Thursday, September 21, 2006
Chuck D Speaks
Whos Your Hero? ... The VIBE Mag Rebuttal.
September 20, 2006
.... When I was first asked to do an interview answering to VIBE's concern about reality shows and the mismanagement of female images in media, I straight out flatly refused. I'm neither arrogant, elitist, nor bitter, its just that the problems with the topic are beyond articles, sound bites, and special one off tele, broad, or even webcasts. It's worthy of dissertation, educational curriculum, and books of new social science containing cultural analysis yet to be published and exposed. Quite frankly I had my reservations until Danyel Smith took over the magazine (one which to me has had the tendency of coming off like a cultural coloring book). I wish the mag and VIXEN a testosterone-less good look and luck. And it's the main reason agreeing to the issue here at hand.
With that said, the question of how blacks are treated in the world of reality television is answered simply in that reality TV is not reality at all. It's shot, canned, edited, and processed Amerikkkan style like Mickey D fries, over 300 million served and told. The public should know that Flavor's and other reality shows are shot five months beforehand within a ten day span, so how stupid is it when people wait week by week to find out something that at happened a half a year before? Pavlovic eh? It's no secret when we don't control things, they can end up governing our existence. Black ownership in media is nil and none. Maybe there's some negrownwership in the house, because corporations (usually a squad of white males) need them around to create and endorse 'niggers' - this avoids the race tag I guess. Black media tries to justify parallel programming by saying they need numbers to stay in business. This is a root problem that quantifies black people in a rating system of eyeballs and ears rather than the old school issue of 'quality' and 'feelin' it.
But the scientific effects go beyond race as most Americans generally have a poor grip on geography and history (i.e. a shameful 18% of US citizens own passports, and many Americans we're surprised so many black folk lived in New Orleans after watching the news drunken-ality of post Katrina). When one studies mass communication you find that each situation broke a giant genie out of and busted the bottle with it. Martin Luther (not the king or the singer) with the printing press, Marconi with radio, and various events leading up to post World War Two invention of television. Television is considered the most powerful weapon/tool created to inflict influence. More powerful than a hundred trillion bibles, Korans, or Torahs in the minds of the masses. The power as far as black folk is concerned is like a snapshot of a gathering. If you were in that gathering and the snapshot was passed around, the first person you look for is yourself. This is the basic reason black folks flock and suck to the tube. Take science, drop it in some perceived culture, and you can have some millennium pied piper sht goin on.
Ok, before I lose you to whippings of ass distraction which is the reality television credo; those powers that be move the M in 'the masses', and consider 'them asses' - just consumers. In a land where a village idiot reigns at the top, it's no surprise that many citizens would be reduced to 'vidiots'. Anti-lectualism and mass dumbassification puts big brother on blast, thus television across five hundred channels comes across as candied stress relief away from the rigors of reality. Thus reality gets created for mass consumption just like the black entertainment and athlete gods are created by the 'godmakers' that the public does not or doesn't care to know.
When one examines the positioning of women and especially black women in the media, again it's reduced to whatever sells. We've heard that sex sells for the longest time but the past fifteen years corporations looking for numbers have perved their way into selling it to a severely underage demographic. Just check the nearest sixth grader nearest you. Reality TV, music, hip hop and their adult themes have indirectly invited kids to the orgy.
This disturbance is Xeroxed, reflected, and re-emitted by hip hop in the treatment of women. If mass media has basically been a locker room, that women have had to find a safe corner haven, then hip hop is that testosterone heavy, dude crib where the refrigerator's empty, rugs filthy garbage overflowed, unkept nasty bathroom for all to trip over the debris. Videos have captured the eyeballs for years, and now if they can roll ten to fifteen hot chicks per rapper/singer, marketing teams ( I'm so sick of that wack term marketing 2006 = pimpin) can keep making ugly the new cute...WTF!? This process has been followed by television programming. To hell with an idea and script for the lowest denomination.
But Viacom and reality shows are inseparable, the real world jumped it off in the early 90's. What's more disturbed is that Christina Morgan of MTV Networks, Debra L. Lee of BET, and Cathy Hughes of Radio One are all black women, and presidents of the most powerful portals of culture, image - portrayals that tens of millions of black folk visit daily, and at the same time black women's images have never been so low. ( a shameless plug here is all female rap group Crew Grrl Order debut on my SLAMjamz.com label, it'll be interesting to see the support of these womens' recordings by these mega conglomerates come this October 2006) Then again when Biggie told the crowd to rub your privates if you love hip hop, and smart cats in fear of being called 'out' just did it cause Simon said it, what do you expect ten years later?
