Wednesday, August 1, 2007

No Keys for Hip-Hop Please

When a person prefaces their comments with a word of clarification, be very careful. That person may be attempting to sale you swamp land. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the books- before you say what you mean; tell them what you don’t mean by what you say.
So, let me preface by saying I’m on record as a critic of Hip-Hop and what it has created among today’s youth. I’m fed up with this bootylecious generation that’s more enamored with bling-bling than the pursuit of a quality education. I’m saddened at how the hard work and sacrifices of grandma and grandpa have been thrown out the window in favor of shaking that groove thang to a two quarter (a.k.a. 50 Cent) beat.
Now comes the tricky part. The political leaders in my fine city are out of touch with what’s happening in the world of Hip-Hop. There is some good in Hip-Hop just as there is some bad in R&B, Jazz, Country and Western and Classical music. There are bad apples in every batch of good just as there are some amazing examples of good character among the apples that have worms in them.
Bill Bell, the Mayor of Durham, North Carolina, has been offered the chance to present a key to the city to-drum roll please-Ludacris. It appears that he may jump on the Bill O’Reilly bandwagon by discrediting Luda’s worth as a contributor to making the world a better place. A few years back O’Reilly pushed Pepsi to remove the Atlanta based Hip-Hopster as a spokesperson. In this age of playa hating on everything that looks and acts like a thug, the beverage makers jumped.
Brother Luda has gone through an impressive metamorphous since his big hit anthem “Shake Your Money Maker”. It seems that playing the role of a self-absorbed rapper in the movie “Hustle & Flow” began a journey down the proverbial straight and narrow. One has to wonder if that scene where he has his clock rocked in the bathroom by Terrance Howard made him question his own rise to stardom. One can only speculate about what goes on inside a persons head. One thing is clear; Ludacris has become an example of the emerging face of Hip-Hop.
It started with his new clean cut look. Part of the point Ludacris is making is the need to be careful not to judge a man by his hairstyle. Remember his comments at the Grammy’s? “I guess I had to cut my hair to get one of these.” He went on to talk about his hit song “Runaway Love.” “This proves that not everything in Hip-Hop is bad.” So true. Critics like Durham’s City Council member Thomas Stith could care less. John McCann, columnist for the Durham Herald-Sun, got a feel for how the Republican candidate for Mayor feels about Ludacris. “As a father of three daughters, I’m really concerned about the lyrics, and in particular how women are portrayed.
Stith is referring to the proposal to present Ludacris with a key to the city. Bill Bell, the current Mayor, is engaged in a heated contest with Stith, a current member of the City Council. The two have already butted heads on a variety of issues ranging from incentives for business development to ways to tackle gangs and crime.
The request to give a key to Ludacris could fuel a controversy that would stir public opinion in the direction of Stith if Bell would decide to grant the wishes of the promoters of an event that will have Ludacris as a guest. These aren’t keys to a Chevy. These keys symbolize the community’s acknowledgment of the significance of ones contribution in promoting all that is good. It’s hard to imagine that you can do that while shaking your money maker.
That’s were things get tricky. Ludacris is not your average Hip-Hop artist. He has committed himself to improving young people. He is using his music to inspire youth to reach for the best. I went to the website of his foundations and was a bit shocked at what I learned.
His foundation funds a number of projects. Stand Up 101: “Stand Up Initiative” is “dedicated to lifting the spirits of youth with disabilities. Our goal is to assist individuals in achieving active and productive lives by working with hospitals and other non-profit organizations by providing music, gifts, outings and surprise visits.” That one brought a few tears to my eyes.
Then there’s Hip-Hop 101: "Hip-Hop Culture" The website reads "this course explores the culture of hip-hop from the beginning to the present, and its impact on the world. The program incorporates music, art and dance in an educational curriculum. Successful individuals in the hip-hop community speak to the class on various contributions they have made to the culture. Students, parents and educators are enthusiastic about the program. Our pilot program was located at Southside High School in Atlanta, Georgia. Surveys taken at the school showed that the program increased student attendance, and improved research and communication skills. In addition the program increase parental involvement in student course work and promoted dialogue between students and parents.” Sounds like the program based out of Duke University headed by my good friend J-Bully and the one at North Carolina Central University taught by my friend Christopher “Play” Martin and 9th Wonder. There are lessons to be learned from Hip-Hop. There’s more.
Goals 101: "Goal Setting Program" The website reads “This program represents one of the foundation's Principles of Success. This program contains a financial literacy component and is design to help youth understand needs vs. wants, budgeting and strategies to reach financial goals. The program partners with local community organizations to reward youth for setting and achieving their goals. Program materials include Financial Literacy and activities for youth to take home and engage their parents in the fun and learning.” Sounds like some of what the City Council funds in Durham, NC.
Luda 101: "Luda Cares" “During the holidays, The Ludacris Foundation focuses on underprivileged youth and families in housing communities around the country. Luda Cares supports community events, hospitals and other outreach programs. Toys, food and clothing are provided to children and their families. This program was launched in the Atlanta neighborhoods of the Bankhead Community, Herndon and Hollywood Homes.”
And then there’s Lifestyle 101: "Healthy Lifestyle" “The program provides youth, ages 8-14, with the opportunity to learn healthy eating habits in a fun environment. Kids receive simple instructions on how to prepare healthy meals at home. The Healthy Lifestyle program involves youth focusing on their own health and ultimately their own future. The program offers encouragement for improving eating habits and reducing obesity. Youth will participate in cooking a healthy meal while learning more about healthy eating habits and lifestyle changes. They will also learn about the importance of physical activity in their daily lives. Community centers and Boys and Girls Clubs in 10 cities have been selected to have the program hosted there. In line with The Ludacris Foundation's 7th Principle of Success: Physical Activity- we believe proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle should be a way of life. A celebrity chef provides youth with the opportunity to work one on one with professional chefs and create foods that are healthy and delicious while learning more about food preparation, ingredients and etiquette. Kids also participate in a rap session at the end of each event to discuss everyday issues they face. Program materials include healthy living guides and activities for youth to take home and engage their parents in the fun and learning.”
Sounds like Luda has a lot going on down in Atlanta. This leads to a difficult question. When does the good that a person does outweigh the bad we assume due to the methodology used by that person? It goes even deeper than that. At what point do we embrace those who seek to make a difference while we suffer with the assumptions we make due to our cultural differences.
These are tough questions when faced with raising three daughters. I suppose we need to be careful not to throw out the baby with the bath water. Luda may be calling for us to shake our money makers, but didn’t James Brown tell us to “get on the scene like a sex machine?”


  1. Once again, Kenney has served up two huge helpings of food for thought- best digested slowly for maximum benefit. Keep us on our toes, Carl!

  2. Man, I completely agree on that.

    There's way too many fools out there that can't just get it.

    In fact, I was fightin with my sort of friend demetrius yesterday about this, and
    they wouldn't admit to me that he was wrong. Now I can just show them this blog :)