Smile Politely

The error of the rap diva

Forgive me, while I throw some passion behind this one.

For years and years, even harkening back to our beginnings, we, the body of hip-hop as a culture, have been wrongly hailed as loud, bassy, obnoxious, and outwardly rebellious in the face of the general public.

It’s funny how this plays parallels to some of the other famous artforms (Rock, Blues, etc), but anyway..

In recent years, we (for the most part) have gotten our acts together. We have shown ourselves as inspired, directed, cool-calm-dominant on the charts and headphones. We have a message, a hall of fame, and a kind of fame unparalleled. We’ve inspired directors, visual art, styles of dance, and left hosts of children and young adults screaming lyrics along with their cassette tapes, CDs, and “obtained” MP3s.

But, as we’ve seen before, it is perhaps strangely appropriate that hip-hop culture be compared to a Chicago Cubs season: it only seems to take an incident a year to send everything tumbling to the ground. Shouts to my homie Milton Bradley, by the way..

At the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards this past Sunday, Kanye West struck again in familiar fashion. However, his vocal philanthropy on this occasion was not directed towards his own ends. He instead directed it towards Ms. Beyonce Knowles, who lost a “Moon Man” award to Ms. Taylor Swift.

What followed was predictable (if you’ve seen West lose his cool before). A charge on stage, a snatch of a microphone, a tirade, some boos from the star-studded audience, and a backlash from every mag out there covering it … including this one.

At this stage, asking “what the hell was he thinking?” becomes a moot point, especially considering that we’ve seen this before. Too many times, at that. At the heart of hip-hop lies a phrase that has been with it since its inception: show and prove. What’s been shown and proven, time and time again, is Mr. West’s capacity to not only be an incorrigible jerk, but arrogant at that, perhaps saved in his own mind by the idea that “he’s not doing it on his own behalf.”

With all of this said, and being a diehard fan of hip-hop’s “show and prove” motto, I hereby have the audacity to offer the following opinion.

Stay dope, but be humble.

In the face of Mr. West’s supposed genius in the scope of his music, there seems to be a real absence of respect, common sense, and overall “musician’s hubris” in the scope of his attitude. Unfortunately, this doesn’t reflect only unto Mr. West, this reflects back unto the sum of hip-hop culture, and even unto the Black community.

True, opinions are meant to be had, but not always to be shared, especially in this fashion. Inversely, however, what can we expect when we live in an era of politicians undertaking much the same tirades within a public forum. Professionalism and courtesy, thy name is Joe Wilson.

Unfortunately, being a hip-hop “head” means coming to expect the ego, sometimes. However, album sales DO NOT count as show and prove in this day and age. Skill is still the necessity, and perhaps social tact and decorum is a close second.

So, as a message to hip-hop as a cultural body, whether you have witnessed this incident or not, I offer the following advice: stay dope, be humble, and keep your arrogance in check … even if it is for someone else.

We don’t need another diva.

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