Pop Culture, Race & Politics, Theory & Essay

Rappers Rap, Activists…Activate

harry-belafonte-beyonce-jay-z-16x9

Last summer, I was criticized by another writer for taking too long to write about a change in my relationship status. (My then girlfriend and I went our separate ways in October of 2011. I didn’t mention anything about it online until the next spring.) Since I write about dating and relationship-related topics, she (the writer) felt I had a duty to inform our readers of my new singledom, and stated that not doing so was dishonest. She also implied that the dishonesty was intentional. Basically, I didn’t say anything because the assumption that I was still in a relationship gave my work more credibility.

As I explained to her, the real reason behind my decision not to mention anything publicly was that I knew my ex and many of her friends and family still read the site. I also still had (and still have) a decent relationship with her and many of them, and I just didn’t think that writing about the breakup so soon would be a good idea.

She (the writer) listened to my explanation. But, she still went away from the conversation believing that, in this case, the duty to my fans/readers superseded whatever was going on in my personal life.

Sounds crazy, right? A person having the audacity to criticize you and your work because what they think you should be thinking about and who they think you should be doesn’t match up with what you’re actually thinking about and who you actually are.

When thinking of someone feeling that way about a person like me, it does seem insensitive and rather selfish. But, for some reason, when the level of status is greater, it’s perfectly acceptable, encouraged even, to play passenger seat Geppetto and scold someone for not meeting your expectation of who they’re supposed to be and what they’re supposed to do…even if it completely obscures who they actually are.

We’re seeing this play out right now with the reaction to the increasingly bizarre feud between Jay Z and Harry Belafonte. Before I continue, I have to admit that taking Jay Z’s side in any dispute is like rooting for Wall Street, drone attacks, the bubbles in Pepsi cans, or the f*cking McRib. And, having the audacity to have a public tiff with someone like Harry Belafonte over something like philanthropy and activism makes the line separating right and wrong about as clear as it can be. Which brings up my next point. Where you stand on this debate likely depends on how you define right and wrong. Or, more specifically, which rights and wrongs you sympathize with more.

There is no doubt Harry Belafonte is “right” from a macro perspective. (Also, it cannot be understated that Jay Z is wrong for how dismissive of Belafonte he has been.) People like Jay Z and Beyonce should do more—“doing more” could be anything from donating more money to needed causes to using their statuses to affect more change—and them doing more would benefit the greater good. Aside from the Carters having a lighter collective pocketbook and a busier schedule, it’s hard to imagine any real negatives coming from that.

But, what those who believe Jay Z is completely in the wrong here are ultimately asking is for Jay Z to not be Jay Z. Basically, they want his presence, his influence, and his money, but they don’t actually want him. I mean, how could anyone with any knowledge of Jay Z’s history (and present) expect him to be anything but distilled capitalist? I get why people are upset about him stating his “presence is charity” in his interview with Elliot Wilson. But, really, what the hell else did you expect him to say? This is Jay Z. This negro just took a vacation to f*cking Cuba (Cuba!!!), and quickly recorded a very public “f*ck you” to anyone who had an issue with it. Just a month ago, he totally upstaged his protege and new BFF by basically saying “Yeah, I know your album is coming out in three days and needs all the buzz it can get, but it’s Samsung and the NBA finals, man.” He is going to sound arrogant and dismissive because arrogance and the ability to be completely dismissive is what made him him. You can put a suit on a shark and make him a salad, but he’s still going to, um, bite your neck off the first chance he gets.¹

I’m not saying that a person like Jay Z is unable to change. Just that we’re wrong for expecting him to and even more wrong for getting upset if he doesn’t fulfill an arbitrary expectation he never aspired to reach.

Getting back to the my “presence is charity” line, I actually don’t think he’s completely off-base there, either. Being an activist—a real activist, not someone who retweets Jasiri X and Maya Angelou once every other month—is a calling, a full-time vocation, and criticizing someone who just doesn’t have an activist heart or mindset minimizes the efforts of those who do. The people who are on the front lines have combined their inclination to do that type of work with years of developing the very specific skills and passions needed to be effective. Just as everyone can’t walk into a studio tomorrow and make a classic rap album, you can’t expect everyone to have the emotional capacity, stamina, and very specific sense of moral intelligence necessary to be a Belafonte.

