Thursday, November 6, 2008
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Monday, July 21, 2008
The Daily Swarm reports that a group of 19 male professors, writers and activists in the African-American community – including New York congressional candidate Kevin Powell – are calling themselves “Black Men Against the Exploitation of Black Women” and are urging people to “make a personal pledge to never support R. Kelly again in any form or fashion unless he publicly apologizes for his behavior and gets help for his long-standing sexual conduct in his private life and in his music.”
Meanwhile, there are rumblings that R. Kelly is trying to leave his longtime label Jive and sign with Universal’s Interscope…
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
By Dr. Boyce Watkins
OK Lauren, we need to talk. Yep, I’m talking to Ms. Lauren London, the beautiful young woman who starred in the movie ATL with TI, my favorite rapper. Besides our favorite artist, you and I have something else in common: Menace II Society was one of my favorite films. The movie came out when I was finishing college and I consider it one of the greatest films of all time. In fact, the Hughes brothers, who made the film, are among the best film makers in the business.
With that said, I noticed that in a recent interview with King Magazine, you mentioned that you really like thugs. Not just thuggish thugs, but hard-core, pee-in-ya-mama’s coffee cup, “I don’t give a *&^%” type thugs. I was intrigued by your comments:
“I love guys who are street. I won’t even give soft guys a chance. Menace II Society is my shit! Caine was like my first crush. Actually, O-Dog was my true dream guy. I was in love with him, from that opening scene where he pops the convenience-store worker. He had me from that gunshot [laughs]. He was ’hood, and I loved that.”
When I heard these words, I thought “Wow, this girl needs to have a few more relationships to realize how concerned we should be about these comments.”
OK Lauren, I don’t think you are crazy, stupid or a bad person. Fantasies are natural, and we all have some. I dream about a sexy woman with a PhD feeding me honey barbeque wings in big furry bunny slippers (don’t ask about the bunny slippers, that’s personal). But there is a difference between what you want, and what you NEED, and that is part of growing up.
You mentioned that Caine, the star gangster in Menace II Society, was not hard enough. You actually went for O-Dog, his over-the-top homeboy. O-Dog is likely one of the most maniacal, murderous and treacherous characters to ever grace the screen of a movie theatre. He was the kind of guy who would shoot first and ask questions later, or maybe just shoot first because you asked him a question. Tupac was originally slated for this role, likely because he did such a good job playing the lunatic “Bishop” in “Juice” another great film made a few years earlier. Like O-Dog, Bishop was known for being one thing….. “crazier than a m*therfu*ker” (excuse my French, but sometimes English can’t capture the essence of just how crazy a m*therfu*ker truly is).
As a college professor, I’ve seen other young women have similar fantasies. I recall hearing a young Black Pentecostal Apostolic graduate student mention how she “loves thugs so much….they are just so FORBIDDEN!” Years later, after several abusive, meaningless relationships, a few venereal diseases and about 6 restraining orders, she actually sees the virtue of giving nice guys a chance.
I respect the street and I know a lot of good brothers from the street. But even the good brothers from the street don’t consider men like O-Dog from Menace II Society to be great catches. In fact, they go the other way when O-Dog comes into the room. Many brothers could understand Caine, the conflicted young man choosing between good and evil. But if there was a devil and angel on Caine’s shoulder, O-Dog was the devil. Men like O-Dog almost always end up dead or in prison, and your mama always tells you not to go their house.
You see Lauren, men like O-Dog are not the guys who love you, respect you or remain faithful to you. They are the guys who show you a good time and then stalk you, kill you and kill your dog when the relationship is over. They are the men whose girlfriends are killed in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting. They are the men who don’t give a damn about themselves, so they sure as hell can’t give a damn about you. That is not the place to go for love, fun and certainly not for a meaningful relationship. It doesn’t mean you can’t have a little thug in your life, or a little street. But you always want to have a man with a little common sense, a little self-love and a little commitment to his future. That is what I hope you will share with other young women reading your article in King Magazine.
You, Beyonce and other women who sing Thug Righteous Fairytales are not the only ones who make this mistake. Far too many men go chasing the most beautiful, booty-licious woman they can find, leaving the nice girl behind. They then realize, the hard way, that the nice woman is the one who will be there for you and that beauty goes much deeper than the skin. Lauren, you are pretty enough to surely get any guy you want, but you must also realize that there is strength in kindness. A man who loves you and treats you with respect is just as strong as a thug who shoots men in the grocery store. You don’t want O-Dog, you want the man courageous and caring enough to PROTECT you from O-Dog. That’s the secret.
