I was on the phone with a friend of mine, Roger Suggs, AKA Vigalantee, a rapper out of Kansas City. I respect Roger as much or more than nearly any other artist on earth because he understands that being a “hip-hop head” is not inconsistent with showing a sincere love for black people. Hip-hop was established as a voice for the people to liberate themselves, not as an avenue to accentuate our continued oppression.That’s when I heard the news: Mountain Dew and Pepsico are cutting their deal with Lil Wayne (aka Dwayne Carter).
The decision was likely due to Wayne’s unfortunate decision to compare the battered face of Emmett Till to a woman’s vagina. This doesn’t include the fact that he has rapped about killing old ladies, little babies and women (Here’s a verse from the song “We Be Steady Mobbin,” where Wayne first says that he’ll steal your girl and make her “Nutt for me, then slutt or me, then Steal for me, then kill for me, and of course it’ll be your cash……And then I’ll murder that b*tch and send her body back to yo ass”). The decision just had to be made to cut the relationship, and it was one that says that boundaries have to be set on the corporate sponsored, modern day minstrel show otherwise known as commercialized hip-hop.
When I heard the announcement, a thunderbolt of joy shot through my body, similar to the way I felt when that girl said “yes” to my request for a first date in the 8th grade. My happiness came from finally realizing that progressive and conscientious activism has finally pierced through the wall of the hip-hop industrial complex, which has often lived on top of a mountain of arrogance fully funded and protected by a slew of corporate dollar bills. Lil Wayne could have easily humbled himself to the family from the beginning and apologized for desecrating the memory of one of the most important civil rights figures in history, but artists have long felt that they can readily disrespect black people and not even utter so much as an explanation.
These record labels don’t give a damn about the fallout of their music on black communities, where the genocide of black families is being celebrated and glorified on the radio every single day. They don’t have to see all the bodies piling up, as otherwise productive husbands, fathers, sons and daughters are being left dead in the streets or hauled off to private prisons that have turned young black children into profitable commodities. Universal Records is not with me when I go into high schools and see how many young boys have been taught to embrace anti-intellectualism, since it’s become cool to be “ignant.” Hip-hop didn’t cause all of the urban decay that initially created these conditions, but it doesn’t help that this music reinforces the mindset that sustains them.
There was another part of me that felt sad about the announcement by Mountain Dew. I felt bad that it had to come this far. I felt bad that Dwayne Carter, a man with as much brilliance as any college professor I’ve ever seen, had been convinced to use his powers for evil rather than good. Lil Wayne and I should be working side-by-side to keep black men out of prison, to exalt black women and to protect black children and communities, but structural racism turned him into the kind of man who tends to hate people like me. I hated the fact that I had to fight another black man in order to save and protect black kids, and it is because I love these kids that I knew I could not stop. I would fight for these children as hard as Lil Wayne fights for money; in fact, I would give my life.
Today is a new day and time for a new paradigm in black America. It is the day that the black community will stop being used as the whipping boy of the commercialized hip-hop industry, which left true hip-hop behind in exchange for a dog and pony show. Black women are not b*tches and hoes, even if some of them have come to accept that label. Black boys are meant to be brilliant, hard-working leaders of their communities, and we won’t allow them to be brainwashed into becoming blunt-blowing, “tatted up” serial baby daddies or thugged out urban terrorists. Law-abiding black people will no longer stand idly by as our children have their brains bombarded with lyrics that remind them to stay high and drunk, to kill one another and to talk about the women we love as if they are less than human.
Today is the day we stand UP and let the world know that true black leadership has arrived, and it’s not afraid to “get gangsta” with corporate America.
by Dr Boyce Watkins