Hip Hop


 

I recently watched 2 classic movie’s… one that I had never seen before, A Gentleman’s Agreement and one of my all time favourites, Do The Right Thing. Both deal with the subject of racism, but in certainly different ways. They were both ground breaking and hard hitting films which deals with issues surrounding the practice and effects of discrimination and prejudice, and what is striking is that they were made 42 years apart.  

A Gentleman’s Agreement was made in 1947 and directed by Elia Kazan. It’s the story of a writer at a “progressive” New York based magazine who decides to pass himself off as Jewish, so as to do an article on anti-Semitism in America. He experiences not only the blatant effects of racism, such as being denied jobs and access to public accommodations, as well as his son being verbally attacked, but he comes to discovers the more subtle forms of racism such as the telling of jokes and the discomfort of his presence in certain social circles. The film also explores the issues of self-hate behaviours and attitudes to how supposedly “good” people can and do contribute to the perpetuation of racism in small ways in their everyday lives.

The title of the film is to signify the “gentleman’s agreement”, which his fiancée informs him is “understood” among home owners in her upscale neighbourhood, that they won’t sell to Jews. I must say I was surprised that such a film was made in 1947, which tackled such complex issues in such a real way. It went on to win numerous awards including 3 Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress.

I consider Do The Right Thing a masterpiece. From the opening dance sequence to Public Enemy’s protest anthem “Fight the Power” by Rosie Perez during the opening credits… to the trash can through the window… to the last scene where Mookie get’s paid by Sal, this film takes one on an emotional and intellectual roller coaster. The multitude of characters with distinct personalities and motivations, “colours” the dynamics of this film in such a way I have never seen repeated.

I hadn’t watched this film in years but I am still blown away by the way Spike Lee delves into the issues of blatant and subtle effects of racism; the valuing of white property over the lives of the Black community in general and the life of a Black man in particular; economic self reliance; self-hate and self-respect; personal and community responsibility; the reasoning and consequence of protest; family loyalties and cross cultural allegiances; the significance of the polar messages of Malcolm and Martin which permeate through the film; etc…. I could go on and on. This is the type of movie where you can get something different (and more) out of it, every time you watch it. Released in 1989, it also won a number of awards but garnered only 2 Oscar nominations for Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor.

Both films are very different in their approach and style in how they deal with a similar topic with complex issues. Both are worth seeing or seeing again.

 

It appears that another white celebrity has stepped in some dog doo-doo” (I crack myself up sometimes…lol), over using the N-word during a tirade. Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman got caught making offensive remarks on an audio taped phone conversation he was having with his son, who is dating a Black woman. Below is a part of the transcript:

I don’t care if she’s a Mexican, a whore or whatever. It’s not because she’s black, it’s because we use the word nigger sometimes here. I’m not gonna take a chance ever in life of losing everything I’ve worked for for 30 years because some fucking nigger heard us say nigger and turned us in to the Enquirer magazine. Our career is over! I’m not taking that chance at all! Never in life! Never! Never! If Lyssa [Dog’s daughter] was dating a nigger, we would all say ‘fuck you!’ And you know that. If Lyssa brought a black guy home ya da da… it’s not that they’re black, it’s none of that. It’s that we use the word nigger. We don’t mean you fucking scum nigger without a soul. We don’t mean that shit. But America would think we mean that. And we’re not taking a chance on losing everything we got over a racial slur because our son goes with a girl like that. I can’t do that Tucker. You can’t expect Gary, Bonnie, Cecily, all them young kids to [garbled] because ‘I’m in love for 7 months’ – fuck that! So, I’ll help you get another job but you can not work here unless you break up with her and she’s out of your life. I can’t handle that shit. I got ’em in the parking lot trying to record us. I got that girl saying she’s gonna wear a recorder…”

Now for the obvious. Duane issued an apology, stated that he is not a racist, proclaimed his love and respect for Black people, met with his spiritual adviser Rev. Tim Storey (who he was quick to point out is Black), and contacted the Rev. Al Sharp[tongue] to “make things right again”. A&E network has also suspended the show for the foreseeable future season and hopes that Duane continues the “healing process” that he has begun.

I started thinking about this whole ordeal and I came to the conclusion that Duane is playing this all wrong. I think he would have been much better served if he had contacted Nas, who is about to release an album entitled “Nigger” on December 11th. Nas states: “Right now, we’re on a whole new movement. We’re taking power [away] from that word.” Duane could have then claimed that he is now committed to this “new movement” and is in collaboration with the rapper to take power away from the N-word. He and Michael Richards (Kramer from the t.v. show Seinfeld), could then go on tour with Nas after he drops his new CD. They can dub it: “Save the N-word Tour“. Paris Hilton, who also had her own “nigger” moment, could also jump on board. She claims to be seeking to do something meaningful with her life after her stint in jail. Duane, Mikey and Paris could be the opening acts and start the show off by reprising their “nigger” laced tirades. 