I had a friend in college who also liked dangerous men. After spending over a decade married to a man in the penitentiary, I am willing to bet that her perspective has changed. I hope you don’t have to experience a lifetime of pain to realize that O-Dog is not Prince Charming. The same thing goes for the women looking up to you.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and author of “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about College”. He does regular work in national media, including CNN, ESPN, CBS and NBC. For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.net.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Friday, June 27, 2008
I see all the hatin that's been going on with Soulja Boy lately. I wrote an article on the topic earlier, since I saw some of the artists I grew up on getting real mad at the brother. I don't blame the brothers for getting upset on this, since Soulja Boy is definitely something different. I can't do the dances, and I don't want to do them. In fact, I would rather you cut off my testicles and feed them to the family dog.
But with that said, I have to hate on myself just a little bit. I grew up hard on West Coast music that we love so much: Ice -T, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, NWA, Spice 1 and Tupac. Is that really what we want our kids listening to? Let's be honest: the music we were bumping to in the 90s was some dangerous sh*t! Brothers got shot on every record, and being in the hip hop game was flat out crazy.
So, if I have a choice between teenagers dancing to punk-ass songs that sound like they were made on an ice cream truck vs. rapping about peeling each other's caps, I would rather our kids be safe and happy. To the OGs in the game: let it go. Times change. At the same time, we have to give the west coast more respect and start letting them have more spins nation-wide. West coast rap has always been, in the words of Ice-T, "The bastard child of hip hop". Well, Cinderella needs to go to the ball too, since the west coast rap game has some serious ballers.
As for Soulja Boy, let that young brother make his money, he was broker than the Ten Commandments last year and now he can provide for his family. Let the kids dance instead of kill each other, we don't want them ending up like Biggie and Pac.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and author of "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About College". He does regular appearances in national media, including BET, CNN, ESPN and CBS. For more information, please visit http://www.boycewatkins.net/.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Soulja Boy’s music?….not that great to me. But then again, it expresses a type of greatness that I probably can’t comprehend. It’s as if I am an expert in German and Soulja Boy did an Edgar Allen Poe in Chinese. If you go to Youtube and check out the hottest artists in America, you might see that a video has 3 million views, maybe 7 or 8 million if they are really hot. Soulja Boy? Try 30 million.
So Ice-T, you might think Soulja Boy’s music is garbage, but there’s a whole generation of brothers, sisters, white kids, Asians, Africans, Latinos and even Martians who disagree with you.
I speak on a lot of hip hop beefs when I appear on BET, CNN and The Wendy Williams Experience. That is also when I got a chance to witness Ice-T behind the scenes. I respect Ice-T. The man’s game is nuclear war-like and I even looked up to him when his musical career was colder than icecream in an Eskimo’s ass. But never once, even at the peak of his career, has he ever done anything hotter than what Soulja Boy did with his Superman joint. Soulja Boy did more with his “15 minutes” than a lot of artists do with 15 albums.
With that said, Soulja Boy has a lot to prove. First, he has to prove that he can actually write some lyrics that make a lick of damn sense. I don’t exactly sense lyrical brilliance in Soulja Boy’s music. He also has to prove that he has staying power. If I’m still listening to Soulja Boy when he’s a crusty old man dissing some 18 year old artist, then I’ll know he was onto something.
Ice-T, in his “apology” for telling Soulja Boy to “eat a d*ck”, issued the heaviest pimp-timidation I’ve ever seen dropped from one black man to another. Now I know why he was a successful pimp, and I seriously thought he was gonna back hand Soulja Boy through the camera. Ice T (who I actually believe to be a genius) played politics with Soulja Boy, reminding him that by coming at Ice-T, he was also coming at all of hip hop and all of the west coast. I can’t disagree with that, since Ice T’s roots run deep. This brother was dropping records before Soulja Boy was Semen Boy, Embryo Boy or Aluminum lunch box Boy.
But Soulja Boy can come back at Ice T with this: “Grand Daddy OG, you got the whole west coast sewn up, but I got every 18 year old in the world dancing to my song. When you’re rollin on 24s in your wheelchair, they’ll still be reflecting on how they were bumpin to my song on prom night.” Soulja Boy is a lock for the “Greatest Hits of the New Millenium” soundtracks being sold on paid TV programs at 3 o’clock in the morning in the year 2032. My man had a classic with that song, there is no denying that.
