The Real Work Beyond Billboards

I am not interested in seeing “Get Rich or Die Trying”. I’m not much of a 50 Cent fan so I know if I can’t take 80 minutes of listening to him, I’m sure I’m not going to handle listening AND looking at him attempt to act for 90 minutes. I will make no judgment on the movies but the studio has stirred some controversy with their billboards in a Los Angeles neighborhood.

This is a statement from Najee Ali of Islamic Hope:



"We are outraged because 50 Cent and Paramount Studios are promoting gun violence right next to a childcare center,” he said. “We’ve lost too many lives to gun violence, and we don’t want our youth influenced by death and destruction. We are demanding that Paramount Studios remove these billboards.”


Later in the article, County Supervisor Michael Antonovich says:


"The billboard conveys to students a disturbing message actively promoting gun violence, criminal behaviour and gang affiliation,"


I haven’t followed the story closely but in interviews Najee Ali states that she is blaming Paramount and not Fiddy for the billboard. This simply doesn’t make sense. Fiddy has spent the last couple of years promoting a violent image and if the billboard is upsetting then the cover of the CD, "Get Rich or Die Tryin," should be just as upsetting. It seems to me that the messenger’s message is five million CD sales too late.

Rap has disintegrated into a cesspool where thug life, misogynistic mentalities and materialistic glorification equate to million dollar contracts and multi-platinum CD sales. When rap music gave a voice to the ghetto youth, it opened Pandora’s box. Rap music is doing for ghetto life what Hurricane Katrina did for the impoverished natives of the Gulf Region. It placed it in the forefront of the American psyche.

But the indigenous folks of rap found a way to make a profit. Because not only did America find itself shocked by the violent images portrayed in rap, it also found itself enamored by them… celebrating them.

Loving them to a point where the violence of a young man’s life will shine on the silver screen and like the Romans converging on the Coliseum, many will flock to watch the glorification of a violent life. We need to do more than boycott a billboard if we do not want that to happen. We could start by boycotting the movie, boycotting the music that spawned the movie, boycott the rapper that created the music. But if we really want to stop this madness, then at some point we’re going to have to change the condition that gave birth to 50 Cent. And that takes a lot more work than what it will take to remove a billboard.

 

5 Responses to The Real Work Beyond Billboards

  1. Malik Says:
    Ugh, you're killing me James. First of all, almost ALL popular music is hedonistic and morally degraded, from country to rock to hip-hop. However, it's always hip-hop that gets the label of being an inherently degraded GENRE, rather than one genre among many that has plenty of examples of stupid music, just like the rest, in much the same way that the crimes and indiscretions of black youth are attributed to their blackness, rather than to the general rashness and stupidity of all youth. Hip-hop isn't killing black youth, any more than pro-wrestling is killing white youth. They're both forms of entertainment that are filled with caricatures -- insipid, degrading, mindless caricatures. Here's the thing that your generation doesn't get: BLACK YOUTH KNOW THAT! Do you really think that the majority of black kids take pimpin' and slingin' and ballin' seriously? Well, let me answer my own question, yes you do, and so does much of the rest of the nation, which has much to do with why black youth are demonized. Black kids aren't mindless cretins. A song isn't going to transform their opinion of right and wrong. Granted, mainstream music definitely contributes to the atmosphere of moral degradation that ALL kids are growing up in these days, but whose fault is that? Not the black community as a whole. They're not the ones buying the majority of the records. Not youth in general, because we're not the ones earning the money and running the companies. And certainly not hip-hop as a genre of music. I'll hazard a guess that you've never listened to real hip-hop in your life. If you want a sample, just go to my site and listen to Radio Free Your Mind. If you want to ascribe blame, place it where it really belongs, on the artists and record labels and radio stations who promote this garbage, and the adults who let their kids buy it and listen to it. That's right, if your generation wants to know what's up with today's youth, it only has to look in the mirror. Do baby boomers take responsibility for ANYTHING?! Yeesh. And you wonder why kids don't respect adults.
  2. Malik Says:
    ADDENDUM: Okay, you're not a baby boomer, but if there are any of you out there who read James' post and agreed, I'm talking to YOU!
  3. James Manning Says:
    Malik, first, much respect for your insight... however, you seem to be reading something into my post that isn't there.

