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Hip-Hop’s chickens come home to roost at the BET Awards

By Kevin Willis

On the eve of one of Black America’s most beloved award shows, the 2021 BET Awards further proved why C. Delores Tucker was prophetically correct about the state African Americans would be in socially, musically and culturally.  

Towards the eighties, a new wave of hip-hop emerged. It distanced itself from the spirit that made the community fall in love with the genre from the very start. 

Things like watching or participating in breakdancing’s skillful movement. Or the skills, metaphors, and energy an emcee and DJ possessed that fascinated the crowd. Art, from the creativeness of the graffiti, clothing style, and originality. Hip-hop had its own voice for the inner-city community.  

Nevertheless, as this specific genre began to catch steam among the mainstream, a new type of sound took form: Gangsta Rap. Innovator’s such as N.W.A., Schoolly D and Ice-T began to shape the way the music was made. Tracks like “Fuck the Police” and “P.S.K What does it Mean?” featured graphic sex, violence, and drug references. 

The bar was elevated (or lowered) when Dr. Dre’s highly anticipated The Chronic album was released. The album sent a shockwave throughout hip-hop with fans. They viewed it as one the greatest rap albums of all time, down to those who had a deep disdain for the album’s content. They credited it as a new low for African American humiliation.  

Some names who spoke out against the new wave’s music included Stanley Crouch, Wynton Marsalis, Dionne Warwick, and even “America’s Dad” Bill Cosby. They argued the vulgarity not only painted African Americans in a damaging light, but also planted harmful seeds within a culture that may someday be detrimental. 

Another resilient detractor of hip-hop was a woman named C. Delores Tucker. She was a well-respected pioneer in the civil rights movement, politician, and early advocate for women’s rights. Tucker’s credibility goes as far as marching alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma to being Pennsylvania’s first black female Secretary of State.  

Mrs. Tucker grew disappointed about the content published in rap lyrics. So, she created a movement holding not only the artist responsible, but also the industry executives and music stores who sold the material. She did everything from press conferences and protests, to mowing down CDs with steamrollers or trying to meet-up with artists and music officials to discuss to find common ground. 

Like the Moynihan Report, Mrs. Tucker foresaw what was commencing right before the black community’s eyes. But while she had some support, the music industry’s corporate monsters wouldn’t fold. 

Particularly, from a category of music that was beginning to blossom into something extremely lucrative. At this point, hip hop artists started to sell records in the millions, as well as concerts, thus bringing in an abundance of money to record labels. Therefore, they weren’t about to let old Mrs. Tucker and her morals disrupt anything of such. 

Record labels sicked their biggest artist on Mrs. Tucker. They had artists like 2pac, Jay-Z, and KRS-One speaking lowly of Tucker’s opinions. They’d even insult her in their music. 

But surely her own political peers supporting her would be a no brainer, right? No. Congresswoman Maxine Waters defended the actions and lyrics of the artists, leaving Mrs. Tucker out to dry. 

Even the NAACP, an organization she raised money for, gave her their rear-end to kiss by nominating Tupac Shakur with an Image Award for his role in the film Poetic Justice

Delores Tucker’s long-fought battle didn’t end similarly to the biblical David & Goliath tale. As the underdog of this story, Mrs. Tucker, and her claims of hip-hop’s negative effect on black culture, faded as the rap industry grew bigger.

With big corporations, sponsors, and record labels investing large amounts of money into the business, rap music became greater. However, as the financial aspect developed, so did the influence. 

Rap music engulfed with lyrics about violence, misogyny, drugs and lawlessness permeated through the airwaves. It created a sound that in some instances seeped into real life. Taymor Trayvon McIntyre, also known by his rap moniker, “Tay-K”, is currently serving a 55- year sentence for a home invasion that left another 21-year dead. While on the run, the teenager created a rap record called “The Race”. 

In the record, he boasts about the crime while thumbing his nose at law enforcement. Ironically, the record became a hit, making its way to the Billboard Hot 100. After a three-month manhunt, McIntyre was caught. Rendering support from not only young fans, but also fellow artists. Rapper XXXtentacion displayed full support for Mr. McIntyre by posting “Free Tay-K” via social media. 