You know, I actually did see where the writer who criticized my omission was coming from. She had no way of knowing my backstory. And, even with what was going on in my personal life, I still could have written about it. I mean, if I write and publish books about dating and relationships, wouldn’t a piece or two sharing details of my own personal break-up be very relevant? Thing is, at that point in my life, the lines between who I was expected to be and who I actually was were getting increasingly blurry, and I had to make a decision. Instead of choosing the expectation, I chose me. And, as much as I want to, I can’t really fault Jay Z for doing the same thing.

¹This sounded much better in my head.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”) 

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Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a contributing editor for EBONY.com. He resides in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes.

  • SweetSass

    F*ck Jay Z. He is a criminal who sold drugs in the community. He could live a thousand lives and would never have the right to even lick Belafonte’s boot.

    • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

      tell em’ why you mad

    • Dignan 2

      Don’t sugarcoat it, Sass, tell us how you REALLY feel!

    • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

      that ether that sh t that makes your soul burn slow

    • Todd

      No, F*ck Harry Belafonte. The only reason recreational drugs are illegal is because of moralizing people who are scared of any intoxicant that wasn’t around Anglo-American society circa 1800. Unless you can prove that the Jiggaman was pushing drugs to kids, all he’s guilty of is providing adults with a product they wanted for their own personal use. Then Jay Z flipped from that to making records that people want to pay to listen to, to the tune of 60 million albums sold, not to mention how many concert tickets and merchandise sold. During all of this, he has provided thousands of people with the opportunity to make money for themselves and pull themselves out of poverty. Some of Jay Z’s associates are very rich indeed.

      Meanwhile, Harry Belafonte used his position to join the Aristocracy of Pull (which by the way, is going to be the name of my fantasy football team this season) and manipulate society to his own ends. Yes, he may have helped people, but the primary person he helped is himself. He’s doing all of this to feed his own ego and prove how moral he is. He could have invested in the community and actually gotten people jobs, but no. All he wants to do is pose with Uncle Charlie and help them think they are “helping the common folk” while they live off their idle millions and bribe their local congressman to keep their crony “capitalist” (aka socialism for rich folk) profits flowing. He could invest actual cash in our communities, but it would require actually making money instead of getting “knowledge” from social elites.

      If I could somehow re-open Auschwitz to provide a final solution for all of those who think that emotions will help the community instead of a cold, efficient economic system that allows people to feed themselves, the world would be a better place.

      • Sigma_Since 93

        More recon on Harry Belafonte is needed my brotha.

      • http://vagabondaesthetics.tumblr.com/ Madlark

        Auschwitz is too much. But yes, there was a categorical failure among all the Black non-violent movements to actually integrate the economics of living into their movement and where we want to proceed. Instead a significant amount of time was fought for us to integrate into white schools and have the right to live in a white neighborhood. The Black Panther Party was very problematic in execution and members, but at least The 10 Point Plan showed they had some sort of outline for real life tangible things that are necessities for healthy safe living within Black communities.

        • Sigma_Since 93

          King had an economic vision but it was never rolled out since he was taken out. The sanitation worker march was more about economics than equal rights. King was onto the notion of political power is nothing without economic power.

          • Epsilonicus

            They knew King was about to get dangerous and killed him.

        • Todd

          Interesting points on the non-violent movements. I think the issue was that the non-violent movements were drawn from the Black elite, so many of them thought their status should just transfer into the White world. If you listen to what they wrote at the time, they thought that the moment those barriers would go down, they would be able to function in the White world the same way they did in the Black one.

          While you’re right that the Panthers had their definite weaknesses, they also had a lot of strengths. The weakness that I think is given a bit of short shrift is that they were based in the Great Migration and that they were disproportionately non-African American in a country that wasn’t used to Black-people-as-immigrants. Still, they got that at some point, the bills needed to get paid, even if I wasn’t a fan of the particulars.

