I love hip-hop. I want to support it. I try to understand those who are a few years behind me and support their efforts to become empowered and thoughtful individuals. But after hearing the lyrics from a Lil Wayne song (an artist who’d already pushed me to the edge), I had to take a moment of pause and make a quick comment regarding how he has firmly positioned himself as an enemy of the black community. In the song, “We Be Steady Mobbin,” Lil Wayne says this:
“I swear you can’t fuck with me
But I can fuck your girl and make her nut for me
Then slut for me, then kill for me, then steal for me
And of course it’ll be your cash
And I’ll murder that bitch and send her body back to your ass”
This verse, and a few others, served as the straw that broke the camel’s back. There is a difference between natural, compelling entertainment and (as one of our Facebook fans refers to as) “weaponized” brainwashing. The word “weaponized” is an accurate descriptor of poison that’s been concentrated, packaged and targeted in large quantities.
Corporate America has wired the hip-hop game in such a way that millions of our kids are encouraged to consume the messages of Lil Wayne and other artists every day of their lives, the same way soldiers are asked to recite the pledge of allegiance every morning before breakfast. In fact, I can’t think of any other group of people where popular music has such a dramatic impact on the definition of an entire community’s culture: it dictates how our kids dress, how they speak, the tattoos they wear, what they do on the weekends, how they respond to aggression and how they conduct their sex lives. Since mostly white-owned corporations control the music that our kids hear every day, they effectively have the power to shift the direction of African American culture at the next shareholder’s meeting.
As a direct result of messages they are fed from commercialized hip-hop music, millions of black boys are religiously emulating the behaviors being promoted by their favorite hip-hop artists….black men are the most likely to die from gun violence, spreading HIV in droves (with far too many of us not going to the doctor), the most likely to go to prison and the least likely to be educated. Commercialized hip-hop is no longer good, fun entertainment; it has evolved into a regimen of brainwashing that is no less powerful than the one that Adolf Hitler used during the Nazi regime. It is an instructional manual that our teens pick up at the latest episode of BET’s 106 & Park, where I last saw the artist Wiz Khalifa perform a song called “On My Level,” where he jokes about driving while drunk, consuming a wild variety of drugs, and having irresponsible sex with a big pile of women.
This music also has an interesting impact on young women, far too many of whom find themselves in violent and abusive relationships, overlooking reckless behavior on the part of men, and even finding themselves intrigued by it. In the song I mentioned earlier, Lil Wayne makes reference to goons interacting with goblins, which reminds me of too many African American relationships, where women turn themselves into goblins in order to deal with the hip-hop generated goons they consistently meet in the dating pool. When it’s all said and done, these same women have no idea how to react when true love comes knocking, and turn down decent, loving men, all so they can pursue the thug who reminds them of their favorite rap star.
There is also an interesting contradiction that female support of Lil Wayne sends to young men. On one hand, men hear that women expect men to be respectful. But then they notice that Lil Wayne makes songs about disrespecting women and dumping their dead bodies, only to find that it makes him that much more appealing. It’s difficult to demand respect from men and simultaneously recite lyrics to songs that reference women to be worthless, ignorant sex objects. The same way the young women at Spelman stood up against the rapper Nelly in 2004 (when he swiped a credit card through a woman’s backside, a light-weight move for Lil Wayne), black women across America hold the keys to Little Waynes acceptance into the psyches of the men with whom they interact. But if women are endorsing this form of music and talking about how sexy they consider Lil Wayne to be, then how can they become distraught when men emulate Wayne’s behavior?
Personally, I am now officially boycotting Lil Wayne. It breaks my heart to do this, because the last thing I’d ever want to do is make an enemy out of my own brother. I also consider Lil Wayne to be one of the most talented commercialized hip-hop artists in America (I clearly admit to respecting his lyrical capabilities). But one thing I can’t support is this kind of irresponsible music without realizing the implications that it has on our young children, and how their lives are destroyed before they even have a chance to make decisions for themselves. The same way the Arabic community pushes children to memorize the Qur’an at an early age, African American children memorize the recipe for their own self-destruction on the radio every single morning.
From what I know about Lil Wayne (and friends I have who know him directly), he feeds on this kind of reaction to his music. He prides himself on being an animal or some kind of beast, and effectively avoids the assumption of any of the responsibility that comes with leadership. But perhaps Wayne will one day realize that he is no longer the young, powerless, poverty-stricken victim of urban violence that he was 20 years ago, and has now has the ability to shape the world in which his daughter is going to grow up. As a father of daughters myself, I hope that this helps to establish a common interest between myself and Wayne where I help this brother realize that there is no pride in a black man claiming himself to be subhuman. Our children need us to be better than that.