Ultimately, XXXtentacion was murdered during a robbery in Florida that same year. These stories are far and few in between: Nipsey Hussle, Pop Smoke, MO3, Chinx Drugz and the list goes on of rappers succumbing to the hands of violence.  

The same can be said for the emphasis on drug usage. Long gone are the days of Melle Mel’s “White Lines”, Public Enemy’s “Night of the Living Baseheads,” and MC Jazzy Jeff’s “King Heroin”.  Records that warned the youth of the dangers of drug use. 

Hip-hop made a transition from drug cognizance, to dealer, all the way to today’s sound… the user. The popularity of drug use in the culture has had a negative impact on black youth. Rappers like Lil’ Wayne, Future, and Soulja Boy promote the recreational use of hard drugs to their young constituents. 

From there, they cause a generation in poor neighborhoods, primarily black, to seek after the popular drug. Has drug usage been mentioned in other genres of music outside of Hip-Hop? Yes. Nevertheless, rap has always been the vehicle to pushing such poison to the youth. This further confirms why a majority of rapper’s speak about it in most of their music.  

Finally, one of rap’s music most destructive ingredients is erotic content. Throughout the years, rap music has promoted sexual irresponsibility towards the black culture. Creating moments deemed triumphant in the beginning, but destructive in the long haul. Miami group 2 Live Crew bucked the system after a federal judge deemed their provocative, platinum selling album, As Nasty As They Wanna Be as obscene. 

With the help of the First Amendment and Atlantic Records’s funding, the group ultimately won the case. In addition, it became the first album to don the worthless, black and white, “Parent Advisory” sticker. 

This victory opened hip-hop to a world of sex, degradation, objectification and misogyny. Now, women aren’t only sexually exploited by the material in the music, with the constant use of the “b***s” and “h*” term, but the rap videos promoting these songs entailed a lower level of respect for the black female. 

Images of scantily clad women gyrating while having money tossed on her is the standard for most rap videos. As the culture went deeper down the cesspool, female artists turned the tables on the narrative once said by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg; “B****s Ain’t S**t.” 

Now, female hip-hop artists take their own “assets” and humiliate themselves with aspects of their own sexual expression, self-objectification, prostitution, and recklessness. 

Cardi B, the former stripper turned rapper, openly confessed of drugging and robbing her “clients” prior to her superstar rap days. Recently, she struck gold with her controversial record, “WAP (Wet A** P****).” Despite the song being demeaning to women and uncreative, the record catapulted her to a level far from her days on the pole. From performing the record at the Grammy Awards to interviewing then-candidate Joe Biden. 

Was this progress? Was this the moment for black women to earn their just due after years of oppression? No. This level of buffoonery was necessary for white liberals, the ones pushing the strings behind all you see. Not only is this buck dancing making money for the Jimmy Iovines, Lyor  Cohens and Clive Davis’, these artists have become the driving force behind the destruction of the black community.  

To conclude with the 2021 BET Awards, this was an evening where all the harms came full circle. Gospel music swindler Kirk Franklin performed a supposed inspirational tune with popular rapper Lil’ Baby. The latter later performed again with his typical content; money, drugs, jewelry, clothes, and women. Not to mention, there was a special guest in attendance. Maxine Waters! 

As the young artists performed unintelligible lyric while twekring ang shaking on stage, the camera flashed to the constant visuals of confusion and puzzlement on her face. The idea of her defending this more than 25 years ago has finally come into fruition is incredible. 

Additionally, there was a tribute to well-beloved rapper, DMX, who recently died from a drug overdose. Another issue that plagues the black community. To cap off the night, musician and gay rights advocate Lil’ Nas X performed his satanic hit record, Montero (Call Me by Your Name), ending it by kissing another man on stage. 

This award show displayed not only how far we’ve descended, but also how a civil rights frontrunner was given the cold shoulder when she warned us about that very night BET displayed. 

Today, the black community still ranks high in murders committed, incarceration rate, school dropout rates, and out-of-wedlock births. Harming not only the current, but also the generations ahead. Hip-hop today, unfortunately, is nothing more than a clown show with talentless artists and executives in search of who can tap dance the hardest. Problem is, this carousel will continue. 

As the artist becomes expendable, a new fleet of rappers will arrive passing along the same message C. Dolores Tucker warned us of before.

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Kevin Willis

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