      • NomadaNare

        I think your statement is overly cynical here and guilty of convoluting theory and practical application. I agree recreational drugs were outlawed for a dumb reason, however that doesn’t ignore the criminal element involved in their continued supply to whomever. For a brief example, examine the effect on prohibition on the Chicago social scene. Criminalizing something draws certain unsavory types to it that are willing to break the rules, ie most people that are successful in these sorts of businesses are widely believed to be sociopaths. In addition, oversimplifying Carter’s case as simply “providing a business for consenting adults” ignores the practical ramifications of selling drugs in your community. Property values drop, investment goes down, it increases police presence, and criminalizes other wise innocent neighborhood denizens all in the name of providing said product. As for your opinion on Belafonte, you’re going to have to explain that one to me. Why so much cynicism with respect to him? What else should he have done as an entertainer in the pre/post-civil rights era?

        • Todd

          I’m not so naive as to think that legal drugs would have zero negative consequences. Heck, alcohol is perfectly legal, but if you have too many bars in one spot, you’re going to end up with a few problems. Still, the vast majority of the problems with drugs come from the fact that they’re illegal. It’s like breaking someone’s leg, then complaining that they’re using crutches to get around.

          In terms of Belafonte, yes, I know the work he did back in the day. The key phrase in that statement is “back in the day”. All I can go is on his current track record, and as of recent years, his work is lacking. He should be about doing more himself instead of calling people out. Let your work be your statement, not your words.

          • http://daratmathis.wordpress.com/ dtafakari

            To be honest, my biggest beef with illegal drugs is not the illegality or the obvious hand that users have in killing themselves. My quibble is with the fact that, be the addictive substance illegal or legal, addiction cripples families. I don’t think that I can look at drug dealers with a solely capitalistic eye and say that they’re only giving ‘customers’ what they want. Nah. They’re assisting in their neighbors’ self-destruction for monetary gain. Parental addiction marred the developmental years of so many rappers and yet… sigh. Yeah, iCan’t.

          • NomadaNare

            I agree with your first paragraph. That being the case, Carter is evidently guilty of more than engaging in efficient capitalism. He knowingly hurt the place he supposedly represents. I’m not judging because I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same thing had I faced the same circumstances, however let’s not let Carter off the hook completely.

            As for your second paragraph, Regardless of when Belafonte did it, he still did it, and still deserves credit and respect for at least as long as what he did still collectively allows us to do things that we weren’t able to do before. I agree it wasn’t the best move to use any living entertainer as an example of something negative, but he’s just calling it how he saw it. In my opinion, if any entertainer has paid his “debt” to the rest of us and deserves to act as Carter is currently acting, it’s Belafonte, yet he has the character not to let the struggle go, despite his old age and frail body. The contrast between the two (Carter and Belafonte) is very striking and truth be told, I’d rather 1 Belafonte before 1,000 Carters, but that’s just me.

      • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

        Wow, Todd, you really seem to have a seething anger toward successful African Americans of a certain type. You seem to always paint so-called affluent African Americans with a pretty broad brush. I’m curious to know why that is?

        • Todd

          What is this type of successful African-American that I’m mad at?

          • h.h.h.

            Tom Ford?

            • Todd

              Ain’t he a White guy? LOL

          • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

            Okay, so you want to act as though you have no idea what I’m talking about?

            • Todd

              I want to know exactly what you mean, because I have a number of different approaches to this issue, and I want to make sure I answer the right question. Particularly, only some of the answers I have in mind have to do with race.

          • Sahel

            WASP equivalent of black people maybe

            • Todd

              *applause* Thank you for giving the winning answer.

              Growing up where I did and the circumstances I was in, I spent a good deal of time around muckety-muck Black folk. As a result, myself, loved ones and friends got caught up in their hijinks from time to time, and I resent the treatment I got on their behalf. When it’s one person acting like a jerk, you can chalk it up to one person acting a fool. When it’s a whole group of them acting a fool, and you know they know each other, socialize with each other and run in the same circles, you’re going to give them an epic side-eye when they all treat you like dirt underneath your shoe.

