Hip-hop has reached its apex in the
pantheon of pop culture. This is evinced no more clearly than in
the popular musical landscape where I noted to my incredible
amazement that three weeks ago, out of the Hot 100 Billboard
singles, every single song in the top 10 was a hip-hop song. For
the first time in my musical history, hip-hop has clearly eclipsed
pop and rock as the easiest accessible form of music. So
black/hip-hop culture has become better understood by the masses or
it has at least gained acceptance, right? Not so fast. With such
speculation it is important to ask if depictions are presented and
if the messages are congruent with the assumptions.

Janna Hutz

Not to get into one of the most belabored topic around, but
walking through Angell Hall I heard a random Asian student say into
his cell phone, “Nah, I’m not gonna even wait for these
niggaz.” After a double take I just laughed. I would damn
near bet my life he was referring to another Asian and I
couldn’t help but think how normal this all is. Yet this
epiphany had yet to reach fruition because then, a week later, the
controversy over Ghettopoly reached its inevitable saturation. When
I first saw it, laughed and put it down then I started my NAACP
countdown timer. And serendipitously the creator was also Asian. I
have no insight into the Asian adoption of hip-hop culture or why
the coincidence occurred, but it was nonetheless noteworthy.

Reading through the Ghettopoly site, I stumbled upon a
ridiculously insecure defense of the game by Chang with such
juvenile defenses as “Remember, the game is called Ghettopoly
not Blackopoly.” Besides the obvious fact that he is upset
that his business is being infringed upon, he was probably beat up
a few times by some black folk and retains some obsession
(Hoodopoly, Thugopoly and HipHopopoly are his upcoming games along
with the obligatory Redneckopoly) with black culture. So as my
timer sounded, NAACP President Kweisi Mfume released the knee-jerk
response of “Chang should turn his talents to more positive
images and activities.” Gotcha. He should follow
Mfume’s lead and give a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding
Hip-Hop/Rap Artist to Ja Rule for the classic “Livin’
It Up” with such inspirational lyrics as “To all my
bitches that be givin’ it up” and “Fuck, knowing your
name, get yo ass in the Range.” Or nominate Nelly for
Outstanding Male Artist as he markets his real-life drink,
“Pimp Juice.” Perhaps it’s refreshment for the
weary pimp in all of us. So Chang, this is where your focus should
be. Chang, don’t you see? Reward these positive images of
black people instead of pedaling your clearly hurtful game.

Last year another less-reported game called “Life as a
Black Man” got some attention for its being based on being an
18-year-old black male escaping from the ghetto, the military, the
entertainment industry or HBCU (black college) to a place called
freedom. However it was nowhere as controversial because it was a
somber and reflective look on the difficulties of black life that
would be harder to get high to and play along with and also because
its creator was black. Its only obstacle was lack of interest.

When you get to the crux of the issue it’s all about
images, stereotypes and accountability. Ultimately it is just a
game, as “The Sopranos” is just a television show.
There are much more important and concrete issues that deserve
focus like the actual improvement of real ghettos and eradicating
organized crime. The hypocrisy and displacement of blame from
internal communities will perpetuate the treadmill cycle that
prevents improvement. I see BET and despair. I know what it shows
me are black people’s interests and goals and what is
rewarded as outstanding. More disturbing is what as see as
significant in black communities. Now that hip-hop has the ear of
our generation’s pop culture what do they have to say?

Rahim can be reached at
“mailto:hrahim@umich.edu”>hrahim@umich.edu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *