I think that since Vh-1 loves to honor hip hop every year, it’s time that we think a little more carefully about how they might do their jobs effectively. Don’t get me wrong, much of the greatness of hip hop should be celebrated, and having such a powerful awards show gives rappers yet another chance to be on TV. The added exposure creates money-making opportunities, and I’m always down for that.
But let’s be real: Is the entire hip hop industry really worthy of being honored all the time? Should every popular artist or well-known song be celebrated, or should some be maligned? To say that every impactful group or song in the history of hip hop is worthy of an honor is like saying that we should celebrate Adolf Hitler’s birthday just because he was famous.
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So, to help Vh-1 out on this, I thought I would come up with my own awards show. I call it the “Dr. Boyce Watkins Hip Hop Dishonor Awards,” going to every song and/or artist that has disrespected or undermined progress within the African American community. Here are the nominees:
1) NWA for the creation of gangsta rap: To show you just how much of a conflicted soul I am, NWA is actually my favorite group of all time. As a rebellious teenager, I loved what they brought to the table, and I’ve expressed that in other articles. But I must also be critical of myself by saying that my appreciation for NWA’s art is overwhelmed by the guilt I feel for the fact that this group inspired a multi-billion dollar industry that makes a profit by teaching black men to be thugs and black women to be hoochies. So, as of today, I am going to give NWA the Self-Destruction Award and disavow at least some part of my love for their music (give me some time though, it’s sort of like dismantling a bad bank).
2) Black Entertainment Television (BET): BET must be acknowledged for being the channel through which the most poisonous and ruinous forms of entertainment have been transmitted to the black community. If toxic hip hop was the dope, BET was the dope man. Bob Johnson made a billion dollars off this deal with the devil, and in the end, he completely lost his soul. The fact that Johnson’s wife, Sheila, had the audacity to go public and say that she is ashamed of what BET has become only adds insult to injury. Sorry Sheila, I don’t believe you. Give the money back and then perhaps your critique might have some credibility. That’s like robbing a bank, keeping the money and saying that you will never do it again. So, the Most Dishonorable Media Outlet in America Award goes to Black Entertainment Television.
3) Lil Wayne for Wanting to have sex with every girl in the world: Did we not learn anything from the experiences of Eazy-E and Magic Johnson? It would be my dream that for every song we write about having sex, we write another song about kids without daddies, or nasty venereal diseases. The desire to have sex is a natural part of our human lifeblood, but abusive and irresponsible sexual behavior should not be taught to our kids. I have some degree of respect for Weezy’s lyrical abilities and business acumen. I also give major props to the solid music produced by Young Money, even standing up to support Drake against criticism by my friends like Marc Lamont Hill. But I have almost no appreciation for the fact that Wayne encourages other young men to be irresponsible in their choices. I have no doubt that Lil Wayne is a genius, which is part of what frustrates me the most. The only thing worse than an unintelligent black man is a brilliant black man who is smart enough to convince us that he’s stupid. So, The Dishonorably “Ignant” Negro Award goes to Lil Wayne.
4) Hypocritical Schizophrenic of the decade award – Ice Cube: OK Cube, let me get this straight. First, you start off as 100% gangster, saying that “Life ain’t nothing but b*tches and money,” but you turn around 20 years later and have a lyric in which you complain about young rappers by saying that “All you rap about is p*ssy and money.” Then, right after leaving NWA, you suddenly become a non-pork eating, assalamu alaikum Muslim, and then years later go back to making gangsta rap where you are calling women b*tches and hoes, and bragging about shooting other black men. If that’s not enough, you then start making family movies (‘Are We There Yet?’ and ‘Barber Shop’), while putting out gangsta rap albums at the same time. But again, perhaps I am as hypocritical and confused as Ice Cube, because he actually happens to be my favorite artist. Similar to the great Tupac Shakur, Cube reminds us that a great artist can also be a very complex human being. So Cube, you are the Dishonorably Conflicted Schizophrenic of this year’s show.
5) Clear Channel and all the other major media companies that are buying up urban radio stations and playing nothing but garbage all day: Most of the hip hop we hear on the radio doesn’t represent the essence of the genre. Since the telecommunications industry was deregulated during the Bush Administration, many smaller urban radio stations have been turned into little capitalist drones connected to the same musical brain. They are told to play the same crap repeatedly and to drain the station of any meaningful or intelligent dialog. In other words, the end result is a massive corporate brainwashing exercise of the entire African American community. I am hopeful that President Obama opens more doors to black-owned media and pushes the FTC to show added respect for diversity within this industry. So, the Dishonorable Media Conglomerate Award goes go Clear Channel and Big Radio.
So those are the nominees for the 2010 Dr. Boyce Watkins Hip Hop Dishonor Awards. You might have nominees of your own, and I’d love to hear them. We should certainly celebrate the greatness and cultural contributions of hip hop music, but we must also recognize the fact that we’ve got to do better. Unfortunately, I must admit that among those who need to do better, I am at the top of the list. I am personally going to try to become more positive.