As the author of an academic and theological treatise defending Hip-Hop’s existential right to be, I have been asked many times to weigh in on various elements of Hip-Hop’s cultural ethos.
Usually my colleagues in theological circles have already made up their minds about the demonic influence of Hip-Hop generally, and rap specifically. Therefore they don’t really want me to point out anything socially-redeeming about Hip-Hop or its cousin, rap. On the other hand, many of my colleagues in academia are too busy thumbing their noses at the academically “unwashed masses” to even take Hip-Hop seriously as a viable contributor to the good of society. One of the most recent controversies surrounding Hip-Hop has to do with Lil Wayne.
In the words of Lil Wayne’s collabo with B.o.B., there are some “Strange Clouds” developing around Wayne’s latest sure-to-be-best-seller: “Karate Chop”. The family of 1960’s murder victim Emmett Till have written an open letter of protest concerning a tasteless verse that compares a certain object of violent sexual abuse to the badly beaten body of the civil rights icon who died because he allegedly whistled at a White woman. The letter offers, in part, to teach Lil Wayne “a history lesson and talk about the trailblazers that paved the way for our people and lyricists to engage in freedom of speech”. While I think it’s admirable that the Till family and others in the Black community would like for our hip-hop artists to revel in education of any kind, let alone Black History, I would not be surprised if Lil Wayne says “no thanks”.
While I certainly agree that Lil Wayne’s ill-conceived lyric using Emmett Till’s name is crass, unnecessary, and unbecoming of the label “lyric” I whole-heartedly support his right to express his thoughts, no matter how ugly. And I firmly disagree with this notion that Lil Wayne’s celebrity thrusts him “into the spotlight affording the opportunity to embrace the role of a black man, father, friend, and artist that has the ability to reach international audiences” (quoting the Till family’s letter). As to the question of whether Wayne is “bothered in the least by the staggering statistics of the extinction of our children”, I would suggest that because of his financial success in the music industry, Lil Wayne’s children are not likely to become included in those statistics.
Interestingly, the “Huff Post Black Voices” web posting on which I explored this story also included a seventeen-frame photo spread of, “Lil Wayne’s Miami Pad”. There was no editorial explanation as to how, exactly, the opulence of Lil Wayne’s residence connected to the critique of his rap lyrics. I am assuming (though I am aware of the dangers of “ass-out-of-you-and-me-ing”) that the blogger(s) disapprove of Lil Wayne’s wealth. Which leads me to the real reason so many so-called thought leaders, especially in the Black community, have a problem with Lil Wayne specifically, and Hip-Hop in general: Plain old’ garden variety Envy And Jealousy, aka E&J!
*** (Dr. Whalum is Author of Hip-Hop Is Not Our Enemy: from a Preacher Who Keeps It Real, Central South Distributors) ©KeepingItRealMinistriesInc2013***