Two major things happened in Black television in the last week or so.
Rap City was canceled, TRL was canceled and VH1 presented the
100 best songs in Hip Hop.
All of these are interesting because they relate to hip hop. I remember
when I first learned that 106 and Park audience surpassed TRL's about
7 years ago, and I thought to myself, hmm thats interesting. In fact, I think
Carson Daly had just left the show for Hollywood.
Recently, I read a quote in S. Craig Watkin's book which said that black teenagers
in general and boys specifically occupy a very interesting place in the American
culture. On one level their presence is reviled, their bodies are policed (laws on
sagging pants) and they are systematically undereducated (only 35% of Black men
starting 9th grade in NYC graduate) yet their "cultural product's" are in demand from Madison Avenue to Japan.
In watching the segment on NWA, I was reminded of how far from mainstream
hip hop was in the early days. I was particularly tickled when Kurt Lorder
of MTV asked Ice Cube a question about the educational system and he
responded "We ain't activist, we give social commentary, we like the news".
I find that this sentiment squares nicely with my my post last week, titled,
"Hip Hop Isn't Political". What was particularly interesting as well was how
none of them were making money except Eazy E and Jerry Heller.
Here NWA was, making their social commentary and not getting paid. I am
almost willing, let me repeat, almost, willing to go out on an ledge and say
that there was something pure about their music, at that time.
They had no radio play, they sold millions of albums, the free speech
folks rallied behind them, and they were not motivated by the money
because they (the majority of them) were not making any money.
The marginalization of early hip hop and its subsequent popularity
reminds me of how easy it is to go from being shunned by capitalism
to being used by it. In many ways Black men are like Detroit, when
capitalism no longer needs you, you will be left to figure out what
to do with yourself.
It happened to The Chinese, The Japanese, Black folks and it will probably
happen to Mexican folks in the next 30 years. Cheap labor is America's best
Back to Rap music. The fact that Rap City was canceled reminded me
of all the programming that was once on BET that is no longer shown
such as Rap City, Teen Summit, Midnight Love and BET Nightly News.
Don't get me wrong, I don't look to television for social justice or spiritual
up lift, but there is something especially gully about willingly canceling
all programming thing that may have some social value beyond promoting
Black people stay loving/supporting those who don't love them back.