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Hip-Hop Is Almost 30 Years Old, Let's Act Like It


We sincerely hope that NY Post columnist Steve Dunleavy was lying when he wrote in his column over the weekend, that Puffy, after the verdict in his case was announced, thanked Dunleavy and referred to him as his "uncle". If he wasn't at least joking and Puffy did in fact thank Dunleavy for the articles he wrote during the trial and for the tough love they provided for Puffy, then Hip-Hop indeed has hit a new low. You know things are bad when Dunleavy, who couldn't care less about Hip-Hop or the Black community, is viewed by a Hip-Hop mogul as a source of wise counsel.

The problem with the scenario as we see it, is that for years many in Hip-Hop and the Black community have made themselves available to Puffy and numerous Hip-Hop artists, in an effort to mediate disputes; to offer advice and moral support; and yes, to offer constructive criticism.

Sometimes the offers have been accepted but many more times than not they have been rejected or ignored.

The crisis in Hip-Hop today is one of an art form and community that is nearly 30 years old but which, over time, seems to learn less and less from its past and increasingly is unable to discern its friends from its enemies.We can only think of it as maturity reversal, where with each passing year we collectively approach the thinking of an adolescent.

That is partly why Puffy and Shyne were in court, and partly why Shyne is headed for jail while Puffy walks. The younger man of barely 20 years of life who should have learned from the mistakes of the older man who is touching 30, has made an even costlier mistake than the one who walked before him and who took him under his wing.

This is not progress.

By most accounts the case against Puffy was weak, and the jury recognized this and found that he was not guilty of the charges against him.

But the most important question for the Hip-Hop community to ask itself is why were these young men in the position they were in to begin with and why would Shyne be found guilty of the crimes that he was convicted of?

Shouldn't Shyne, the protégé and artist who is under the tutelage and guidance of Puffy know better and shouldn't his mentor and employer Puffy have advised him better?

After all, what Shyne was convicted of took place in Puffy's presence.

If Shyne really did what he was convicted of the question has to be asked why? Why is it so important for artists to never suffer an insult and never tolerate being offended? And why isn't part of grooming young Hip-Hop artists preparing them for the fact that they will have to control their emotions in public and private settings as they will undoubtedly be approached by fans and others who will on numerous occasions hurl insults their way?

Interestingly, the need for Hip-Hop artists to protect their egos and honor seems to dissipate when these same artists find themselves on the other end of disrespectful treatment coming from non-Blacks and non-Latinos who work at the record labels that quite often are robbing them blind and shortening the length of their careers through poor decision-making and deceit.

It is as if no Hip-Hop artist can stand an insult from anyone who looks like him or her. And so, otherwise rational human beings who know where reality and art end in their personal lives, are compelled to blur the lines when someone of their same ethnicity verbally but not violently challenges their stage image or street credibility as an artist.

The unassuming Hip-Hop artist who is humble and respectful to his White or Jewish accountant, lawyer and record label executive, is arrogant and disrespectful to his Black or Latino peers whether they are fans or even other artists.

In my years in the music industry I can recall several violent encounters between Black Hip-hop artists and those who offended them of like skin color but I can only remember one White person ever threatened physically by a Hip-Hop artist and this person had actually stolen money from the artist. Something is not right about that ratio if this is really only about "being offended" or being disrespected.

And it also points to the fact that the behavior of Hip-Hop artists, like the behavior of some of those in the communities that they come from, can only be considered as pathological in nature, with a root that one can only trace back to slavery and/or self-hatred.

And we are very specifically speaking about the jealousy and envy, which contaminates the relationships between artists in the music industry who fall victim to listening to invidious comparisons made by those around them or who make money off of them. Quite often, the money to be made increases if a fight can be instigated or tensions heightened between two popular artists.

Along these lines, we were further saddened to pick up the current edition of The Source magazine which features an interview with Jay-Z's protégé Memphis Bleek who indicates, in a very poorly put together article, that he has a problem with Nas because he believes that Nas has a problem with Jay-Z and himself. All of which, according to The Source, stems from each artist's interpretation of the other's lyrics, which they believe are referring to them, in a disrespectful manner.

Jay-Z and Nas are multi-platinum artists who on paper, should both be millionaires. Bleek is a twice gold-selling artist who is at the top of his career, at the age of 22. And The Source Magazine is the most respected magazine in Hip-Hop, in existence for over a decade. Something is wrong with this picture.

Why is The Source, which has seen firsthand the results of earlier rap feuds, playing up a relatively minor problem if it does exist between Jay-Z and Nas, two of the greatest rappers in Hip-hop history? And why doesn't the magazine wait until they have developed the story if there is one, or wait until they have the principal parties, allegedly involved, Jay-Z and Nas, quoted on the record in order to verify or deny the rumors.

Instead The Source cobbles together some questionable circumstantial evidence from Nas and Jay-Z's lyrics and uses Bleek's opinion to create heavy innuendo that would leave unsuspecting fans believing that Jay-Z and Nas are headed in the direction of Biggie and Tupac.

And sure enough The Source promotes its interview with Memphis Bleek on its cover with the following heading, "Memphis Bleek Breaks Down Bangin' With Jay & His Beef With Nas".

We guess it should come as no surprise that the next story promoted on The Source cover is "West Indians Vs. African Americans".

One of the greatest signs of the fall of a nation or community is when it ignores the lessons of those nations and communities that came before it, as well as the lessons of its own history. Another sign is when that nation begins to make alliances with those who are not their friends at all and who do not share their values.

We saw all of that over the weekend in Puffy's trial, the Steve Dunleavy's article and Memphis Bleek's interview in The Source.

With Puffy, Shyne, Eminem and Jay-Z all on trial on violent charges and with rap feuds reportedly growing between Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown / Capone-N-Noreaga and Jay-Z and Nas there isn't any doubt that Hip-Hop artists are not learning the lessons of the communities, art form, culture and industry, which produced them.

Maybe all of this madness is enough to make Puffy think that his family members are columnists for the anti-rap and anti-Black NY Post.

We would think that Puffy's logical "uncles" would be men like Hip-Hop legends and wise men like Afrika Bambaatta or Chuck D. and KRS-One but that would only be the case if it was a fact that Hip-Hop artists, as a community, knew their history and were guiding their lives and those of younger artists, according to the lessons contained within that history. And it would also only be the case if Black Hip-Hop artists were able to respect Black people who walked before them, who may not have the millions that they have but who have more understanding of life.

Let's hope that Hip-Hop, unlike many Black and Latino males, lives to see its 30th Birthday.

Because the way we are acting right now, tomorrow is certainly not guaranteed.


Cedric Muhammad

Monday, March 19, 2001

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