I then began to brainstorm (which is not necessarily a good thing) what else this “new movement” by Nas, Duane, Mikey and Paris could do to take the power away from the N-word. Then it hit me… it was an epiphany…. an enlightenment! Why not start a petition to lobby the government…. no…. lobby the United Nations to declare a “NIGGER DAY” !?  Let’s have one day, every year, right around the world…. let’s say…. March 1st…. right after Black History Month…. when we can call each other “nigger” without any repercussions. Regardless if you are black, white, yellow, red or brown, male or female, young or old….. on NIGGER DAY we can all call each other “nigger” or use it anyway we like in a sentence or conversation. Politicians, religious leaders, celebrities, media personalities, comedians, business leaders, scientists, professors, Nobel laureates…. right down to your boss, co-workers, your landlord, cab drivers, etc., would be free to unburden themselves and say what is really on their mind with no fear of reprisal for that one day.      

Think of it…. if we had a NIGGER DAY, then Duane could have waited until that day to go into his tirade and there would be no problem. I could show up at work in the morning and greet my boss (who is white) with “Good Morning nigger” and he could shake my hand and pat me on the head and respond truthfully, without any apprehension: “No you’re my nigger…. in fact you’re the only nigger here“. Then we can all have a good laugh and slap each other on the back as we go get coffee. That person at work, church, school, etc., who you just don’t like or maybe you do like, well you can “nigger” them all day long… for a whole 24 hours! Over time, after a few years, we’ll all get “niggered” out and the word won’t be a big deal anymore…. the power will truly be taken away from that word.

This “new movement” of Nas, Duane, Mikey and Paris can lead us to that glorious day, NIGGER DAY, that Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., dreamed about and died for. That day when we let the freedom to use the word “Nigger” anytime and anywhere ring. When we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the new Negro spirituals: “nigga dis, nigga dat; nigga you and nigga me; u mah nigga; die nigga die; nigga, nigga, nigga”!!!  

A participant of BOD forum is attending a conference on business ethics and one of the topics for discussion concerned 50 Cent. They presented a number of questions that are to be used to focus the debate and asked other members to comment. Below are the  questions and the response by a member of the forum which I found enlightening. I need to add more Canadian content to this page!

1. Should 50 Cent be allowed to perform in Toronto?

If he has the right work permit, proper security clearance from the Canadian authorities and can guarantee there will be no violence before, at and after his performance, then why not? Especially if he generates income for Toronto businesses!

2. Should he be refused entry to Canada, given his criminal record and the nature of his music?

Hmmm…didn’ t he spend time in jail for offences involving narcotics trafficking, guns and violence??! Some older jazz and pop musicians have been denied entry for more trivial reasons and to perform at larger, more reputable events (Jazz festival, anyone??!) Fitty shouldn’t get a pass just because!! And if his music is objectively found to be violating decency and anti-hate laws, then we don’t need to have him come across our border!

3. Would the concert encourage violent and misogynistic behaviour?

Thing is, folks who’d be easily swayed into “behaving badly” by a so-called musical artist who is barely literate (in standard English anyway) and can’t write proper lyrics already have issues with “boundaries” and will exhibit violent and misogynistic behaviour whether or not Fitty raps about it in his songs…

4. Was there racial bias involved?

You have to wonder: The Rolling Stones have been here Lord knows how many times despite several members having been arrested over the years. Ozzie Osborne’s been here, as have an assortment of country music “bad boys” and pop music misfits….

5. Should the entertainment company promoting his tour not market the concert on ethical grounds? 

The only ethics these days that many “urban entertainment promoters” seem interested in is the ethics of…cash… so, if there are enough “consumers” who enjoy the “Fitty” product and will pay whatever to get it in Canada, who are these “promoters” to deny them?? Entertainment companies should use their judgement. If they’re planning on limiting their market to “Fitty” type entertainers and can survive and thrive financially doing so…then more power to them. But if they want to expand into other more discerning clienteles, then they need to clean up their act…and do the right thing!

6. What about freedom of speech? 

Freedom of speech??! Puhleeze! Remember, many of these gangsta rappers’ lyrics are hardly intellectually stimulating and are appallingly unimaginative and repetitive. Luckily some of their “songs” have a good beat otherwise I don’t see how they’d sell! I doubt that those who boycotted buses in Montgomery, Alabama and marched on Washington for basic civil rights had envisioned “Fitty music” as the type of “freedom of speech” worth dying for! Besides, freedoms come with responsibilities…

7. Who has the right to censor whom and why?

Tricky indeed. The courts? The CRTC? Canada Customs? Tricky indeed…