Smile Politely

Bad flashbacks by “Too White Crew”

Ok, Champaign. We have to have a talk.

This morning, I received a mildly distressed phone call from a close friend in C-U. Issues that haunted the both of us had interrupted his usual morning radio ritual.

As he was listening to Q96, a station that plays a mix of Top 40, and classic hip hop and pop songs, he learned that a group called Too White Crew would be performing this weekend in Champaign. It was enough to tip him off to the idea that this could get nasty.

As quickly as I could, I pointed my work computer over to Q96, and strapped on my headphones. I never quite anticipated how quickly I’d want to take them off.

What was playing was an interview between an on-air personality, and a member of the group named, C-Note.

Too White Crew, is a portmanteau play upon 2 Live Crew, an early 90s hip-hop group from Miami.

So far, a bit questionable.

The interview was speckled with notes of urban vernacular (including talk of hoes, honeys, brothas, flava, etc.) and was promoting an event to take place this weekend at Fat City, a local venue/bar.

Getting a bit tense about what I’m hearing. But, we sojourn on.

(Ed. note: Listen in right here, as we’ve obtained a copy of the interview in question:)

The nail in the coffin was part of the promotional pitch: paper-bag 40’s of Olde English for sale, attempting to appeal to “the hip-hop crowd,” and a “bootie-shake contest” that, no matter how you look at it, is racially driven, and offensive as a result.

The aforementioned sense of tension has now turned to a special kind of disgust; it sat with me as I took classes from professors like Laurence Parker, and Christopher Span. It’s the same itching feeling I got when I learned about the now infamous Tacos and Tequila party, or the endless debates surrounding the Chief issue.

Flashback is a human mental means by which to vicariously re-live the past through memory, or learned behavior. Unfortunately, sometimes what people have learned comes to life vicariously through ideas that should not be living, especially when the under informed would dare to say that these concepts are dead, dying, or on life support.

Long story short, even as I now sit and reside in Chicago, I can still feel and nearly taste the sense of abject ignorance that seems to waft through Champaign from time to time.

First and foremost, whose idea was this? Does the blame lie with the individual being interviewed? Who spews rhetoric of what he believes to be representative of not only hip-hop culture as a body politic, but of a colorless culture, or treatment of women?

Or perhaps the blame should be placed upon the radio station, for allowing such a tasteless interview to air. Was it a simple lack of screening, or was there a sense of belief that this would pass unnoticed, un-objected, or would work as a promotional push?

And yet, maybe there is some fault with the venue itself allowing such an event to take place? Is this how the owners and others see hip-hop culture? Have they not looked into the other facets of hip-hop outside their front door (UC Hip-Hop Congress, BRC, 217Mafia, Maximum Strength, Floor Lovers Illinois)?

Or, maybe this is a continuing trend. Ignorance tends to have a strange perpetual motion.

A few years ago, this same issue was embodied in the number of racially-themed parties floating around the UIUC campus — the most infamous of which was the dubbed the “Tacos and Tequila” incident. These incidents led to a lukewarm response by the university, which resulted in debates concerning the Chief, and eventually the figure’s retirement.

But wait, the Chief is dancing again this weekend? And we have cultural art displays in front of cultural houses being vandalized and stolen? My God, what has happened to this push for diversity and understanding?

Its reach is stifled by events like these, which may not necessarily be patently racist, but indeed register as blunt ignorance, stupidity, and insensitivity.

Hip-Hop is not malt liquor in a paper bag and misdirected slang to be used for the sake of making a door charge, or accumulating a profit. Culture is not something to be placed upon a hanger, and worn at an appropriate time. To reduce it to this level of simplicity is to cheapen it, and make it no better than a drink special of something that tastes terrible in the first place — all while taking part in an event of terrible taste.

Real hip-hop is alive and well.

May its true message reach the ears of the ignorant by some stretch.

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