    The point I made is that boycotting a billboard will do nothing to change the condition of the black community. I then went on to suggest that if we really wanted to do something about the image that 50 Cent promotes, then we need to do something about the conditions that created them.

    This has nothing to do with hip hop destroying our community but rather that the focus on hip hop as a destructive force is misguided. However, there is some merit to the argument that hip hop is a contributing factor to the mental and spiritual decay of black youth. But that is another post.

    I questioned why the activist had a problem with the billboard and not the album cover... and why not the music?

    Another thing, I've listened to rap since the days of Sugar Hill Gang and Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five... and some of what is passing for rap is simply garbage... my generation knew how to make classic hits, these cats know how to make money.

    We can debate hip hop, but this post was about the billboard. By the way, thanks for visiting.
  4. James Manning Says:
    This is the rest of the conversation that is taking place on Malik's blog: http://www.solarsouls.com/

    MALIK SAYS...

    Maybe I misconstrued your point, but it’s hard for me to see where.

    if we really wanted to do something about the image that 50 Cent promotes, then we need to do something about the conditions that created them.

    This is exactly what I’m talking about. Conditions in the black community didn’t give rise to 50’s image. Record label execs and producers manufactured 50’s image and they market it as real and raw. The only people who buy that guff are kids from the suburbs and adults who hate on our youth. That’s the real question. Why do they buy into it?

    I questioned why the activist had a problem with the billboard and not the album cover… and why not the music?

    I don’t think it’s fair to assume that the people objecting to the billboard don’t object to the music as well. You’re talking about two different circumstances. It’s one thing if the corner store has playboy magazines for sale. I might object to it, but there’s probably not much I can do about it in the short term. But if someone puts a naked centerfold on a billboard next to my kid’s elementary school, then of course you’re going to immediately hear vocal demands to have it removed, because it’s now an unavoidable obscenity, unlike the magazines in the store.

    We can debate hip hop, but this post was about the billboard.

    The billboard is about hip-hop. It’s the same thing in the end.

    This has nothing to do with hip hop destroying our community but rather that the focus on hip hop as a destructive force is misguided.

    If you’re not saying that hip-hop is a destructive force in the quote below, than what are you saying? I honestly want to know.

    Rap has disintegrated into a cesspool where thug life, misogynistic mentalities and materialistic glorification equate to million dollar contracts and multi-platinum CD sales. When rap music gave a voice to the ghetto youth, it opened Pandora’s box. Rap music is doing for ghetto life what Hurricane Katrina did for the impoverished natives of the Gulf Region.

    I’ve listened to rap since the days of Sugar Hill Gang and Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five…


    It was wrong of me to assume. I see that you’re an old head. But seriously, if you haven’t found contemporary hip-hop that rivals or surpasses what the pioneers did, then you haven’t been looking. Or maybe you’re just nostalgic. And please don’t take my passion as antagonism. I’m glad you’re thinking about the conditions in our community. I just hate to see us hate on each other.

    Much love,
    Malik
  5. James Manning Says:
    Then I commented:


    Don’t worry Malik, I feel where you are coming from and it’s all good.

    I see where your disagreement with me was as far as the industry creating the image. That me be partially true but 50 Cent was living a foul life long before he got a record deal. The only thing between this 50 Cent thug that the 50 Cent thug that got shot nine times is that now he’s a paid thug. I would venture to say that if there were no 50 Cent, there would still be a Curtis Jackson running the street acting a fool.

    So my feeling is that everything we are seeing now is a symptom.

    And yes, I am an old head but I do listen to Jadakiss, Jay Z, Wu Tang, Nas, Common, Mos Def and a few other cats. But I’m not a 50 Cent fan and I think G Unit is garbage - and I won’t even get started on Lil Wayne and Mack 10… geesh.