              This isn’t to call out Black elites for shade, because the White ones act the same way. If anything, they’re worse with the lets-patronize-the-darkie-to-soothe-our-ego shtick. Knock on wood, I haven’t had to deal with the elites of other groups, but I’m not encouraged from the reports I hear that they’ll be much better.

              Finally, I think my dad coming from where he came from and ending up with some amount of money (yet not prestige) gave him a unique perspective on what being a Black man meant, and both me and my brother absorbed it as a contact high. When you’re expected to act in certain ways because of where you live, but would rather spend time around the common folk, that resonated with me. Still, given a choice, I’d rather be in the hood than around people with money each of the week and twice on Sundays. The idea that there are people who just look down on others not because of what they do but because of who they are or who their parents are just seems foreign to me.

          • To’Mas Que Fuego

            “You seem to always paint so-called affluent African Americans with a pretty broad brush”

            She already said which type

      • Shamira

        Dude, not only are you wayyyy too mad, you are also entirely wrong. It’s fine to take issue with the way he called out Jay et al, but this anger is completely out of pocket.

      • http://daratmathis.wordpress.com/ dtafakari

        The upvote is for the Aristocracy of Pull. FTW.

  • Maris

    This entire tiff is the reason why there really needs to be a bigger distinction drawn between ACTUAL “Role Models”, and “Famous People whose lives we’d LIKE TO HAVE” in America. Just because you’d like to live the fruits of their labor for a day doesn’t (or shouldn’t) mean you want to be that person. Entertainers to me are high-paid waiters. We all work in the service industry, you just get paid more. I don’t expect you to better my life past whatever entertainment service you provide and I don’t expect you to save the world just cause you’re famous. Would it be nice? Sure. I’m just not wringing my hands waiting for it.

    • Camilleblu

      Maris, girl, “where you was at” yesterday?? How you gonna write a post that gets like 800+ comments and then you don’t jump back in the mix?? Lol…or did I miss you in there somehow??

      • Maris

        I made like one tiny comment in there somewhere, but usually once I release a piece for public consumption I also release my feelings on how the public chooses to consume it. It would’ve done not a single good to attempt to re-explain for 40 comments, you get out of it what you got out of it **shrug**

        • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

          Very nice post yesterday, btw, Maris. That was a heck of a conversation starter too.

          • Camilleblu

            Yeah…I really enjoyed her post yesterday. Great job Maris!

          • Sahel

            Yeah,we cant say it was biased

            • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

              So, write a post from the other perspective then, if that’s the way you feel.

              *thinks a post from Sahel would be a trip and wonders how many times he’d lose focus*

              • Sahel

                Six or seven times tops. Am currently next to a beach so you can imagine the fashion statements that can cause a distraction.

                • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

                  Brighton?

                  • Sahel

                    Now Val,i wish i could talk but my superiors wont find it funny

              • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

                Sahel would probably pander to the many VSS on the site and profess his love for all of them lol

                • Sahel

                  Come on

                • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

                  Lol! Trueness.

                • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

                  truuuuu

              • http://missrosen.wordpress.com/ esa

                i would like to hear of young Sahel’s days as an intern in a sperm bank ~*~

                • Sahel

                  One day you just might

          • Maris

            :-)

            • BreezyX2

              Hey Maris: Congratulations on a guest post that didn’t knock VSB off it’s axis and generated some great responses. Job well done!

              Champ and PJ, I think its a great idea to have a guest post maybe once or twice per week. This allows you two to refresh your creative juices and come back with a bang. I am pretty sure it gets hella hard to come up with new subject matter that will keep us ninjas thirty. My vote is for either Esa, Yoles, Tristan, TUK or Afro Petite to write the next one. I say shake things up around here more often…ya heard :)

              • 321mena123

                Tristan actually has a good blog. I’ve read some of his pieces.

                Esa will have folks crying and contemplating life on an entirely different level. Before she posts, i would need to go and get some incense to cleanse my aura.

