If You Don't Know, Now You Know (c) Christopher Wallace
"An industry that used to be about Michael Jordan and Nike is now about 50 Cent and Reebok as it grows tentacles to reach young consumers entranced by what violent rap artists choose for shoes. Amid this transition, with marketers zealously blurring boundaries between stage and court, it seems as if the league is hip-hop, and hip-hop is the league - especially on the night of Nov. 19, 2004. That was when certain Pistons and Pacers came uncorked in a fan-induced brawl that left the players cast as lawless thugs of the gangsta rap variety. But Thursday night, many of those same players - both Pistons blue and Pacers gold - stood in sync with a mostly white Midwestern audience in a moving ovation to Miller."
While I agree that the marketing of products in the NBA is overzealous at times, the comparisons made here do not support anything but an apparent, lily-white (yes, I said it) ignorance to something that doesn’t have to be divided into a war of races, musical genres and assumptions. What goes on in the NBA boardroom has no true bearing on what Hip Hop ultimately should be about. True, SOME "violent rappers" have had a stranglehold on the commercial side of the music for varying periods of time, but that is not indicative of the diversity of Hip Hop – using the word Ms. Roberts chose to highlight about our current NBA and its many international and multi-cultural players. If she’s to declare the whole of Hip Hop violent, then she too has lost out on an opportunity to really see beyond what the media has deemed important and relevant. Should she be left off the hook for this because she’s a sports columnist? I think not.
That lack of respect for Hip Hop by Ms. Roberts is countered by the honest assessment of the genre and culture by Mr. Norman Kelly, author of the book, "The Head Negro In Charge Syndrome: The Dead End of Black Politics", which really peers into the problems left behind by what he calls "market intellectuals". If you’ve read my column in recent months, you know how critical I am of these public intellectuals who seemingly haven’t met a camera or press opportunity they don’t like (and use Hip Hop as a point of study and lecture). Should they be penalized for maximizing their potential to earn and educate? Perhaps not but we need these same people to guide the current downswing in culture towards relevance in not only black, but youth politics as well. Mr. Kelly isn’t necessarily kind to Hip Hop in his piece where he speaks of the "emptiness" of Hip Hop but he does speak truth. I dare you to find fault with what he’s saying and I’m far from playing fan boy to this man’s words.
I really need to get on some of these mailing lists for conferences and such. Earlier this month in St. Louis, the Media Reform Conference , put together by the Free Press, was held featuring the likes of Al Franken, Davey D and others. I would’ve loved to have been a part of that. If any readers were there and can chime in about it, I’d love to discuss what was said. It seemed to be a pretty charged event although it seemed youth participation was low. If I knew this was going on, I would’ve definitely made inroads to get there. We have to unify these fronts, people. The efforts to change policy and mindsets cannot be done in vacuums. True democracy ultimately leads to true solidarity.