It was not my impression that Soulja Boy started the beef, and that is the dividing line. It can be hurtful when you are young in the game, trying to get your respect and an old cat just broadsides you like that. Kobe went through it when he joined the Lakers, which was Shaquille O’neal’s team. Tiger Woods went through it when white men didn’t believe a black man could dominate professional golf. I applaud Kanye West for coming to Soulja Boy’s defense. Kanye made it plain: This is not 1996 anymore. Tupac and Biggie are gone, gangsta rap has turned into something else, and many college sophomores were born during the same year as the tv show, “Yo MTV Raps”. I grew up on Ice T’s music, and I remember 1996. I listened to Tupac every morning before class, and NWA got me through college. So, I respect the west coast, I respect Ice T and I respect hip hop. But there comes a time when the old school has to add another wing of the building and make room for the new school. Soulja Boy is a respected member of the new school, whether we like it or not. Don’t player hate, collaborate and respect this man’s achievements.
Traditions in hip hop are like pillars of a building. On one hand, they give you stability and a strong foundation. On the other hand, they can be rigid constraints that demote progress within the institution. The more I listen to old school rappers complaining about young entrants, I stop hearing rappers, and start hearing “grumpy old mufukaz”. Instead of offering Soulja Boy a meal he would probably refuse (“eat a ….”), maybe Ice T could have invited the man into the studio. Ice T, your game is strong, Soulja Boy can learn from that. He can also learn a lot from the genius that kept you from getting pimped by this rap game, we know how those contracts work. Soulja Boy doesn’t want your game to die, he wants it to multiply. But if you come off as an old hater, your legacy will blow away like dust in the minds of the next generation. In other words, don’t become a lyrical Bill Cosby…..haterology won’t go as far as constructive critiques when you’re dealing with a fellow soldier.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and author of "What if George Bush were a Black Man?" He does regular commentary in national media, including CNN, BET, ESPN and CBS. For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com.
Video: Dr. Boyce Watkins talks about Ice T, Soulja Boy and Kanye West
Monday, June 23, 2008
I was involved with the first removal of Don Imus from the air, as I worked with Rev. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton on the phone to talk about ways to get him off the air. I mentioned that if African Americans engage in a unified effort to challenge his corporate sponsors, we can bring him down. That is what Jesse and Al did, and it worked. As a Finance Professor, I always look to the money first. That is the most critical element of power in a capitalist democracy.
You can imagine how disappointed I was to see Don Imus back on the air so soon. I admit that when I saw Imus appear on Al Sharpton's show, I really believed he was truly sorry for what he did. For him to repeat his actions is simply baffling, and I wonder out loud Rev. Jackson and Rev Sharpton feel the same way.
I recorded some of my thoughts on Don Imus below. The fact that this man can do what he did the first time, get back on the air and repeat the same stunt one year later is yet another reminder of just how little respect African Americans get in white media. No, it's not mainstream media, because mainstream media should reflect viewpoints from all perspectives. The truth of the matter is that most media is owned by people who are not black, so people like Imus and Bill O'Reilly can get away with this stuff without being forced to engage in any form of respect or responsibility. The ownership structure of American media is an artifact of 400 years of slavery and economic exclusion of African Americans. Our grandparents never had the chance to own CNN, FOX or NBC and they also did not have a chance to own the corporations that financially support these media outlets. African American wealth was stolen from us and now lies, in part, in the hands of companies that support racism on the airwaves.
So, the networks continue to insult black people and there are no consequences. Personally, I am getting tired of this crap. What is most ironic is that no matter what anyone says about black people on the air (lynching Michelle Obama, killing Barack Obama, calling Mrs. Obama a Baby's mama, calling Barack a terrorist, or calling black women Nappy headed hoes), someone is always there from the right wing willing to rationalize this behavior. It reminds me of a relative I had with a drinking problem. No matter how much you pointed out his weakness, he always had an explanation. America's addiction to racism is a lot like the addictions of my uncle.
It's actually kind of pathetic.
The video is below:
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Anyway, I thought it would be fun to bust a rhyme or two. For the haterologists out there, just remember: this is my first time!!!!
Either way, enjoy this:
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Friday, May 30, 2008
I'm not exactly sure what Nas is trying to say with this album cover, but the verdict is....He's saying it! I am a big fan of Nas, he seems to work hard to make his points. With all the hype this album is getting, I hope Mr. Nas gets it right.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Vigalantee is one of my favorite artists. I also know this brother personally, and his skill is off the hook. I was incredibly impressed with his knowledge and understanding of hip hop. When we talked, he was able to take it back 15 years to whatever topic I brought up, whether it was NWA, Ice Tea, 50 Cent or Kurtis Blow. There are few greater students of hip hop and more intelligent brothers than this one. So, I wanted my readers to get a chance to see some seriously positive and conscientious hip hop. He's one of the best.
