The Eminem Debate....pt2

Yes Color Does Matter
If You're Not In Control Of
What You Create!

by Davey D


Someone fowarded me your remarks on Eminem... I hear what your saying with respect to the rampant fakeness that goes on within hip hop.. However, one key point is overlooked.. We have to take a long hard look at who is in charge and who presents these images..

I don't know too many Black people who get the final say so of what gets aired and doesn't.. I also don't know too many Black program directors who are in charge of many of these 'Hip Hop/R&B radio stations. I also don't know too many Black distributors etc.. At the end of the day.. I have to question the reasoning of my boss to play Jay-Z, Em or any 'foul' rapper over a KRS or someone who we may feel is uplifting..

I have to question white owned Interscope records who have put a ton of money in the coiffers of MTV and other mediums to insure high visibility for their artist.. As you know there's a lot of behind the scenes politicking that takes place when labels are campaigning for artist exposure.. It is no coincidence that Em's stories are featured in 5 major magazines this month. Ads are brought, high paid publicist work their magic and radio stations are put on notice that this month a particular artist is their priority..

Fake gangsterism within Hip Hop is the result of similar descions.. All of it comes under the banner of doing good business..The prevailing logic is the rampant exposure is due to the fact that record sales and large numbers of request justify the air time exposure. But let my Black ass do a song that says 'I Love Farrakhon'.. or a track where I dis some other powerful ethnic group like Gays or Jews and that record or artist won't fly.. No matter how popular..

For example, 5 or 6 years ago when Cypress Hill was enjoying immense popularity, they did a concert in San Francisco where the opening act came out and asked 'What are we men or fags?'. The word got out that it was Cypress who made these unsavory remarks and as a result demands where placed on radio stations to pull them from the airwaves.. When it was explained that it wasn't Cypress Hill, the reasoning switched and the logic that was applied was that since Cypress was headlining and chose the opening acts they must pay. The group was ordered to apologize. Eventually letters of apology were written but a year long boycott of their songs were put in place, not by the djs who were all big fans and in attendence at thatconcert, but by radio station management who had the final say so..

The overall point I'm making is that He who controls the flow of info dictates the tunes.. he who controls the mediums gets to paint the picture..

Chris Hall wrote:
If a white artist were behind the same records they wouldn't have sold five copies. For instance, if Snoop Dogg were white, "Doggystyle" wouldn't have sold. The reason behind this is that it is somehow accepted as authentic when a black artist speaks of the trials and tribulations of an inner-city gangster, even if that artist has never set foot within the confines of an American metropolis. To my mind, this is tenfold more disturbing then the fact that Eminem is lauded as the great white emcee. Why do we accept the manner in which black artists are given universal credibility as urban story-tellers? Are all blacks poor? Are all blacks gangsters? Are all blacks pimps, hustlers, con-artists, living in the dirtiests slums, prepared to sell their mama for a rock, urban dwellers? If not, then why do we accept any black artist who tells these tales as authentic.

This is the result of Black images ultimately not being controlled by Black people.. Snoop's records were played inspite of a huge campaign led by activist like Reverend Calvin Butts to pull is music off the air waves and record store shelves. He and other elders within the community felt that the content of his and others material would have an unbalanced impact on our youth. They also felt that Black pathology was being unfairly commodified and marketed. Black music oriented, white owned radio stations from Hot 97 to my own KMEL saw fit to play tracks like Gin & Juice even during morning drive. Many of the kids who purchased these albums were white kids who were buying into the reinforced myths of Black people's ill fated inner city conditions.

Too many songs like Gin & Juice and artists like Snoop Dogg were a reinforcement of the unbalanced evening news, highly watched TV shows like Cops, Rikki Lake and others.. Complicating this were record companies who insisted that Black artist start making music that was more 'street' cause that sold.. In fact if you look at radio from around the country around that time.. Top 40 stations that played Black music directed toward a younger audience began to take on the monickers.. like 'Staying True To The Streets'

Chris Hall wrote:
If these presuppositions are untrue for the large majority of black Americans then we should be incensed that these stereotypes are accepted as given fact as black artists consistently put them on records. Unfortunately, no one argues that these fake gangsters are benefitting from their skin-color. They are consistently applauded for keeping it real, or telling it how it is, even by people living hundred of miles from the nearest urban center who have no idea what it's like to grow up in an American city.

