from Davey D's FNV
Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiongo once remarked:
"...Language carries culture and culture carries, particularly
through orature and literature, the entire body of values by
which we perceive ourselves and our place in the world."
perspective. If language carries a people's culture and therefore
projects a people's cultural values to others, explain to me
why are we allowing our young men and women in the recording
industry to use offensive, self-deprecating language disguised
as song lyrics to discredit an entire people. Surely, the ancestors
are not proud.
with the excuses already. I love hip hop as much as the next
woman, and my frustration is not another case of "playa
hating," or "blaming rappers for society's social
ills." That argument is tired and quite silly. Nor am I
confused about parental responsibility. Yeah, I know ...if you
don't like it, don't buy it. Blah...blah...blah. That is not
this discussion. I simply want to know how long will we make
excuses for entertainers of any kind who work hand-and-foot
with compounded social ills to emasculate a group of people.
in point: Dr Dre (Andre Young) was recently referred
to as "the original, true-blue gangsta-rap god," by
Talk Magazine (April 2001). Writer Michael Daly
offers a quote from Dre's boss, Interscope Records cofounder
Jimmy Iovine: "Not since the Beatles or the Rolling
stones has any one individual artist affected society or popular
music more than Dr. Dre." His boss then goes on to say:
" ...he impacts the entire continent."
that's a lot of responsibility for a record producer. Young,
at age 36, has amassed about a $100 million fortune writing
and producing hip hop music under the genre of gangster rap
- a genre he is often credited with creating. His latest invention,
Eminem, is now being promoted as the conduit for white rage.
He offers musical missives about killing his wife, deranged
fans and doing peculiar things to homosexuals.
one argues that Young creates the coldest beats known to man.
Brother surely has talent. The bass hook in Xxplosive
on his The Chronic 2001 album, was so off the hook, R&B
songstress Erykah Badu used it to rocket Bag Lady to
the top of the charts. While Badu's tome expressed the plight
of a impoverished woman, Dre's lyrical contribution to that
mesmerizing beat included rapper Kurupt's poetic utterings:
coast shit nigga over dosage - imperial pistols ferocious Fuck
a bitch; don't tease bitch, strip tease bitch Eat a bowl of
these bitch, gobble the dick Hoes forgot to eat a dick can shut
the fuck up! Gobble and swallow a nut up, shut up and get my
cash Backhanded, pimp slapped backwards and left stranded Just
pop ya collar, pimp convention hoes for a dollar Six-Deuce
in a plush, six-deuce impala Pimpin hoes from Texas to Guatemala
Bitch niggaz paid for hoes, just to lay wit hoes Relax one night,
and paid to stay wit hoes Captain Save' Em all day (bitch) well
save this dick Bitch nigga, you more of a bitch than a bitch
You ain't into hittin pussy, or hittin the switch You into hittin
bitches off of the grip, you punk bitch"
Talk Magazine asks the super producer the usual question about
his lyrical content, inquiring about the proposed views of a
late civil rights icon about the quality of his music, Dre responds:
"Martin Luther King would love this." Is that right?
another celebration of black musical success, wonder-lyricist
Sean "Jay Z" Carter often writes and performs
head-banging missives that have made him a wealthy and sought
after celebrity. Take just one verse from the hit song,"Big
know I - thug em, fuck em, love em, leave em Cause I don't fuckin
need em Take em out the hood, keep em lookin good But I don't
fuckin feed em First time they fuss I'm breezin Talkin bout,
"What's the reasons?" I'm a pimp in every sense of
the word, bitch Better trust than believe em In the cut where
I keep em til I need a nut, til I need to beat the guts Then
it's, beep beep and I'm pickin em up Let em play with the dick
in the truck Many chicks wanna put Jigga fist in cuffs Divorce
him and split his bucks Just because you got good head, I'ma
break bread so you can be livin it up? Shit I.. parts with nothin,
y'all be frontin Me give my heart to a woman? Not for nothin,
never happen I'll be forever mackin Heart cold as assassins,
I got no passion I got no patience And I hate waitin.. Hoe get
yo' ass in And let's RI-I-I-I-I-I...."
kind of women has he been exposed to and just whom is he talking
about? A white woman? Asian? Latino? Oh, I forgot, that's not
allowed. In the spirit of unity, let us not forget the sisters.
Kim (Kimberly Jones) offers
the following thought-provoking observation in "She Don't
Love You," from her Notorious K.I.M. release: "Is
she drop-dead fine? Does she like it from behind? Is she fly?
Do she got a style like mine? Does she slurp it, rub it, jerk
it, ride it? Tell you how you feel when you inside it You love
me, and I know she know Cuz everytime I come around, she be
like "let's go" Girls know not to leave they man around
me I get my hands on 'em. He puttin' rent and a Benz on m...."
