Very recently, I asked the question as to what is a “sell-out” in today’s world. The premise of the article was to find a common ground as to the moral center of the African-American ideology and also expose the historical double-standard of how the term ‘sell-out’ has been applied over generations. In the end, I surmised that often times our castigation of fellow African-Americans for supposedly not being ‘Black enough’ was usually misguided…if not all-out wrong.
Case in point…
There has been much discussion about the song, "These Are Our Heroes (Coon Picnic)” by rapper Nas.
You can imagine where this is going.
I waited to see how the Hip-Hop community would address it first. Would this record be embraced, disregarded or met with a response somewhere in between? Would Nas be categorized as a ‘conscious MC,’ who ‘said what needed to be said’ or would he be found ‘out of turn’ for his remarks?
Nas is a brilliant lyricist, without qualification. He is an exceptionally talented and passionate writer with a sincere emotional bond with his people. In short, there are few negatives that you can say about Nas in relation to his contributions to Hip-Hop. (Notice I used the word ‘few,’ not zero).
I’m here to also tell you…NAS is incredibly way off base with his recent audio monologue on who supposedly is and is not a ‘coon.’
How dare he…
No, he’s in way over his head and way out of his league. That, or just trying to sell records like the “pickaninnies” as he termed them in this song. Either way, I have a big problem with Nas trying to “enlighten” the masses on who is or is not ‘Black enough.’ Nas, has no business trying to persuade others as who he thinks is more or less in alignment with the idea of a ‘real’ African-American.
Of course I’m going to break it down why.
Granted, this is a free country in terms of expression and yes, everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion. But neither of the aforementioned in any way validates or justifies the level of hypocrisy and ill-informed rhetoric that Nas spits on this occasion.
For far too long, our young people have been too easily swayed tend to think that simply because it’s on our ‘favorite rapper’s mind’ it’s somehow relevant or even more incredibly, factual.
Sorry, but that’s just not the case. Let’s took a closer look at what Nas has to say…
“Let's hear it,
one for the coons on UPN 9 and WB Who "yes Massa" on TV What ever happened to Weezy? The Redd Foxxes? Never got Emmys but were real to me”
See, that’s the first problem I have with this record. If you are going to ‘lecture’ the masses, the first prerequisite is to be factually correct.
‘Weezy,’ Isabel Sanford won an Emmy in 1981.
He mentioned ‘The Redd Foxxes,’ i.e. Black comedians of that era. Redd Foxx contemporary, Flip Wilson won 2 Emmys in 1970 for ‘The Flip Wilson Show’ but was also highly criticized for the supposed renewing of black stereotypes in the variety show. Already, Nas’ viewpoint is pretty shaky and flawed from the beginning. Not only were the ‘real’ African-Americans (as he put it) actually winning Emmys, they were also receiving considerable flack for the roles in which they won them.
Know thy history…
I understand what point he is trying to make. The many ‘Black’ shows on UPN and WB networks today seem more like minstrel shows than television shows. There’s some merit to that and must be acknowledged.
At the same time, to ridicule the shows on television today, yet have NOTHING to say in reference to the buffoonery in Hip-Hop music and videos is hypocrisy beyond comprehension. To criticize shows that DON’T refer to us as –ggas and/or –tches, yet not even mention his own albums past and present that DO, seriously undercuts the strength of his argument.
And just FYI, the “Meth & Red Show” (FOX) was far worse than anything EVER on UPN and WB, put together. Nas’ selective amnesia must also be noted here. Turning a blind eye to everything reprehensible in Hip-Hop yet speaking out on the ‘ills’ of the hurtful imagery in media is borderline laughable.
Moving right along…
Nas spends the whole first verse of the song abusing Kobe Bryant. I can’t even begin to reprint the lyrics in all of their vulgarity here, but here’s a sample…
“From OJ to Kobe or let's call him Toby
First he played his life cool just like Michael Now he rock ice too just like I do Yo, you can't do better than that? The hotel clerk who adjusts the bathroom mat? Now you lose sponsorships that you thought had your back Yeah you beat the rap jiggaboo fake -gga you”
For everything I dislike about Kobe Bryant, I would never liken him to a sell-out, a jiggaboo or worst of all to an actual slave. But, like I said, everyone is still entitled to their own opinion, even when it’s absolutely ridiculous; as it is in this case.
I would respond to Nas that anyone who willingly drops out of school in the 8th grade (such as he did) and ‘grows up’ to call our women –tches and hoes in his ‘job’ (such as he does) probably shouldn’t be pointing the finger at anyone in regards to uplifting or embarrassing African-Americans.
And THAT’S real…
But I digress...
