An Open Letter to BrainWashed…
You ever get into a conversation with somebody and they say something so silly….so offensive…so stupid… but for some reason at that very moment the only retort you can come up with is something lame like, “whatever”! Later on your brain sends word that it has compiled facts and figures and witty retorts by the dozens but then its too late…the original conversation has ended or taken another turn. Frustrating right?!
Well Im not letting it go that easily..It may not be my wittiest comeback but I gotta say something, so Im gonna use this post to send an open letter to “The Brainwashed”.
I didn’t get a chance to respond to your thoughts the other day when we were discussing “today’s generation” but I disagreed so strongly about some of the things you said that I felt obligated to set the record straight.
I don’t buy into the myth that today’s music “serves only to lead our youth to a path of self destruction.” Oh, Im sure you were right there co-signing in 1993, when Rev. Calvin Butts said “There is a direct relationship between sexually explicit rap lyrics and a 9 yr old girl bumping and grinding on the street after school and her becoming the next casualty of an unwanted pregnancy.” Sounded ominous and urgent didn’t it? But to quote the character “Sporting Life” (see Gershwin’s musical Porgy and Bess)….. “It Aint Necessarily So”.
During the late 50’s a television sitcom called “I Love Lucy” was wildly popular. The shows fashions, hairstyles, furniture were all copied in some form all over America. Among the words that were censored in the scripts was “pregnant”and although Lucy was clearly with child, the happily married couple was never seen in the same bed together…their bedroom had two twin beds. This type of censorship was supposed to keep America’s moral compass intact. Statistics tell a different story. It’s estimated that anywhere from 200,000 to 500,000 illegal abortions were performed during the I Love Lucy era…many on young women who died in the process. Television didn’t show Lucy and her hubby in the same bed but the young people watching were getting busy…and getting busy to the extent that they were willing to break the law to “fix things”. So much for America’s moral compass.
This may come as a shock to you Dear Brainwashed but rap artists did not invent explicit lyrics:
Jook joints and the music they offered were an abomination to moral crusaders of the 30’s and 40’s; participants were warned that black folk would not…could not rise to their full potential in this world if they were poisoned by this “devil music” as sung by Helen Humes on Million Dollar Secret and Dinah Washington on Long John Blues. If the young people in those times were allowed to listen to Hank Ballard and the Midnighters sing Work With Me Annie and its follow up song Annie Had a Baby, they warned… the whole of the Black race would shrivel and perish in its own evilness.
Malcolm X was born in 1925 and Martin Luther King was born in 1929 and despite living in an era where jook joint music was at its explicit best…. both of them managed to fulfill their destinies. President Barack Obama came to rap music late (God bless Reggie Love for passing it on) but his appreciation of the genre did not fry his brain to the extent that it prevented him from winning the election to the highest office in the land. What’s that you say Dear Brainwashed?….Malcolm and Martin and President Obama are special?….exceptions? Im not buying that either. What about the regular Black folk…the maids, nurses, red caps, funeral directors, inventors, tradespeople, teachers, writers, artists, factory workers….how did they manage to stay out of the devils’ grip?
Which brings me to “Otis” by Jay Z and Kanye West: My Dear Brainwashed…while we were having this conversation, didnt you notice the size of my head? Well, lemme tell you…my head aint big for nothing so please…don’t try to discredit the track by telling me that they are still concentrating on bragging about their wealth. Check the history of the genre..check our cultural history in general….bragging is what we do (it’s just that “clean as a broke dick dog” has been replaced with “photo shoot fresh”) and if you would stop bending over backwards to look for the negative…stop talking foolishness and actually listen for a change…you will not only hear Hov and Ye saluting the genres’ roots but you will also hear Otis Redding funking it up in the background telling Black men that if for economic reasons they cant do any better for their woman, they should “try a little tenderness”. I’d say that’s a winning combination.
So please Dear Brainwashed…miss me with that “this music is gonna ruin the younger generation” myth…it didn’t ruin us then and its not gonna ruin us now. What you might wanna do is relax and try moving in the direction of proudly claiming your own culture. Culture is what sustains us generation after generation; like it or not, rap music is now a viable part of that culture and its impact is worldwide.
I need you to think about this dearheart…many things have happened to Black people since we got here…shameful, horrible things (none of it related to the music we listen to) and despite it all …”still we rise”.
Love you like my Grandma’s Sunday Dinner Rolls,
P. S.: The supportive soundtrack for this post can be found at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBOwgkMmlUc Dinah Washington
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0aiMHwWmOHQ Helen Humes
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Nh2H3IdN98 Hank Ballard and the Midnighters