The great jazz musician, Wynton Marsalis, is lighting up social media with his recent comments about Black music. According to the Washington Post, in an article by Jonathan Capehart, he says “My words are not that powerful. I started saying in 1985 I don’t think we should have music talking about niggers and bitches and hoes. It had no impact. I’ve said it. I’ve repeated it. I still repeat it. To me that’s more damaging than a statue of Robert E. Lee.”
Predictably, this has created a firestorm of controversy, one that digs deeply into the core of America’s Black community. On the one hand, you have those who agree wholeheartedly with Marsalis and wonder why more people do not understand the truth of his words, especially in light of the increasing dysfunction in Black communities. On the other hand, you have the apologists and deniers who, under the guise of free speech or “artistic freedom” feel that artists should be free to express themselves and that people should be educated about the impact of the genre so that they can make their own decisions about what to accept in their homes.
An immediate problem with the second approach is that when dealing with youth, one of the main audiences for this type of music, there is a lack of experience and discrimination brought to the table regarding any attempts at education. Many are part of a decidedly nihilistic subculture that distrusts anything that comes from mainstream adults.
It is obvious as the sky that the kind of music saturating our airwaves is having a deleterious impact on the Black community in general, and Black youth, in particular. The Black on Black violence body count lends screaming testimony to this notion. The constant “diss” culture, the embracement of violence, the misogyny, the focus on sex and materialism, and the seeming total lack of respect for all Black life, is apparent in almost all of this music.
It must be said, however, that we can’t paint all rap and hip-hop with the same broad brush. The genre has a long history, and in the early days it was decidedly benign. It later changed, especially with the advent of gangsta’ rap. Death Row records (check out the name) was one of the main purveyors of this type of music.
Today, it seems that rap music has gone from bad to really bad. And yet, mainstream radio stations are continuously celebrating it. Some examples of current lyrics that saturate the airwaves are: “if I could quit my job layup and f**k you all day then I would.” “I f**k a bitch and forgot her name. I take med with my grandma.” “Run up in YOUR House with the shotty/YOUR Mom’s might be home.” ’put my d**k in her ribcage/su*k my dick in the movies/Mike Tyson on the booty (twerk).”droppin’ ni**ers like liter and spraying ‘em like febreeze.” “My ni**as walked in with sticks (sticks), my ni**as walked in with brooms (brooms), Try to take one of my chains (yeah), all you gon’ hear is a boom (boom) Boom! Boom!…..Don’t give a f*ck ‘bout your clique, uh, y’all can get hit with the boom (boom).”
The foregoing is just a small sampling of what you can hear on radio stations that target our community! There is an activist who is spearheading a movement to rid the airwaves of this toxic music. He has stated “the death music broadcast on killer radio stations is cultivating this current wave of shootings.” He is urging the public to boycott radio stations that play this “death music” along with the stations’ sponsors, because he thinks that it encourages Blacks to destroy each other.” He has a point!
Ultimately, it is folly to believe that ubiquitous rap pornography disguised as “art” will go away without community outcry. Freedom of speech is a given in America, and no one wants to take it away, but it is not prudent to scream “Fire” in a crowded theater either. In other words, there are limits to what we should accept that targets the hearts and minds of our youth. We must be vigilant in protecting our own communities. If we don’t do it, it won’t get done. A Luta Continua.