There wasn't a lack of action and many people were incensed. As I mentioned earlier, many organizations did protest from Calvin Butts to the NAACP to C Delores Tucker. Unfortunately many these groups and individuals took the wrong approach and tookmade their concerns public before really talking directly with the rappers or the community at large. The result was them being written off as being' 'out of touch'. Oftentimes it was these white owned Black mediums that provided the forum for these community activist to be dissed. They were not only depicted as being 'out of touch', but also depicted as foes of Free Speech. On the surface the criticisms launched at these community activist seemd deserved, but they may have had long term effects because now their creditability was shot both within and without the community.

I liken it to a parent telling his kids they can not have any dessert before dinner. Along comes an outsider who knows the kid is craving sweets and what he does his malign the parents and then give the kids all the sweets he/she can eat. While the kid is immediately happy, in the long run the effects of eating all those sweets will be devastating. In addition the outsider has suceeded in playing the kids off the parents thus creating tension and disarray.

Complicating matters was the fact that 'streetism' became a new commodity. Many were left with the impression that by being 'street' one could be lifted out of the ghetto. How can some one tell little Johnny to be like KRS One and rap about positivity when his favorite radio station, video shows and magazines were down playing KRS and highlighting Big Willie types like Jay-Z or Snoop? The images of these types of artist balling while sipping crystal and moet are constant. In addition, they are constantly being held up in the public high as success stories. From MTV on down to The Source Magazine and our respective radio stations.

Chris Hall wrote:
Eminem has and will continue to cross-over to an alternative, suburban white community that has always played spectator to the largely urban black phenomenon of hip-hop. True, these kids have emulated, imitated, duplicated, and replicated hip-hop culture in the process diluting and mutating its meaning. The cause behind this is that they have never been allowed to participate on a large scale in order to develop an adequate understanding of the foundations of hip-hop culture. In the same way blacks universally rallied to Jackie Robinson, even if they didn't like baseball, because he represented their opportunity to participate in something that had been denied them. Eminem makes white suburban participation in hip-hop possible and these kids, who genuinely love the music, will latch onto his music and his image like no previous suburban hip-hop icon.

I agree with you on this point.. but again the same machinery is at work. These medium outlets are now aware that white kids love Hip Hop so now they're trying to find an icon that will motivate these kids while simultaneously leaving the Black kids absent from the scene. Eminem fits the perfect bill. He's skilled, he's white, he's from the hood and unlike Serch or Everlast who came before him. He's seemingly about the biz of getting his at all cost. At least Serch and Everlast had a firm foundation so that when they were questioned they would always acknowledge the larger Black Hip Hop culture. The same was true for The Beasties. But Em isn't of that cloth. He's a marketing tool that's being used to fuel the music machinery that is bent on securing more and more white dollars..

Chris Hall wrote:
Hip-hop is an urban form of expression. It is predominantly a black form of expression, but don't mistake predominantly to mean solely. As those who were there at the beginning will tell you there were whites and latinos at those early block parties as well as blacks.

Yes Hip Hop is an urban expression. No, there were very few white kids at any of these early block parties.. One of Hip Hop's most over stated popular myths is this whole notion of white kids being down with Hip Hop at the very beginning. To say this or even imply this cheapens Hip Hop. It downplays the fact that what Black people invented white people wished to be a part of.. 20 years ago I was an emcee who rocked at parties all over The Bronx. Kids from back there will tell you there was a lot of racial tension.. Hostile white kids in New York used to always yell things like 'Niggers Suck' or 'Disco sucks' at Black and Puerto Rican and set all sorts of drama off. Neighborhoods like Pelham Bay, Throg Neck, Riverdale, Washington Heights, Rosedale in Queens, Astoria, Bensonhurst and Crowns Heights to name a few bore some serious race fights. There were even killings. Hip Hop back then was mostly Black and Puerto Rican. Whites didn't get hip until around 1980 or 1981 when groups like Afrika Bambaataa started performing downtown at places in the Village and at clubs like The Roxy. There were never any white kids at these early block parties unless they were the one or two who lived in the neighborhood. There were definitely no noteworthy participants.

Chris Hall wrote:
Unfortunately, Eminem is being treated to the same types of blind bigotry that pioneering blacks such as Jackie Robinson, Joe Lewis, The Tuskeegee Airmen, etc. were shown. The people concentrating so intensely on Eminem's color are feeding the hatred, bigotry, and racism, that hip-hop at its best destroys. The reason hip-hop was able to weaken the gang culture of New York prevalent at its onset was precisely because it was all-inclusive. Hip-hop embraced people and that is why people of all races flocked to it.
Another popular myth. Hip Hop didn't necessarily weaken gang culture.. Zulu Nation, Casanova Crew, Nine Crew were just a few of the old gangs who took on these new colorful names. In many cases they were just as ruthless, if not more. The gang culture subsided because NY went through a police state phase, where the police were seriously cracking down. Similar situations exist today under New York's current Mayor Guliani. Hip Hop's main attraction was it offered kids a chance to to get props, meet girls and occasionally make a few dollars. While Hip Hop was beginning to evolve, the violence around it went up. Check the crime stats for 1978 and 1979 and you will find record breaking years for murder and violent assaults. Every old school Hip Hopper worth his salt will tell you tales of Hip Hop's nemises-the Stick Up kid.

Hip Hop weakening gang culture sounds like a good and novel idea.Much of it is attributed to people like Afrika Bambaataa who really tried to bring about a n atmosphere of peace.. Kool herc before bam was also instrumental in quelling a lot of drama. But make no mistake Hip Hop was extremely violent. I was there and witnessed a lot of shit back then from kids getting jacked to getting killed. All sorts of kids got 'vic'ed for their Sheep skin coats and even equipment. There weren't too many parties that one could go to and leave nknowing that everyone got home in one piece.In fact they used to keep a daily tally on the murder count in local papers ie It is day 7 in 1978 and thus far 43 people have been killed'

As far as Hip Hop being inclusive, that is true. But back then NY was racially tense and violent.. and so there wasn't a whole lot of inclusiveness going on back in the early days.

Chris Hall wrote:

Urban black youth played the predominant role in the creation and development of hip-hop. That is a wonderful and historically noteworthy achievement, but you cannot logically conclude that since blacks created hip-hop, blacks should be the sole keepers and producers of hip-hop. By that thinking, we would have no Michael Jordan, Willie Mays, Joe Lewis, Muhammed Ali, Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks, etc., etc., etc. Follow my meaning...A white man invented basketball and yet Michael Jordan perfected it. A white man invented baseball and yet Willie Mays played it to a level seldom reached before or since. A white man invented boxing and yet Muhammed Ali can legitimately call himself "The Greatest". A white man invented the system of justice in the United States and yet Thurgood Marshall stands as one of the most accomplished Supreme Court justices in history. A white man invented the bus and yet Rosa Parks shook a nation with her refusal to move on that bus. Applying the same standard to hip-hop, we see that there is considerable room in hip-hop for the contributions of people from all nationalities, races, and cultures.

That's not really the issue at hand. With regards to basketball, boxing and these other institutions you noted, Black people although having some great successes don't control any of them.Now we can point to a Muhammed Ali and Michael Jordan and admire them but eventually someone will come along as you did and point out they didn't invent these institutions. In fact they had to fight to be integrated into them. We had to fight for our acceptance. Such is not the case with Hip Hop where Blacks created it. The only problem now is we don't control it. By that I mean they don't control many of the outlets that will ultimately net them finacial reward. Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player but it's a white guy who owns the Chicago Bulls.. It's a white guy who decides whether or not to show the games on tv.. It's white newspaper and newscast that secures the rights to report and show clips etc