                • http://www.NextStepEducation.org/ Bunni

                  Im waiting for Esa to host a VSS Retreat so I can get my mantra right and my ish together lol

                  • LMNOP

                    I would definitely go to this.

                  • http://missrosen.wordpress.com/ esa

                    oOo i like this yes ~*~

                  • Shamira

                    Esa needs to start a cult so I can join.

                • http://missrosen.wordpress.com/ esa

                  (smile) i’ve been reading a book on aura and chakra healing. it is wonderful ~*~

                  • Sahel

                    That chakra stuff is amusing

              • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

                Awww :-) I wouldn’t mind doing a joint post now that I think about it.

        • LMNOP

          I tried to comment yesterday, and it told me the system was too busy or something like that!

          It was a good post!

  • Fivegirl

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the reason people expect so much of celebrities is because we feel that we helped them get there. If the general public never bought albums and concert tickets and rocawear jeans etc., would he be the millionaire he is? No. So people feel they have the right to comment. And we want to believe the best about the people we spend so much time following, listening to their music, and talking about in the barbershop. As a jay fan myself, I was a little affronted by that comment like really, this is the man I’ve stayed in line for hours to patronize? If this is how he shows gratitude, cool, but I no longer have to be in his corner.

    However, once I thought about it, I came to the same conclusion as you, the guy has never pretended to be anything other than what he is, a hustler looking out for himself and trying to get his. So complaining about it isn’t going to change anything, but hey, it’s the Internet, what else are we gonna do?

    • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

      this.

    • KKay

      So true. This is why I feel if you support a celebrity, you should support them because you like their music, movies without any expectation of getting something in return.

      I had this conversation with my sister about Tyler Perry a few months ago. She hated his movies, but kept buying them to support a black man. I told her that was nice, but at the end of the day you’re supporting messages that you don’t agree with. Do you actually think he is suddenly going to change his message? He is making money hand over fist with the message he has; he has no incentive to change (or hire screenwriters). She thought about that, and I don’t expect to see anymore Tyler Perry movies in the house.

      If we’re really honest about Jay Z, he’s been telling fans exactly who he was for almost twenty years now. Just listen to some of his lyrics. Yeah, I know people exaggerate in lyrics, but there has got to be some level of truth in it.

      I have to say that I was more upset to hear his thoughts about racism, especially after his blessed the Trayvon rally with his ‘charity’. The view from the ivory tower must be pretty good.

      • Shay-d-Lady

        I have to say that I was more upset to hear his thoughts about racism, especially after his blessed the Trayvon rally with his ‘charity’. The view from the ivory tower must be pretty good.

        what is/are his views on racism? i missed this

        • KKay

          Well apparently, racism doesn’t exist in this generation. It’s an old folks thing. This new generation, according to JayZ is not racist. Zimmerman is 29 years old, so wouldn’t that make him this generation?

  • iamnotakata

    I just don’t have any f#cks to give about Jayz/Jay-z (whichever you prefer) or Beyonce…If he does more for the community & needy blah.. if he doesn’t….blah. I do not have elevated expectations for over paid popular people ….

    • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

      i feel like black people in general have this sense of entitlement toward anyone who looks like us….i.e. the tavis smileys who is peeved their president didnt come in “black militant”

      • 321mena123

        God yes.

        • Sahel

          Thats what she said

          • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

            You’re so reliable, Sahel. Lol.

            • Sahel

              Am filling in for P.A

  • Camilleblu

    Eh….I’ve always felt like it’s a slippery slope to tell anyone – celebrity or not- what to do with their time and money. (Didn’t you write a post about that issue)? While having a celebrity “buy in” helps without a doubt, most change comes from grass roots efforts of “regular” folks anyway.

    • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

      yeah when beats by dre got hustl….gave that money to usc

      • Epsilonicus

        I am not mad though b/c Dre has no ties to HBCUs other than being Black. USC (I have no clue about that institution other than football) is in his backyard and he may have a more personal connection growing up in its shadow.

        • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

          But are there even any HBCU’s in California? What sense would it make for him to support institutions he doesn’t really have any ties with that are on the opposite end of the country? The furthest west HBCU I can think of might be Prairie View or some other Texas HBCU.

        • Rachmo

          I must say I was a bit confused there too. I mean I agree HBCUs need the money but does he even know what they are?

        • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

          I understand your point but, other minority ethnic groups don’t seem to let geography stop them from acknowledging institutions that have supported their struggles. Dre can do what he wishes but I won’t make any excuses for him, a Black man, giving money to an already rich PWI while many HBCUs struggle.

          • http://daratmathis.wordpress.com/ dtafakari

            This would require a sense of ‘all-black-everything’ nationalism that not everybody has: Buy black, rent black, vote black, run black, sell black, and give black when you give back.

            • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

              I don’t know if it would require ‘all Black everything’ but you have a point.

          • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

            Hmmm I’ll pour my funds into HBCU’s all day, I’m a product of one as is my mother. I don’t really expect black people to give to HBCU’s when they never attended one or have a history tying them to one though.

            • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

              I get that, AP, but, our collective history is tied to them. And, we would not be where we are without them. I’m dumbfounded how little that means to so many folks.

              • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

                You are surprised that public educated black people don’t know their history? I’m blessed to have a mother and father who force fed me as much black history as they could. My peers however, some of them were doing well if they knew who Marcus Garvey was.

                • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

                  Yep. You’re right.

            • Rachmo

              Yeah I’d be liable to give to Morgan (Go Bears!) only bc my parents went there and I’ve seen how important it is. Other than that it’s Pitt all the way.

            • Sigma_Since 93

              I didn’t attend a HBCU but my social life played out at the one 5 mins away from our campus. Some folks are hesitant after reading about the mismanagement of funds that has occurred at some schools or the loss of academic accreditation. If I happened to give a LARGE sum of money, I would be like T. Boone Pickens or Phil Knight but that creates another problem.

              • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

                I think students and parents need to do their research on HBCUs and the people behind them. Find out who the current president or chancellor is and read up on them. I cannot speak for all HBCUs but Howard has fiscal information readily available online so you can see what funds are being spent where.

                As far as accreditation is concerned that’s just people being unaware of the programs they want to get involved in. If you’re interested in nursing find out the numbers behind that program. What percentage of nurses are coming out of that institution? Have they had problems with accreditation in the past? Do their nurses end up being prepared sufficiently in their respective fields? You can’t just get so wrapped up in the glitz and glamour of an HBCU without first determining if said HBCU has a program that fits your needs as a student.

                People are so quick to write off HBCUs without first looking into them for themselves. If you discover that you’d rather not go the HBCU route that’s cool, but it’s no reason to throw dirt on schools that paved the way for minorities to even set foot in the classroom of a PWI. If I had listened to other people about Howard I would have missed out on some great opportunities for myself.

                • Sigma_Since 93

                  I agree. The problem is the the not all schools have that level of financial transparency. FSU and WSSU had that level of transparency where St. Paul and Johnson C. Smith may not.

          • Epsilonicus

            I will disagree.

            People rarely give out of an abstract notion of its the right thing. They give because of a personal connection to that cause/organization. Most people who donate give to organizations that they have had personal contact with. Whether they have received a service or has a friend/family member who is connected. Maybe they have volunteered at that organization. Maybe that organization has done good work in their community. For example, I work in the non-profit field and serve on several boards. The first people we hit up for money: volunteers & former clients. Because they intimately can speak on what the organization does and does well. Fundraising 101.

            No HBCU has touched Dre’s life personally and intimately. Maybe USC has (again I don’t know their record in his community).

            I am also not of the mindset of giving just because its Black or serves my people. I need it to know the organization I am giving to is healthy and affecting change. I feel the same way about Black businesses. My car mechanic is Black. But the only reason I go to him is because he provides the best service at a reasonable price.

            • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

              Okay. I get it.

