Dear Mr. Man…

April 14, 2009

The Reformation of Hip-Hop

Filed under: Mr. Man's Random Thoughts — P. J. Easter @ 11:10 pm
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 Q: Dear Mr. Man:

Note: This is the second in a two-part series on this jmj-collagemixed bag we call “Hip-Hop”. I’d like for us to discuss the second question raised:
“Can you suggest any ways to protest some of the messages in hip hop while still enjoying it as a type of music?”
Below is the question in its entirety:
“I’ve been a longtime fan of hip hop. But, through the years, I’ve noticed a troubling trend of hip hop lyrics that objectify women to the point of being misogynistic. It seems like some of the songs that are played the most on the radio (”Blame it”, “One More Drink”, and “Crank Dat” come to mind right away) encourage men to see women only as sexual objects. While you see these types of lyrics in other genres, it does seem more extreme and pronounced in hip hop. Do you think that there is any way to change this trend in hip hop? And can you suggest any ways to protest some of the messages in hip hop while still enjoying it as a type of music?”
For hip-hip fans who were around at its inception, the music and the sound has changed dramatically. It has shifted from party and dance music, to violence and the “gansta” lifestyle, to highly sexual and misogynistic. This is difficult for those of us who LOVE the music. We may be raising children now, but, unlike our parents, we are unable to share the genre we love so much with them for fear that it may shape their attitudes toward s violence, drugs and alcohol, and women.
So what are our options? Believe it or not, there are several ways to protest the current state of hip-hop. It’s not a new solution: just don’t buy it. As with anything, money will make or break the cycle negative hip-hop. We have to make it less attractive to the current generation and the generations to come. It starts in your home. With you and your children. Easier said than done. Individually, we can choose not to buy it, but as I mentioned in the Part One of this series hip-hop is a part of our culture.
 So how do we change a culture? One child at a time. Sunday afternoon, J.C. and I are on our way home from church when I decided to put on some of Will Smith’s music (current and when he was known as “The Fresh Prince”). Songs like “Summertime” and “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” caught his attention with the smooth rhymes and the party rhythms. So I said, “Do you like this?” He gave me a look and a smile that let me know he was getting his groove on. It warmed me to see the same look in his eyes that I had when I first heard Run DMC twenty years ago. Clean. Fun. Music.
There are artists, some familiar and some not so, that produce an alternative to the mainstream. I read somewhere that Master P and his son, Romeo have started a clean hip-hop label.  You may have heard of TobyMac who is pseudo hip-hop, but there are many others.There are numerous artists such as B.B. Jay, KJ-52, Grits, and John Reuben whom you may have never heard of, but are bumping their beats with the best of them.  B.B. Jay, my personal favorite of the bunch, sounds like a clean version of the Notorious B.I.G. The beats are funky and the rhymes flow like butter, but women are elevated and there is no profanity or violence.
We can still enjoy hip-hop without all of the garbage that currently comes with it. Hip-hop started as a party anthem. No reason it can’t return to its roots. We need to affect this change in our own homes by continuing to model the behaviors that make the negative aspects of hip-hop (and other types of music) unattractive and distasteful to our kids. Also, don’t make the negativity taboo. Be willing to talk to your children honestly and candidly about “bad” hip-hop and how it has the potential to erode society. The more the next generation knows about the harmful effects, the less likely it will be that they will partake.
You are all adults, I assume. You hopefully can filter out the negative, but our children cannot. This is our protest. Teach the children, protect them, and guide them to the right choices. If every parent does this, this will be our protest. This is how we change the world of hip-hop. It will not be an overnight process, but if we take resonsibility for our children, the rest will fall in place. 
Mr. Man
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March 22, 2009

Mr. Ayers’ Cello

I was watching 60 Minutes this evening and received a very unexpected surprise. There was the facinating story of  Nathaniel Ayers, a homeless, schizophrenic, musical prodigy and Steve Lopez, a down and out reporter for the Los Angeles Times. Mr. Ayers and Mr. Lopez  do not refer to each other by their first names out of deep respect for each other, so I will proffer the same respect in this post.

Although I included the trailer for the upcoming motion picture, The Soloist (starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr.), I am not going to discuss the movie.

What was fascinating to me was the relationship that developed between Mr. Ayers and Mr. Lopez. Initially, Mr. Lopez was only interested in Mr. Ayers as a human interest story to revive his faltering career. Instead, he discovered a virtuoso. A musical genius who lost his dream to the demons that plagued him. He lost a full scholarship to The Julliard School as he slowly lost his mind. He ended up as one of the 60,000  homeless people that roam the streets of Los Angeles at night. He became one of the forgotten ones.

Mr. Lopez began to discover the magic of this special man over the course of writing columns for his paper about him. The two men developed a mutual respect and admiration for each other. Mr. Lopez would bring Mr. Ayers to his home and to his family simply to provide a sense of normalcy and stability to a man who possessed neither. In the process, Mr. Lopez gained more from this man that a few columns in his paper.

Two men from two different worlds. One would normally step over the other invisible one as he rushes to hail a taxi. One would look normally look at the other with pity, disdain, or contempt. One would clutch his briefcase just a little tighter as he passed. Until he got to know the man and not the stereotype.

What if we move beyond that which is safe and comfortable and got to know someone who is different from us? What if we removed the barriers of race and religion and place in society and truly saw each other as children of the Creator? Many people are one paycheck away from becoming destitute and homeless. Could be your co-worker, your neighbor, or you. Can we truly afford to not to try to walk in Mr. Ayers shoes? There is a chance that we will miss out on the sweet barotones of his cello.

Man up.

Mr. Man

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