“Tavis Smiley, Michael Eric Dyson, Stokely Carmichael let's try to be like them Nicky Giovanni poetical Black female Jim Brown to the people who sing well from Fela to Miriam Makeba The mirror says you are the next American leader”
I really don’t have any problem with anything Nas says here except the inherent hypocrisy contained therein. All mentioned here are great role models, but none of them would endorse calling each other –ggas and our women –tches. So what’s the point of doing roll call of great African-American role models if what you do is in direct contradiction to what they espouse? If they’re good enough for us to ‘be like them,’ then why hasn’t he even followed his own advice?
Which is it, Nasir Jones? Is Nicky Giovanni a “poetical Black female” or is she another “b***h?” It seems you’ve chosen name-dropping here instead of dropping knowledge.
Moving right along…
If that wasn’t enough to make me shake my head in confusion, Nas ends with some backhanded disses at the feet of golfer Tiger Woods and actors Cuba Gooding Jr. and Taye Diggs.
“Yeah I wanna give a special shout out to the the crew doing they thing out there repping us hard.
”Big up to Tiger Woods. Yeah you don't stop. Big up to Cuba Gooding Jr. You know...yeah you know. Taye Diggs...what up my -gga? Yeah ha ha. And you don't quit and you don't quit and you don't stop and you don't quit.”
I get it Nasir…I get the joke. The common thread here is that all three have White wives. The underlying sentiment being expressed is that supposedly these men aren’t ‘Black enough’…for Nas that is.
Once again Nas…know thy history. Jim Brown who Nas said earlier “let’s try to be like them” had more White women that any of the three put together. And if you knew anything about the Black Panther Party, you’d know that they were NOTORIOUS for their ‘trysts’ with white women. Ahem, Stokely Carmichael, another person on Nas’ “acceptable Negro list” was a former Black Panther Party leader…fyi.
Nas, you’re confusing the hell out of me now. What exactly are you trying to say here? Are you saying that the best golfer in the world, an Academy Award winner and another exceptional African-American actor are less “real” or more “coon-like” because they married White women? These people aren’t role models worthy of emulation?
Remember, YOU asked the question…
“What ever happened to Weezy?
The Redd Foxxes? Never got Emmys but were real to me”
Another contemporary of Redd Foxx was Richard Pryor. He was another one of those ‘Black comedians’ who DID win an Emmy in 1974. He also married a white woman. In fact, he married a few White women. Was Richard Pryor less ‘real’ to you Nasir than Redd Foxx? Was Richard Pryor a ‘jigaboo’ or slave-like, as you termed Kobe Bryant to be? I’m beginning to think you’re not even sure what point you’re trying to make.
Again Mr. Jones, know thy history.
Similar insults were hurled at rappers like MC Hammer and Young MC in the early 90’s for their supposed catering to the ‘crossover audience.’ It’s only because of rappers like these that there is even a Grammy awards category for rap music today. It’s only because of rappers like these that 70% of all rap music, (including yours) is purchased by non-African-Americans.
Nike originally signed Tiger Woods to a $40 million endorsement deal right as he turned pro, simply on prospective marketing value and potential (i.e. what he ‘could’ mean to the sport). It was unprecedented at the time. Yet, because of Tiger Woods’ subsequent success it opened the door for all types of athletes (Black athletes) to gain larger deals in advance of their careers. LeBron James doesn’t sign a $90 million Nike deal straight out of high school if Tiger Woods fails miserably in the years prior. I won’t even mention the fact that Tiger Woods also went to college.
Mr. Jones, it’s probably out of turn to smack around the greatest golfer in the game today who went to college and revolutionized all of sports marketing simply because he’s not ‘Black enough’ to meet your 8th grade education’s approval.
It’s out of turn to question another’s ‘blackness’ because of the white woman he’s married, yet you yourself have done virtually nothing to uplift your own African-American sisters. Cynically I ask the question…who would want to marry a ‘-tch’ (as you refer to them) in the first place? Why NOT a white woman then?
It’s out of turn to liken one of the best basketball players in the game to a slave while much of Hip-Hop today programs our youth to chase meaningless endeavors like cars, jewelry and…dare I say, illiteracy. In fact, the difference is, ‘slaves’ at least held education in high esteem…even though it was denied to them. You specifically and Hip-Hop historically have not. For every record that says get an education, I can find 80 that say get an Escalade or get some Hennessy instead.
Most importantly, it’s out of turn to purport to be ‘real’ in terms of being an African-American and the only thing notable on your ‘resume’ has to do with misogyny and lyrical prowess.
Yes, Nasir Jones is an incredible and brilliant lyricist. But he’s way out of turn, out of his league and in over his head in trying to lecture the rest of us on who is or is not ‘Black enough.’ Such divisiveness only contributes to the problems of African-Americans, not helping to solve them.
Know thy history.
And that too is real…
Morris W. O'Kelly is a freelance entertainment writer who writes content for entertainment personality websites and national media. You can always reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org. This editorial originally appeared on EURweb.com.