Monday, May 12, 2008
PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO THE YOURBLACKWORLD FAMILY! WWW.YOURBLACKWORLD.COM
by Dr. Boyce Watkins
Some people think I hate Oprah Winfrey. I don’t. Actually, I love Oprah. Not the way my grandmother loves her, for that would be technically defined as cult worship. I love her the way I love Black Enterprise Magazine or really good Chinese food. Oprah inspires me, intimidates me and makes me really curious about the benefits of good, strong Tupperware.
The reason some people think I dislike Oprah is because I felt the need to critique her. Being engaged in critical social commentary in a media of black and white is like being an abstract artist in a comic book club. If you criticize someone, you are officially defined as a critic. You don’t dare use terms like “but on the other hand….”, for that’s the part of the tape that gets played during the commercial break. I even critique my mother, and I really love my mama. There is a ying-yang in everything, and Oprah is no exception. Remember: Her name is Oprah Winfrey, not Jesus Winfrey, but my grandmother might not agree.
The source of my Oprah critique came during her “Town Hall Meeting” on Hip Hop. On this particular show, Winfrey decided to assault gangster rap for its sexist imagery and violent lyrical content. I know gangster rap well, as the rapper Ice Cube (Co-founder of the group NWA) was my own personal Oprah Winfrey during high school and college. Everybody needs an Oprah, especially angry black men. There was something about the energy of NWA’s music that made me feel strong and liberated. Ice Cube’s song “F*ck the Police” was the most notorious of his collection, describing anger in LA about police brutality. With Rodney King happening just 3 years later, the song turned out to be downright prophetic.
But Ice Cube has some other work that is not so cool. Yes, he was young, but there is no excuse for the sexist content of some of his music. Years later, after Cube’s family movies have made him into an Crip-walking Bill Cosby, Oprah still has a legitimate grudge against him for songs he made 15 years ago. Ice Cube’s nasty response to Oprah, as well as backing from his gangster rap grandchild 50 Cent, led to Oprah’s Town Hall Meeting on Hip Hop.
During her attack on gangster rap, The Almighty Oprah chose to structure the judge and jury in her own psychological image. Not one guest in this so-called dialogue on gangster rap was actually a gangster rapper. The rapper “Common” was invited, but that’s like inviting Winny the Pooh to represent the Legion of Grizzly Bears. The conversation was rigged and counter-productive from the start. As a fan and critic of Hip Hop, I was disappointed. As a finance professor, I was annoyed that everyone seemed to forget that Hip Hop, in the form seen by most of America, is a corporate phenomenon. In this game, the “playas” are actually the ones getting played. One can’t discuss the War on Terror without mentioning President Bush, and one can’t discuss the challenge to gangster rap without mentioning the labels that provide financing, marketing, packaging and distribution of the final product. Without corporate America “slanging” the product or suburban kids clamoring for it like dope addicts, commercialized gangster rap would be about as socially significant as MC Hammer’s little brother.
Here are some points on what Oprah “Jesus” Winfrey was missing in her Town Hall Meeting on Hip Hop. First, commercialized Hip Hop is not the same as Hip Hop itself. Connecting the two is like comparing Hollywood blockbusters with Broadway Theatre. Sylvester Stallone couldn’t find his way to Broadway with a GPS, but he did quite well in Hollywood. The same is true for some rappers who experience commercial success with music that is about as entertaining as an actual commercial. Many such artists do not, for one second, reflect the essence of Hip Hop music.
Secondly, Oprah is a capitalist. She knows full well that the most visible face is not the most powerful one. To think that the nature of commercialized Hip Hop is controlled by rappers is to assume that record label executives aren’t standing behind the rapper with a machete over his head. Any rapper who deviates from corporate expectations will be replaced by someone who follows the company line. There are a slew of positive artists trying to get record deals, and they aren’t getting signed. The rapper E-40 said it best with his song “They’ll Find a New N*gger Next Year”. In this song, he explained that when artists get out of line, they get replaced. Perhaps Oprah should “get crunk” and listen to more E-40, he’s really good.
Again, I am not here to beat down Oprah, as some thought I was doing on CNN. I must confess that Oprah has done a lot more for the world than Ice Cube or 50 Cent. At the same time, Oprah’s anger at the sexist lyrical content of rap artists should not lead to a blanket indictment of the genre, nor should it mute the rights to cultural expression of gangster rappers. The same way that Oprah’s story is one of abuse, challenges and triumphs, the same is true for the rapper 50 Cent. Both stories are products of the black experience, and both stories deserve to be told.
