It is time. We cannot continue to support and give voice to “celebrities” who speak nothing but derision, superficiality, and foolishness. Last night, like many of you, I was unequivocally elated to hear Barack Obama’s speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. His eloquence always manages to invigorate our communities with a sense of vision, love, and optimism. So imagine the disillusion I felt when I discovered that the venerable hip-hop bastion Lupe Fiasco might be retiring after a turbulent encounter with rapper Chief Keef, of “I Don’t Like” fame. (Click the link at your own risk.)
Reportedly, after Lupe admitted that the culture of violence that Chief Keef perpetuates scares him, the 17 year-old rapper responded by tweeting “Lupe fiasco a hoe ass nigga And wen I see him I’ma smack him like da lil bitch he is” In response, after an attempt to reconcile with the rapper, Lupe tweeted, “i have spoken peace only 2 receive vitriol and malice in return. My brother seeks destruction my sister seeks attention paths to nothingness / This album will probably be my last…its been a pleasure to have all my fans provide so much love an inspiration for me and my family.” It’s saddening to think that Lupe’s shedding of tears weeks ago at the rampant violence in Chicago was not just a sorrowful expression of emotion, but perhaps a capitulation. What are we to think when even Lupe has given up?
Of course, it’s not just Chief Keef. Nicki Minaj herself was scrounging for media attention when she recently dropped the irresponsible rap line on Lil Wayne’s new Dedication 4 mixtape, saying “I’m a Republican voting for Mitt Romney, you lazy b****** are f****** up the economy.” Much attention was devoted to whether she was serious or not, which of course is not the issue (a few seconds later she claims she’s a zombie). Rather, the real problem is that she’s recanting the ill-nuanced conservative myth of American meritocracy to youth who very well might have been watching the VMA’s rather than the DNC. And let’s most certainly not forget how much attention was given to Kanye’s facile musing on the B’ word. He’s so deep.
My intent is not to deride any of these celebrities, for they are merely symbols of the society they represent. They are symptoms not problems. We are all co-conspirators in our apathy of accepting the harmful and distracting words of these celebrities just because they look like us. As the BYP’s Pledge Campaign tries to promote, Hip-Hop is a beautiful tool that gives voice to the marginalized; a cultural form coming out of Black and Puerto Rican youth that has since become a global phenomenon. We cannot keep letting something that speaks to the anxieties of the marginalized turn into something that confuses them, something strange and unfamiliar that celebrates violence, hate, sexism, homophobia, and to be frank, stupidity. It’s not what hip-hop was, and this is not what hip-hop is.
Today, we are living in a time of Barack Obama and Love and Hip-Hop, and it’s time for us to start seriously deciding who our role models should be, and whose voices we will tolerate. As our youth go back to school, we need to challenge them to seriously consider the message that these celebrities are sending them on twitter and the radio. As parents, teachers, and mentors, we need to think about whom we decide to watch on our television sets and think about the messages even we are internalizing. The messages being sent are dangerous and effective. And when we live in a country where gun violence is almost ubiquitous, where the Black middle and poor class is suffering, and where Black youth must battle to attain a decent education—we can’t afford to passively accept any messages given to us.
Making Lupe retire, that’s that sh*t I don’t like.