A few short years ago, I was so proud of Rick Ross.
On the song “Tears of Joy,” from his seminal album Teflon Don, he dropped a simple, but thought-provoking line stating, “Not to dwell on the the past but to keep it real /I gotta represent for Emmett Till, all the dead souls in the field.”
The same song opens with a rousing, revolutionary speech by Black Panther Bobby Seale. I almost cried my own little tears of joy, as it seemed like the Miami-based rapper was becoming infinitely deeper than the raps he’d been spitting in his recent rap past.
So, when I heard this new, highly controversial line about Trayvon Martin in the song “Black and White,” I was infinitely perplexed.
I could not find enough reason in my cerebral cortex to grasp what Rozay was saying and I assured myself there was no way he would poke fun a sensitive beehive as large as the teen slain by George Zimmerman. I thought, “This couldn’t be a contrived controversy, could it?” And yet, the line was ambiguous at best.
“Too close to a ni**a as a mother**king bomb
Trayvon Martin – I’m never missing my target
B*tch ni**as hating, tell me it’s what I’m parking
Wingstop owner, lend me pepper aroma
Young, black ni**a, barely got a diploma”
The lyrics are as disturbing as the reply Ross humbly submitted in the form of a press statement that has been widely distributed. But the rapper’s plight is symbolic of a bigger conundrum for the hip-hop community.
Historically, hip-hop has paid supreme homage to those victims of injustice as well as the pristine memories of our heroes, like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. These days, its hard to discern what rappers are thinking and even harder for us to determine of they are agents of some sinister plot to dumb down the music we consume.
So, lets just assume that Ross meant what his post-lyric, probably-written-by-a-Def-Jam-publicist statement said.
“Black men are being killed and their killers [are] beating the trial. [There] hasn’t been this much violence against black men since the ’60s. I am Trayvon Martin, we’re all Trayvon Martin. He was from South Florida. That could have been me or one of my homies.”
Well, that’s cool. But, honestly, it simply means that the rappers of present day are nowhere close to being the grios of old.
Furthermore, it implicitly means that we have to look towards other artists for critical thought. Instead of Kanye West, peep at Saul Williams. Put Ross away for a few and give Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music some time.
Commercial hip-hop is feasting on itself.
A couple decades ago, Chuck D and Flavor Flav of Public Enemy were methodically dissing John Wayne and Elvis to smithereens. KRS-One was downright disrespectful to former President Nixon when he said “I’m kinda glad Nixon died.” Pushing the boundaries of illness, Eminem trashed every pop icon from Britney Spears to Christopher “Superman” Reeve to Sonny Bono. But those raps were not treading on young black men, the very folks the culture has historically saved.
Most of the aforementioned artists and their like are also students of some higher school of thought and reasoning. Chuck D was an admitted “follower of Farrakhan” and KRS-One ingested the philosophies of Kwame Toure a.k.a. Stokely Carmichael. Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne and Rick Ross seem too be closer to the thought schools of Lil Kim, Birdman and Biggie Smalls. And that’s no disrespect. Times have changed and we are farther removed from the civil rights era than we realized.
Everybody with a record deal and a microphone is not qualified to create this faux critical dialogue we see coursing through Facebook and Twitter. Sadly, when Ross used Till and Seale in 2010, there was no mass effort to research them to gain a greater insight on their lives. It took a brouhaha with Lil Wayne to get us even close to that important conversation about little Till, who was murdered after whistling at a white woman.
Most of Nicki’s fans still don’t really comprehend why Malcolm X is not about to shoot some “looking a** ni**as” when he’s looking out the window. Neither does Nicki, as her recent Instagram explanation suggests.
Again, its easy to point the finger and call these folks bad names, but we have to delve deeper and grasp the fact that they represent the mind state of many people. By the time these words are read, it is highly probably that this story may be an afterthought in our collective memories. (When was the last time anybody talked about the Nicki/Malcolm fiasco since this op ed?) I remember in the not so distant past, Rick Ross expressed outrage over the verdict that freed George Zimmerman. He even seemed to threaten the man that killed Trayvon.
“I’m still angry [at the George Zimmerman trial verdict]. I’m upset and really, really enraged,” he told Global Grind. “I’ve just been trying to keep from putting too much negative energy out there. So, you know, we’re just doing our thing behind our closed doors. But most definitely, that’s a big problem and something has to happen and it will.”
I’m not so “proud” of Rozay these days, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt with this Trayvon Martin debacle.
This isn’t him dissing Trayvon. This is him needing a cleaner lens to see through before he gets overly creative in the studio.
As for the rest of us, we need to seriously think about who we want to energize and represent our sentiments. I don’t believe the rage furiously typed in 140 characters nor do I believe people teach their children about Stokely, Malcolm or even who Dr. King really was. Most people simply accept what is placed in front of them until they are told they should be upset.
Then, when the time comes to pipe down and do nothing, that’s what gets done.
Meanwhile, another black male is actually getting killed in real life over something far more ignorant than a suspect rap lyric.
Chuck “Jigsaw” Creekmur is the co-founder of AllHipHop.com and founder of KnockoutNation.com. He’s a business man, cultural critic, pundit and trailblazer that has been featured on National Public Radio (NPR), BET, TVOne, VH1, The E! Channel, MTV, The O’Reilly Factor, USA Today, The New York Times, New York’s Hot 97 FM and like a zillion other outlets. Follow him on social media at@ChuckCreekmur.