Baltimore offers another view in
"Pimp the One You Love," on her Cold as Ice release:
the hyped bit, always been the tight bitch Keep these cats in
line, pay that rent on time And we'll talk about extra keys
to my spot When it's extra V's in my lot, extra G's in my knots
So how I managed to get damaged on 'chill with one nigga' shit
I was to break me off with some more figures bitch I don't know,
just caught me at the right moment Vulnerable, nigga jumped
up on it With mind games, took me out of my frame I ain't even
want his payback, my homey Tony Drapper He pimped for the guts
and I was givin' 'em up Can't tell me I can't have any player
I want And I burnt myself out tryin' to turn his ass out...."
am sure fans of all four aforementioned artists will dismiss
my ramblings and random recitation of their song lyrics as being
taken out of context. Others might go as far as to tell me that
these artists are merely "storytellers," much like
a Eric Jerome Dickey, Terri McMillian or Omar
Tyree. And please, don't get me wrong about diversity in
the culture either. I understand all rappers can't be Lauryn
Hill, Mos Def, Common, or a member of Dead
Prez. I also know that new artists are more likely to follow
the more controversial hip hop icons than buck them. The more
shocking, the more vile, the more graphic, the more violent,
the more sexist... the more money, the more sales... the more
bling, bling.... Right or wrong?
I refuse to believe that our young people willfully set out
to create songs to ridicule and embarrass their heritage, family
and community. I refuse to believe that Jay-Z sat down with
a pen and paper and wrote those lyrics on his own, and that
those are his beliefs. Nor will I ever believe that Lil Kim
wants sex without love, commitment and intimacy. I do not believe
Dr. Dre hates his wife and children or wants to murder or die
in a hail of bullets. I refuse to believe that many of our young
brothers and sisters in the entertainment industry have little
integrity, self-esteem and love.
more I think I about it, I am convinced there must be a hip
hop constitution that mandates how rappers represent musically.
The mandate, in the form of a recording contract, is actually
a set of commandments authored by the "music establishment,"
otherwise known as the "industry," to ensure the artist's
marketability in an already saturated genre.
HOP's (UNSPOKEN) TEN COMMANDMENTS
I: Thou must dis' black women. You are
allowed to distinguish between bitches, hoes and "real
sisters" only during interviews when asked to clarify your
statements. You must talk about beating a woman up at least
once on your CD or demo. On at least four (4) but no more than
five (5) singles/demos you must talk about having rough and
unprotected sex with a woman. You must also refer to your girlfriend
or wife as a "bitch" in an endearing way. All music
videos must reflect the aforementioned notions.You can talk
about doing things to other people's mothers as acts of creative
expression. You may also refer endearingly to an unplanned child
as a "bastard," "shorty," "lil nigga,"
or "lil G." By honoring this commandment you vow to
never rally behind black females or support a strong family
bond. You see her only as an object for sex and to reap the
repercussions of your rage. You also believe she is only out
to get you.
for females) Thou must dis' black men. Female rappers are allowed
to distinguish against niggas, bustas, scrubs and punk. You
must lyrically emasculate them in every way possible. On at
least one (1) CD or demo you must destroy his character by either
calling him a homosexual or talking about his lack of money.
You are allowed to refer to your boyfriend or husband as your
"nigga" in an endearing way. All music videos must
reflect aforementioned notions. By honoring this Commandment
you vow to never identify with the black male's struggle against
white supremacy. You vow to never support a strong family bond.
You also uphold the tenets that all of his problems are of his
own doing. You see him as only an object for sex and money.
You believe he is only out to get you.
II: Thou must kill. You must "lyrically"
take the life of at least one other black person in order to
secure a hit CD. This law does not promote the physical killing
of another person. However, it is not against the law to assassinate
another person on record. You must only talk about killing your
own kind, however, or other cultures may sue you for inciting
racial violence. You must express pleasure in the kill. The
kill must be graphic and extensive in detail. The consumer must
always be left with the feeling that taking a person's life
(lyrically) was justified. Most of the lyrical murders must
be done by guns, however creativity allows for poisoning, stabbings,
beatings, stompings, and suffocating. You do not distinguish
between male or female kills. By keeping this Commandment you
vow to never claim acts of genocide publicly even when you are
a victim of violent repression yourself. You also agree to "lyrical"
acts of black-on-black violence, as well as prolific incidents
III: Thou must covet. Thou must talk about
lusting after things that do not belong to you. You must have
an unusual craving for things that do not belong to you. Your
desire must be so strong that you unwittingly uphold the second
commandment. This law does not advocate you physically go after
the material possessions of someone in your community. By keeping
this commandment you vow to never promote a strong work ethic
in your music or to speak against greed, lust and impulsive
behavior. In fact, you now believe greed is healthy.