  • Sahel

    Telling people how to use their money and influence is a dicey thing. Should they do more maybe. But he is a rapper from Mercy who sold drugs so then again social consciousness is not something we should expect from him even if you all bought his albums.

  • I Am Your People

    Another problem is 1963 activism is not 2013 activism. I think about old school activists upset that various cities no longer have MLK Day marches. But today – what does a march really mean?

    Aside: who read The Mis-education of the Negro? Remember Carter G. Woodson condemning Dorothy Dandrige and Harry Belafonte for not using their fame for ‘The Movement?’

    • Sahel

      Yup,militant black panther days are long past. A protest means boycotting a brand like Jay did with crystal

      • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

        The most ridiculous boycott of all-time. He made Crystal millions of dollars and then got his feelings hurt and decided to boycott. Boo-hoo.

        • I Am Your People

          He also took the Cristal rep’s statements out of context. His point – Cristal is still a hand-made luxury product, and THEY felt disrespected by the fact that rappers were buying it to pour on the floor.

          • Sigma_Since 93

            If I buy it, I can do with it what I want. So what if I pour it on the floor; didn’t you get paid before I did it?

            • http://www.NextStepEducation.org/ Bunni

              If they see their product as being valuable by the craftsmanship and not the dollar value, then i understand that upset. If I spend weeks painting you a picture, and you buy it from me only to shred it, I might could wanna knock your head off too lol

              • Sigma_Since 93

                I may be po’ed but I still want you to buy; especially if your consumption has caused my sales to soar.

                • http://www.NextStepEducation.org/ Bunni

                  idk man….as much work and emotion i put in all of my art, I dont think I could sell to someone who doesnt value it just to get more money. For that, I might as well sell prints of originals so that I’m not marketing my blood sweat and tears lol

                  • To’Mas Que Fuego

                    This convo reminds me of that episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where that high end restaurant chef overheard Larry ask for a carry out box to take the leftovers home to give to the dogs. He immediately got offended and wouldn’t give him the box. Larry’s argument was “What difference does it make? I paid for it” I could see both sides, but at the same time once I pay for a service you don’t get to tell me specifically how to enjoy it. You can tell me how it makes you feel that I fed it to the dog, but you don’t get to tell me whether or not I can do it in the first place.

                • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

                  But don’t most high end companies feel like rappers “cheapen” their products? If rappers are putting their stamp of approval on it, it just seems tainted in their eyes (at least that’s what I’ve gathered).

                  • Sigma_Since 93

                    It depends on the Corporate mindset of the companies; some love it when their names are dropped and others cringe.

                    • http://daratmathis.wordpress.com/ dtafakari

                      And I think, in the case of Maybach, rappers name dropping the company wasn’t going to help sales. Us broke Ninjas weren’t out there struggling to whip a Maybach around the block..that’s beyond aspirational and into delusional. Rappers were advertising to themselves, really; what black or white wealthy person who can actually AFFORD a Maybach would take their consumerist clues from Ricky Rozay? -_-

                  • Sahel

                    Maybach got shut down because of it

                    • Sigma_Since 93

                      Maybach got shut down because they were too pricy, handled poorly, and had terrible sales.

                    • Sahel

                      Ask yourself why the sales were bad

                    • Sigma_Since 93

                      Because they were too pricy, handled poorly. The recession was the final nail in the coffin.

    • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

      That’s probably why Mr. Belafonte is calling out Black celebs of today.

      • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

        Question, why does everyone with an ounce of blackness in them have to be a social activist? What if I want to sit back and watch the world burn while I twerk for chicken and have as many children as possible by as many men as possible?

        I’m pretty sure not everyone in 50’s/60’s was out marching for equality. Someone had to be out sucking some dack from the back, content with being complacent and uninvolved.

        • Rachmo

          “twerk for children” deeeeeaaaaaaaaaddddddddd

          • Rachmo

            darnit that was supposed to say chicken, laughing too hard

          • Sahel

            Keep it up and you will catch a case lol

        • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

          Not only was everyone not out marching but lots of Black folks thought MLK and other activists were trouble makers, AP. But, that’s no different than today. Just watch the negroes on Fox News like Rev. Jesse Patterson and others of his ilk.

