The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, March 10, 2005

How to Destroy Rap Music (Raising a Daughter part 3)

How to destroy Rap music as we know it?  Simple: Send a hundred bus-loads of fathers into every inner-city in America.
I was listening to the radio in my car on the way to Jason's baby-sitter, and Rapper 50 Cent was talking about his childhood.  His drug-dealer mother ran away, and he was raised by his grandparents.  He went on to talk about how wonderful his grandmother was, and I said to myself: "what about his grandfather?"  It suddenly hit me that, for all practical purposes, I had NEVER heard a rapper talking about his father in positive terms.  That is, if there was a father there at all.  And in their songs?  Many, many times I'd heard rappers talking about mothers as if they were saints.  And no comments about fathers.
These same, misguided souls who waxed rhapsodic about their mothers talked about other women as if they were toilets.  They used them for sex, called them whores, told them to their faces that they meant nothing, but "come on home with me" anyway.  Bitch.
What the hell is going on?  The rampant "Baby-Mama" phenomenon, which has just about been Normed in the inner city, is one of the most destructive patterns imaginable.  It is destroying the black family, and if you wonder what it leads to, just listen to the values in any rap song:
1)  dealing drugs, pimping or maybe SINGING ABOUT drugs and pimping (or singing) to make a living.  No real jobs, careers, or contribution to community beyond that. 
2) No family connections.  No thoughts of father, no thought to make a nest for children.  How about a college education?  How about thoughts of parents growing older?  The entire thing has gone crazy.
3) Body as toxic waste dump: for drugs, insanely casual sex, for violence (what is 50 Cent's chief claim to fame?  That he was shot nine times.  This single fact looms larger than anythign else about him.  Wow.  There's a set of bona fides for you.)
And there are almost no true emotions at all.  No softness.  No sense of time passing, of responsibility for actions.  Who is about the only rapper who tells something close to truth about his emotions?  Eminim.  Apply Lifewriting theory and it all makes sense.
Boys and girls need their fathers.  Desperately.  Girls need them to get that male energy that combines with their female energy to create life.  If they don't get it from their fathers in a healthy way, they'll get it in the street.  That was one thing that I was certain of: my daughter would NEVER go looking for the love she should have gotten from me.

I was raised by my mother and my sister.  I’m lucky I was a dweeb, because none of the gangs wanted anything to do with me: I was just fodder for beating-up.  I was desperate for some kind of male role model.  Some kind of image of what it was to be an adult male, to have the respect of other men, and the admiration of women.  That sent me on a search through action-heroic literature and cinema.  You know what I found?  NONE of the men there looked like me.  The men who looked like me were cowardly and stupid, for the most part, or died protecting white people.  And so desperate I was, that I read it anyway.  As I put it once, I sacrificed my Melanin on the altar of my Testosterone. 
The damage done to me from the simple fact of having no father, no elder brothers, no uncles is incalculable, and lingers to this day.  I have fear and stress issues that are like Post-Traumatic Stress syndrome that keep me from enjoying some aspects of my martial arts training as I should, and have resisted decades of therapy, meditation, and other interventions.  I can deal with them now, but the simple pleasures of “pushing against” other male energy, such a central aspect of growing up in a healthy family, have escaped me in this lifetime. 
Boys have something that rages like fire within them.  They need to push, to have someone push back, to have a larger, stronger male figure show them their limits.  A single mother must be almost superhumanly strong to provide this without tearing herself apart.  I’d say less than 10% of them can do it.  And what is clearer is that that Madonna/Whore complex thing, where mothers are saintly, but other women are sexual toilets to be exploited, is a heartbreakingly common effect.
Men not only learn how to deal with other men from their fathers—they learn how to treat women.  How to be in relationships. How to take responsibility for their children.  How to sacrifice dreams of glory for a lifetime career.  In other words, everything you don’t hear in Rap Music.
It seems to me that Rappers are tone-deaf to the melody of life as it is truly lived.  They claim that they are speaking the Truth of life in the inner city, and it is a lie.  They speak a partial truth.  Most people in the inner cities are raising families, working jobs, trying to life themselves up, loving, caring for aging parents, dealing with hope and love and fear.  We hear almost nothing about those things, for market reasons—Rappers project an image of black Americans that is infinitely marketable for reasons we might address later. 
What is different about Eminim?  Why can he come closer to telling the truth about his emotions?  Well (from the Lifewriting perspective) if you have no father in your home, Uncle Sam become your daddy.  The countless movies and television images of fathers become your daddy.  John Wayne becomes your big brother.  Clint Eastwood your uncle.  That works great for white kids.  In comparison, there might, just might be 1% as many positive, strong images for black kids.  That’s better than nothing, but not enough.  And there are no roads at all to the top.  None. 
In a cynical mood, I might say that we’ve seen the most powerful black man who ever lived—Colin Powell.  After a lifetime of impeccable service, he threw away a massive amount of personal capital serving George Bush.  Bush is seen by many as a great President and human being.  I won’t argue that.  What I will say is that to a cynical observer, a black kid in the inner city, it could well seem that the best you can do, the best any black man can do in America is be second-fiddle to a drunken frat boy.  What is that line?  “I’d rather rule in hell than serve in Heaven”?  Boys want to conquer, to rule the world, to let that gonzo energy within them take it to the top.
They are short-lived fighter-hunter drones, and for an inner city kid bursting with Testosterone, they would rather be the dead “Scarface” than the emasculated, disgraced, Colin Powell (please understand that I am not saying that this is what Mr. Powell is.  Personally, I have the highest respect for him.  I am asking you to place yourself in the perspective of a bitter young black man desperate for role models.)  ‘Scarface” took shit from no one, built an empire, screwed beautiful women, and died with a snarl.  For these kids, that’s the best they can see.
It wouldn’t be that way if they had fathers.  I am so disgusted with the young “men” who think they can impregnate women and walk away.  And just as disgusted with the young women who spread their legs for these trolls and create another generation of broken warriors, whose energy turns in on themselves and their communities in a disintegrating spiral of venom. 
This is not unique to Black Americans. You can look among any colonized people and see similar damage.  It is possibly worse for us because (to my knowledge) Black Americans are the only group in the entire world cut off from their own creation myths and stories of their Heroes.  They don’t know their names or songs or dances or homeland, and they worship a God-Figure who resembles their oppressors more than themselves.  They are, not at the center, but at the periphery of their Cosmology. 
But if there isn’t a God the Father standing behind them, resembling them, showing the way and giving love, then there had better the hell be a Steve the Father, a Richard the Father, a Mike the Father.  Or they are well, and truly screwed.
And if you don't believe me, just turn on the radio.


James said...

i sorta a agrree with you, we need to get rid of rap music, but the bullet points of what rap music doesnt have in it, never really shows up in other music at all, rock has like 3 songs about fathers, the best one i know being cats in the cradle, but mostrock songs have the same themes, they just talk about them in more sophiscated ways, i know billions of rock songs about how great a mother is,how the father left the family in peices and that the father was no good, and have youheard pink floyds young lust? just because there is christian rock, if u like that sorta thing, doesnt mean all rock, or even a slight percntage of famous rock n roll or any genre for that matter after 59'has a wholesome message about the family

Anonymous said...

Great stuff. (sorry for the ridiculously short comment, but what else was I supposed to say?) :)

Anonymous said...

Man, I totally agree with you on that.

There's way too many suckers out there that can't just get it.

In fact, I was fightin with my sort of friend tom yesterday about this, and
they wouldn't agree with me that he was wrong. Now I can just show them your blog :)

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