IV: Thou must have a lot of sex. You must
have no fewer than three (3) songs on your CD or demo that promote
sexual intercourse with one or a group of individuals. You cannot
express a deep sense of love or marriage. Thou shalt not talk
about commitment, bonding,
and intimacy. You can only talk about sex in its purest and
rawest terms. Do not use "make love," or "provide
pleasure," or "pro-create." You must never mention
a sexually transmitted disease in the context of these records.
You can however discuss the use of contraceptives, but only
if you're referring to sexual intercourse with a hoe. (See first
Commandment). If you are under age 16, you may substitute sex
with the "flirting," and "fantasies about being
intimate with your teacher, neighbor's child, or another rapper."
You must be creative in your graphic detail of sexual intercourse
so to leave nothing to the imagination. The details can be slightly
skewered in order to circumvent radio censors. However, this
does not excuse radio edits from removing references to sex.
Therefore stay ahead of the game by using clever phrases with
dual and triple meanings. By keeping this Commandment, you vow
to never promote unconditional or agape love in your community;
promote the black family in a positive light; or uplift male/female
V: Thou must celebrate the drug culture.
Thou must condone and identify with the proliferation of drugs
in the black community. You should create endearing lyrical
expressions to identify various narcotics and mind-altering
substances. Though you are not to personally distribute or purchase
illegal substances, you may allude to it lyrically. (To protect
industry investment, we discourage musical confessions to crimes
where the statue of limitations have not run out.) You may allude
to a war on drugs,but only as justification to carry out the
second commandment. You must continually suggest that selling
drugs or "slangin'" produces the only legitimate income
for impoverished black people. All music videos must either
glamorize this lifestyle by showing the "success"
of the narcotic trade, or glamorize prison living. You should
refer to drug addicted citizens in comical terms that illicit
disgust, laughter, fear, pity or retribution. You are never
to question U.S. drug policy. You can never promote healthy
living and thinking. Nor can you advocate moderation in tobacco
and liquor consumption. By keeping this commandment, you vow
to never discuss the impact of drug addiction among people of
color; its impact on the community's overall health; its impact
on the prison industrial complex; or, its impact on the black
VI: Thou must rarely talk about God and
spirituality. You must lyrically condone atheism and a false
belief system that negates the existences of a higher being.
You must routinely question the existence of a god by lyrically
challenging him/her/it to take your life or to grant you three
wishes. You are to refer to yourself as a god who gives and
takes life. You may lyrically create your own religion (see
tenth commandment) based on a ghetto belief system. Thou shalt
not talk about life and death as it relates to spirituality
or a sense of purpose. You should never speak of scripture or
religious texts. You are prohibited from
acknowledging any spiritual beliefs that may have been instilled
you by family. However, you may identify with a Jesus by wearing
a large, diamond encrusted piece whereby you may brag about
its costs. Under no circumstance are you to promote prayer,
reflection, meditation, atonement, redemption, sacrifice, mercy
or grace. The consumer fan base must identify with your lack
of spiritual grounding by believing that the only gods are sex
and money. By keeping this commandment you vow to limit your
personal spiritual growth and development. You also vow to never
be seen publicly in a church, synagogue, mosque, temple or other
house of worship and reflection.
VII: Thou must promote capitalism. On no
fewer than four (4) singles or demo records you must talk about
money as if it were a living, breathing thing. You must talk
about making it, taking it and the love of it. Your lyrics must
always place money over love, over women, over religion (see
sixth commandment). You must never talking about savings and
investing. Thou can, however, say the words "currency exchange,"
"welfare check," "first of the month," and
"food stamps." You must never talk about pooling of
resources. Thou can never equate capitalism with poverty. You
must never mention the IMF, WTO or Federal Reserve. In fact
never mention banking or the stock market at all. Do not mention
technology. Do not discuss taxing. Do not discuss the federal
budget. (See Commandment V). You must promote individual wealth
over community wealth. You should talk about all of your purchases,
specifically naming makers/distributors of expensive jewelry,
cars, clothing and liquor. Once you become a successful entertainer
you should purchase a very big house and no fewer than three
(3) expensive cars. Publicly, you should live within a lavish
lifestyle in order to please your consumer fan base that now
lives vicariously through your music. Your lifestyle should
include, but not be limited to: living in exclusive communities,
catering to huge entourages, routinely eating at expensive restaurants,
flying to Europe for fashion shows, purchasing designer clothing
only, ordering platinum and diamond encrusted jewelry for your
body and teeth, purchasing expensive weapons and devices, frequent
partying and purchasing big quantities of expensive liquor and
tobacco/cigars. Thou should consistently ridicule those who
cannot afford the aforementioned items. By keeping this commandment
you vow to always promote a consumer culture v. a producer culture.
