by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Your Black World
I love David Banner. David is not the only brilliant hip hop artist that we hear on the radio, but he is one of the few who is proud of his intelligence. Unlike brothers who fall for the temptation to mask their intelligence with counter-productive bo-jangling, Banner boldly uses his platform to promote the greater good.
My love and respect for David was challenged when I read a recent statement he made about the response of the hip hop community to the death of Trayvon Martin. In an interview with TheGrio.com, Banner stated that hip hop artists don’t have a responsibility to speak on behalf of Trayvon and that they are only required to make good music.
Mind you, David Banner and artists like Vigalantee have been at the forefront when speaking up for the family of Trayvon Martin. But his decision to conform and let his fellow artists off the hook requires those of us who aren’t on the corporate hip hop plantation to do Banner’s dirty work for him. While Banner felt compelled to argue that hip hop artists have no obligation to speak up on either Trayvon Martin or any other social issue that comes to pass in black America, the truth is that many commercialized hip hop artists are already passionate activists when it comes to preaching the gospel of black self-destruction.
An activist is someone who, among other things, promotes a message that is internalized by others that translates into action which transforms a community. Anyone who listens to the radio knows that many hip hop artists gladly promote numerous messages, including the following: Get high and drunk every day, have sex with as many women as possible, shoot other black men who disagree with you, waste your money at the club instead of investing it, take pride in being ignorant and disrespect women whenever you can.
The message from leading commercialized hip hop activists is one that permeates all throughout black America, as young people look to these merchants of black death to teach them how to live, think, talk, dress and act. If Malcolm X were to rise from his grave and appear at any high school in America, he could never draw a crowd as big as Lil Wayne. So, when Lil Wayne repeats a chorus which says that he’s a “blunt smoking, polo drawz showing” gang member, who is “always strapped” and wants to “have sex with every girl in the world,” he is actively promoting a lifestyle that is reinforced in the psyches of millions of his disciples. That’s no different from Martin Luther King changing history by saying “I have a dream,” with the only difference being that Lil Wayne might have a bigger audience.
So, what I encourage my good brother David Banner to understand is this simple idea: Your colleagues in hip hop are already activists. Many of them are voluntary poster children for the promotion of gang violence, homicide, drug abuse, sexual irresponsibility and blatant ignorance. They are deeply committed to sharing a set of very specific instructions to our kids on how to end up ignorant, uneducated, broke, incarcerated or dead. These corporate-funded death certificates are signed for our kids before they even have a chance to make a choice, so the activism of hip hop artists has been quite effective.
So, does the hip hop community have an obligation to speak up on behalf of Trayvon Martin? Who gives a damn. The fact is that they are already speaking up on a whole host of issues, and our community is dying because of it. It’s time to stop making excuses.