This brings me to Flav's scenario. Yes, there is a problem but he's been generally the same cat I pulled up from his humble beginnings twenty-five years ago. Flav has always existed with a somewhat conscious surrounding, and Public Enemy was a varied, diversified collection of personalities, just as our neighborhood depicted. And we reflected that black men we're still grouped in one boxed Amerikkan cookie cutter category whether lawyer, clown, militant, athlete, mechanic, drug dealer, drug addict, soldier, academic cat, thug etc. At the crest of R&B (Reagan and Bush) black life was considered valueless in Amerikka. Flav was Skittles and Starburst to Professor Griff's okra and beets, and everything else we did was in between. Somehow along the way black life and culture was deemed profitable, and the big great white male took interest and fought over the seven seas of soul. Niggativity, which was a minority element in the hood, had its DNA corporately extracted and created the climate for a Flavor Of Love and others. It's called diminishing returns. I'm glad Flav is busy, really not surprised at all ( been traveling and living with dude all over the earth 20 years people, 56 countries, 54 tours....hello why would I be surprised?) But it's a double wince at times when the stats say that its a well watched program by the masses of blackfolk and the topic the next day amongst blackfolk at school and work. Grown people mind you.
Personally I thought Flavor was the smartest cat in the room on Surreal Life, and showed the heart he had in Strange love (although I interjected when I heard a conflict was shot between he and his ex, and I threatened VH 1 and the production company if they aired it, we'd have problems...they were calling the conflict 'good TV'...... sht) When Flav told me he was doing a Flavor version of the bachelor, I just laughed and wished him luck. Flavor Flav is addicted to fame, he ain't never changed. When he has had run ins with the law and some substance cases, it's been when his fame was on the low. In that position I know this magazine and other cultural mags, shows, blogs etc, would cover the worst news unfit to print to get black folk's knee jerk consumer response at the register. After continued run ins and possible boredom in the Bronx, Hank Shocklee and I suggested he head to California. Hollywood, the place where every time I visit and leave there I have to take IQ rehab. You must understand twenty years ago, myself and Hank formed a noisy rap vehicle in words and sonic assault. PE was to destroy music as we knew it, because it was elitist from a position of black complacency. We knew individuals in the form of Negroes and niggers marionetted in black guise, for the sake of getting rich for self and never thinking, we're running abundant under those blonde suits. At least we knew Flav would be the loudest in whatever room, restaurant he was in. In a twisted way perhaps he was an asteroid smash landed to possibly change the terrain of imagery, and wake some people up.
The truth is that our image was forsaken in the 90's when drawing the line was blurred, set back or didn't matter as much. Black folk started calling athletes and entertainers 'heroes and legends' instead of everyday people doing real and important things. Class clowns and thugs were co signed and socially applauded and rewarded by lazier working images and shielded by money. While teachers, and valedictorians were being clowned, thus silencing the smartest kids in the room.
Corporation's millennium marketing big picture says Black people are not asked we are told, and black women are simply just ordered whether it's a demand or as virtual plate-side condiments.
We've gone from being laughed with to laughed at. Contrary to popular belief things ain't gotta be hip hop or have streetcred to cut across to us, but somebody better reverse this momentum that Amerikkan whitefolks believe, or forever culture here will be petri dished in a boardroom.
Ultimately this is a wake up call to prevent the 'falling off of black America.' It has little to do with how much money one has, when black folks stop praising and weighing cultural and social success to things and individuals just because money is made, then some of the climate will reverse itself. When culture and news props up those with degrees and key community profile instead of putting celebrity baby mama issues on the front blast page and reflects cats who work everyday for our people with no gloss, floss and glory then the climate will reverse. Perhaps Flavor is an introduction to black folks killing off the nigger in ourselves.
This just in....the rest of PE continues to do and contribute socially nationally and abroad, we're balanced as a structure and expect no coverage or publicity campaign costing 6k a month. But I don't do reality TV and won't bend for it. Amongst many things I've been on the Air America Radio network the past three years with a black woman co-host, Gia'na Garel, boosting social-cultural-political opinions nationally and abroad. We expect a minority of listeners, but also I realize the glaring fact that if I'd merely robbed a gas station I wouldn't need a publicist, I'd be put on blast on every black media outlet possible and every black person beyond reading this would easily apply my name to the negative, like what Eddie Johnson just went through .
So I would like this to be read, and thoroughly comprehended. If not and it's fulla sht and too deep then there you have it. I'm glad you've made it this far. Don't expect some reality show nearest you, I'm not for sale and quick to telling people' nunya gd damn bizness...
'I cannot teach you, I can only help you explore yourself' Bruce Lee
Chuck D Mistachuck@rapstation.com On The Real radioshow w Giana Garel Airamericaradio.com sunday nights 11p-1est. www.publicenemy.com www.SLAMjamz.com www.rapstation.com