VIII: Thou cannot have a sense of history.
Never ever refer to any historical event that may cause the
consumer to think about his/her relation to history. Your role
is to entertain, not educate. Thou art prohibited from speaking
of the following: Trans-Atlantic slave trade; African holocaust:
Reconstruction: the civil rights movement; the Black Power Movement;
the "real" Harlem Renaissance, and so forth. You can
never mention the following people: Martin Luther King Jr.,
Hannibal, Mansa Musa, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, David
Walker, Nat Turner, George Jackson, El-hajj Malik Shabazz (Malcolm
X), Jesse Jackson, Patrice Lumumba, Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela,
Steve Biko, Louis Farrakhan, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois,
Huey Newton, Fred Hampton, Bobby Seale, Kwame Ture, Ida B. Wells,
Assata Shakur...unless you are making fun of their names,
causes or crusaders. (I.e., Rah Digga's Harriet Thugman). Do
not mention Africa, Brazil, the Caribbean or Asia, unless to
disparage. By keeping this commandment you vow to never promote
a sense of awareness, a knowledge of self or the consumer's
global relationship to kindred spirits.
IX: Thou must not advocate. Thou art prohibited
from advocacy of anything of social redeeming value. Your lyrics
must reflect a detachment from the social, political and economic
reality of your community. Your lyrics can occasionally ridicule
people who march, protest and advocate social causes. The consumer
should never assume that thou reads newspapers, magazines or
books. In other words it must appear that nothing that happens
in the "real" non-entertainment world, has any personal
affect on your thinking. Nor should the consumer of your CD
or demo walk away with the belief that you care about anything
other than the Commandments IV and VII. Never talk about the
"industry." By keeping this commandment
understand you must never appear at a non-entertainment-related
event, unless of course you are entertaining. You must never
donate money, resources or materials to needy organizations,
families or causes. When questioned about this you must defend
your position by claiming you are an entertainer and that's
all. You can never participate in interviews discussing relevant
social issues. Thou art not responsible for the behavior encouraged
by your music because thou art not responsible for marketing
and sales to minor, unstable individuals, or mentally ill citizens.
You understand that you cannot attend rallies, sermons, marches,
and picnics, festivals or workshops that have nothing to do
with entertainment or the recording industry.
X: Thou must promote all things ghetto.
You may never define the word ghetto or discuss its creation.
You must uphold its principals and create new creeds. You must
lyrically create a fictional account of ghetto living that inspires
comradeship and a sense of pride among its residents. Your lyrics
must create a ghetto dweller that is proud to live in the ghetto
and takes offense at others moving into it. You must celebrate
ghetto life by reminiscing about days in poverty and your mothers
on welfare and about your fathers who were not there. Additionally,
your lyrics must offer the mainstream a rare glimpse inside
a "socio-economic matrix" while allowing them psychologically
off the hook for the ghetto's creation.
You must celebrate ghetto language, ghetto living, ghetto housing,
ghetto clothing, ghetto hairstyles, ghetto sexual habits, ghetto
education, and ghetto economics and ghetto self-hatred. You
must romanticize poverty with tales of sex, drugs, money, creed
and fear. The ghetto must become a magical place. By keeping
this commandment you vow to create and then instill pride in
a false culture of poverty, crime, drugs, illegitimacy, ignorance
and apathy. You also vow to attribute the ghetto only to Black
people. You also vow to never leave the ghetto matrix psychologically,
even when your economic status changes (see seventh commandment)
In other words you will remember to "keep it real."
keeping the aforementioned commandments we, "the industry,"
guarantee the following:
Unlimited marketing success and cross-over appeal.
2. A guaranteed income
3. Fame beyond your wildest dreams
4. Unlimited (but recoupable) industry resources
5. Several music awards, citations and honors
6. Protection from community repercussions
sacred scroll must be handed to every potential and current
Black hip hop artist in the nation. While some sign, many others
I am sure others have refused, as there is circumstantial evidence
that supports that. Occasionally a breakthrough performer will
offer lyrics that make us think, act and believe as if we have
purpose and are loved in this life. Yet the majority of our
youth must be forced to sign, recite and then internalize these
commandments in order to guarantee their market success. I imagine
if they do not sign the doctrine, they are relegated to doing
poetry readings at open mics, working menial jobs, fading into
relative obscurity and living in the "ghetto matrix."
This must be the answer, because the truth is surely a lot more
mwandisi gadlin is a Chicago-based writer who focuses on cultural
and socio-political issues. In a past life she served as national
press secretary to the Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. e-Mail: StephGadlin@aol.com