripped a hole in the fabric the powers that be have used to blind you to the truth of things. Popular culture is now heavily tattoed by hip hop culture. Joe Francis would not be the millionaire he is if he didn't market 'Girls Gone Wild' with an urban edge at first. Jamie Kennedy, a low grade version of Tom Green is viable only when he does comedy with a hip hop edge. As much as I'd like to forget Warren Beatty and 'Bulworth', I can't. And Halle needs to thank her lucky stars she dodged a .50 caliber shell with her infamous lin in that movie. There's even an MTV reality show in the works called "Rapping With The Stars". At the root of it all, hip hop culture has become another marketing tool, a more palatable way to take your money and label you according to the dicates of corporations and elitist types with blue chip stock and summer villas in the Azores And it starts with the words. When you have artists like Rakim, Immortal Technique and The Coup who are considered "fringe", you see the bigger picture.
Especially when Karl Rove decides to rap at a black tie affair. The moral crisis they tell you about on CNN and other news outlets is partly contrived. I'm not saying that there's not an overabundance of derogatory language in hip hop, far from it. I'm saying that you should look at who's kicking up a fuss the most and wonder why that is. Perhaps the powers that be are uncomfortable hearing Snoop Dogg blasting from a car at their local megamall. Or one of their daughters was spotted on a cell phone table dancing topless and drunk to Lil Jon. It boils down to their idea of how we live and how they can't stand its effect on thier comfort zone.
So if you watch an episode of Springer or see a commercial with exaggerated hip hop slang and action, keep this song refrain from Souls of Mischief in your mind: "Tell me who profits..."