Sunday, July 6, 2008

Hip-hop-cracy

Now that there’s a palpable chance we’ll have a dark-skinned president, apparently CNN is about to present a special on Being Black in America. Something on which I can’t claim personal expertise except by proximity in bands, on the road, in bed, by marriage. And hell, some anthropologists have been claiming we all have a little mixed blood. I’m certainly the family black sheep and anyway, I have a constitutional right to speak out.

We all get the fact that black people are dominating culturally since the 1990’s. Sports— besides skiing and tennis— have long been their domain. The empire of Hip Hop has now eclipsed any musical corporate success for what has been a contemporary dynasty-age. As in the 60’s…fashion, style, comedy— TV, film-- go right along. Every white kid in Manhattan goes through at least a phase of wearing the clothes, blasting the music, adopting the body language and ‘talking the talk’. Even Madonna had to have an NBA notch in her goddess-belt.

And it’s not like color tells the story. Imagine a documentary on being ‘white’ in America… this includes the immigrant children of more nations, more cultures than satellite channels. I hosted some reggae musicians in my home in the late 1970’s in Manhattan. Rockstars. But restaurants refused to serve us. Harlem restaurants. Indian restaurants. Cab drivers passed us by. Only in the 5th Ave. offices of the Geffens and Ertigans were they embraced, served fine wine and steak, although most of them were vegans. The kind of disrespect experienced by the geniuses of jazz—Thelonious, Bird… outside the safe realm of a café or venue… makes our blood boil.

Which brings me to my current gripe. Jay-Z. How this no-talent pretentious thug became the Emperor of Black just pisses me off. My son told me he went to Harvard. Not true— unless Wikipedia is lying. Okay. We all know the Hip Hop music industry used the Gordon Gekko model of corporate protocol. That the Gotti family shenanigans look ‘campy’ when compared to these guys. Not all of them, but most of them. They have done more for the degradation of women— don’t get me started. The gilding of American values… murder, fraud, slander, libel—broad-scale money-laundering-- the shutting-up of the small voice--- the replacement of actual music with computer-generated beats all stolen from real drummers. And words— just words—without art, without ear— misused and forced into rhythmic slots to entice young kids into memorizing bullshit. Then they flash their diamond-studded smile as they emerge from Hummers wearing 6-figured watches and suits to match. They claim to be giving to the community and then charge exorbitant money for their clothing-lines (except you, Marbury!) and concerts. Sure, they give to hurricane relief and Darfur. The equivalent of you or I giving a few bucks. Too busy shopping, acquiring, merging. At least Gordon Gekko had the brains to stay out of music. But these guys? They are the new sheikhs of America.

The biggest King of Bullshit is this Jay-Z. No rhythm, no poetry. Just power. He even threatened to retire… but of course this was just a ruse. My son also told me he owned the Nets. Correction: 4.5 million out of a purchase price of $300,000,000. I own a few shares of Starbucks, I retort. I am not claiming to own. Maybe he owns Beyonce. She seemed like a good girl. I’ve heard rumors they’re both gay. Whatever. She is his temporary Queen. Of the harem. Looks over the golden cesspool of his King Midas life. In fact to me, seems the whitest black man since O.J. Can't dance...no groove. About as much soul as Cher. And about as real as her latest face.

I own an HP computer. Because it was given to me. I get nervous when I see those commercials. Guilt by association. I try to hate the Nets. Thank God I only have to hate 1.5% of them. The thing with sports is… you can’t achieve stardom unless you’ve earned something, you’ve paid a zillion hours of dues and sweat and tears and the hardest work there is. But music? Apparently you can walk out on a stage with nothing but attitude and the approval stamp of Mr. Jay-Z and clean up. Even if you’re lip-synching. Even if you’re deaf. Or def.

When is America going to wake up and realize the biggest BS story of all is this Jay-Zero. Like the reverse of the American Dream. The Milli-Vanilli of capitalist success. King of Balls. As long as his little posse is surrounding him. Because onstage? He comes off like a rhythm-challenged wimp. The sound of his voice is annoying. What were you thinking, Charlie Rose? I give to PBS. Has everyone fallen into this diamond-studded color trap?

I guess what prompted my July wrath is a little tidbit I heard on the news: that he has now claimed ownership of a color. Accumulating several millions from the use of ‘Black’ wasn’t enough. We now have to pay him royalties for the use of ‘Jay-Z blue’. I have an old guitar in precisely that shade—custom. Well, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit by and let him demand money for the use of lightwaves. In fact I think this is the biggest laugh of all. The bigger they come… don't get me started.

I wonder what Nelson Mandela thinks. The gigantic athletes of the past, whose rewards were like a drop in the bucket of these no-talent moguls. The countless runners in Africa who break records every day, who sing and play home-made instruments with finesse and grace and beauty… who struggle for food every day. Thelonious and Bird—all the nameless others-- if we could dig them up from their sad graves of tormented genius and under-rewarded lives. And not just the Bo Diddleys and John Lee Hookers… Muddy Waters and Robert Johnsons, Louis Armstrongs. I’ll even give a nod to Grandmaster Flash and some talented visionary rappers here. But I’m really talking about the ones who never made it to a stage. The ones who never will, because all the space is occupied by the gargantuan dark Satanic anti-genius shadow of Jay-Z. How many noble Black Americans are raped every day by the hideous obscene rewards for corporate-fueled musical mediocrity of the Roc-a- fella? I wonder if he pays royalties to the family of John D. and Nelson for this mockery. I am not laughing.

So if CNN gives you a nod in this documentary, shame on them. I despise everything about you and your BS fake larger-than life. Call me racist. I am not. This has nothing to do with your skin color. But the fact that you’ve used color, your bullshit ghetto-origin story to bilk your own people of all these millions and billions you use to build your pretentious empire of pompous empty Hummerdom. Give it back. Every undeserved diamond-studded penny. And especially the color blue which has been here for all universal time before it occurred to some asshole to put a name on it.

Crayola you, Mr. Jay-Zero.


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