The attack on gangster rap reminds me a lot of the War on Drugs during the horrific years of the Reagan Administration. There is a difference between really wanting to solve a problem vs. venting your frustrations and pretending to solve the problem. Reagan’s decision to arrest tens of thousands of black men while allowing the CIA to let drugs into the country through the back door was a vent. Oprah’s decision to go after rappers without having the courage to go to the source of the problem is like beating up the smallest kid in the class because the biggest kid took your lunch money. Although record labels control the marketing, content, distribution and production of gangster rap, Oprah wouldn’t dare go after the labels themselves. The very same corporations that own the rappers also own a piece of Oprah and the kids who buy the music on i-tunes are the children of her soccer mom audience.
Don’t get it twisted, everybody’s a slave in the rap game. Oprah hasn’t yet begun to open this Pandora’s Box.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and author of “Financial Lovemaking 101: Merging Assets with Your Partner in ways that feel good.” For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Saturday, April 12, 2008
by Dr. Boyce Watkins
I get a kick out of hearing conservatives describe hip hop as the bane of their existence. Rap music is nothing but a scum-of-the-earth product that lies in the center of everything that’s wrong with Black America. It’s the reason crime happens in black communities, why girls get pregnant, why brothers get shot, and why black men are in prison.
They explain to me, using $50 dollar words earned in some graduate school class, that hip hop is to blame for all of society’s ills. Rap music is Exhibit A in an open-and-shut case proving that all young black people are sh*t heads headed to hell in a hand basket.
How creative of us.
One of the oldest traditions in the world is for old people to look at young people and believe that they’ve lost their damn minds. When Jazz was the hot new form of expression, there were parents everywhere screaming that their kids were possessed by the devil. When Elvis swiveled his hips, parents had aneurysms everywhere. Rather than respecting the energy and creativity that young people bring to the world, we would rather knock them upside the head and tell them they are worthless. This goes double for the hip hop generation, who has the misfortune of being part of a community that has a 400 year old list of problems that they conveniently blame on a 30-year old social movement.
Rappers are not the reason so many black men are in prison. Our prisons are full because there are corporations that now have a direct financial incentive to incarcerate people and use their cheap labor as a modernized form of slavery. There is study after study proving that black men are given longer sentences for the same crimes, more likely to be incarcerated for those crimes, and consistently disenfranchised from society after paying the price for those crimes.
Yes, personal responsibility plays a role, but we must first have the personal responsibility to stop pushing all of our problems onto the rappers. Hip Hop didn’t create our broken justice system, and when NWA said “F*ck the Police” in 1988, the LA riots proved that they had a good point.
Rappers are not the reason that our school systems are underfunded: the lack of funds results from the fact that schools are supported from the tax base of the communities around them, and black people don’t have any money. Perhaps better school systems would not give rappers so many bad educational experiences to rap about.
Rappers are not the reason black people are poor. We are poor because there is a 400 year tradition of excluding African-Americans from the ability to pass wealth down to our children. Why don't we write a rap lyric or two about the poverty in America.....Oh, many hip hop artists already do. Addressing socioeconomic inequality might provide hip hop artists with positive inspiration, rather than the despair that so readily fuels their creative talents.
Rappers are not the reason there is so much crime. To blame hip hop, a form of entertainment on urban crime is like blaming Hollywood for the crime that takes place in America. If music has a hypnotic effect on the mind, leading to violence, then one must certainly argue that the image of violence in film has a much stronger impact. There were violent films long before there was ever a violent rap song. Additionally, the annual budget our country spends making violent movies far outweighs the money spent recording violent rap lyrics.
Racism and oppression are evil diseases that lie within the very fabric of America’s social infrastructure. The notion that these 400 year old demons are the result of 30 years of hip hop is nothing more than the standard scapegoating used against oppressed people in many societies. To blame hip hop for the state of black America is like bulldozing down a man’s house and then blaming the destruction on the fact that he spills milk at breakfast.
Hip hop teaches us to keep it real. Common sense will teach us how to keep it REALISTIC. We must do a little bit of both to get to the root of our problems and come up with effective solutions.
Hip is not to blame.
Dr.Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and author of “What if George Bush were a Black Man?” He makes regular appearances in national media, including CNN, ESPN, BET, CBS and Good Morning America. For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com.