          So, there’s nothing in the rules of Blackness that says everyone has to be an activist. But, all those folks sitting on the sidelines never seem to turn down any gains made by those who are fighting.

          • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

            I’m just not a proponent of this mindset that a celebrity with a following, is cut out to be a leader of many.

            • http://daratmathis.wordpress.com/ dtafakari

              Shoot, no. I wouldn’t follow half of them Negroes ENTYWHERE.

    • Jim L Fultz

      Considering Belafonte and Dandridge were kids when Goodson wrote the book means probably no one remembers.

      • Sigma_Since 93

        But people don’t realize that Harry sometimes helped to bankroll those marches and lost a lot of money from tv sponsors for his stance not to mention his work in Africa. He’s put in his work

  • JahRW

    So, did say something wrong? Can my voice be heard? Jayz can’t be an activist as long as he glorifies the N-word and thug culture.

    • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

      I JUST finished watching a doc about John Carlos, Tommie Smith and Peter Norman. Those guys really were done wrong considering what they did. John and Tommie suffered so much after that. And Australia gave Peter Norman the shaft for the rest of his life.

      • JahRW

        You can’t even imagine an athlete in these days doing what they did. They didn’t care about the repercussion. They just knew that they needed the world stage to bring an injustice to light.

        • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

          yeah, you’re right, most athletes have adopted the Michael Jordon approach to controversy involving politics and serious issues of ‘race’.

      • Sahel

        That one fist salute man. They lost everything for one act asking for equality. Even blacks shunned them

        • JahRW

          Damn shame. I just think maybe this is what Belfonte is getting at. With Jay’s influence, he could take a stand. Yes, it may be controversial, and could hurt his brand. But should be more important? His brand or the well being of his people? Carlos and Smith took a stand for their people. And with the system against us, we need more of our prominent artist and athletes to take this stands for the betterment of their people. Because with all the setbacks we have been through, we could surely use the help.

          • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

            Asking a prominent artist in this day and age to disregard their brand for the greater good? LOL The day that happens will be the day I get on VSB and honor any request anyone asks of me.

            • Sahel

              Noted

              • Dignan 2

                Double noted. Giggity.

            • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

              Actually as nutty as Kanye has become of late, he did it back when Bush was President after Katrina.

              • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

                Point made. Still, I don’t think we’ll see Beyonce or Jay Z really jeopardize their brand in an effort to benefit someone other than themselves. It’s bad for business. Plus Kanye in 2005 (Katrina) wasn’t nearly as influential as an artist as he is in 2013.

                • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

                  Yep, plus they still haven’t forgiven Kanye for that. I think most of the grief he got when he went on stage as (that annoying bad postured girl) Taylor Swift was getting an award was because of him taking that stance against Bush.

                  And Bey and Jay are empty vessels. I really don’t think either have the intellect to really take a stand on anything other than making money.

                  • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

                    Shidddd empty vessels though? Lol But I agree with them not being well rounded people outside of their individual art forms. As black artists, no one is as influential as these two right now. The Bey stans are going to come for you though tee hee hee.

                    • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

                      Lol. Yeah, I know they are. They’re probably rounding up a posse at this very moment.

                    • http://www.NextStepEducation.org/ Bunni

                      **constructs bunker, loads rifle to protect Val**
                      I gotchu bew bew!!

                    • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

                      dont rile up the killa beys….they will not let a wife and mother worth half a billion dollars who charges them rent to see her perform the same songs she did 2 years ago be subjected to innanet shade

                    • Maharaja Misty

                      Pear Jam charges 4k to have people watch them perform ‘Jeremy’. Problem? Y’all goofy a$$e$ stay bracing yourselves from the alleged ‘bey stans’ to attack who never surface…
                      Pity Dat.

              • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

                kanyes brand allows him to play angry black man every now and again…but now he pretty much only fights for himself like iron man

        • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

          Yep, Sahel, that was the real shame of it that some Black folks stood against them.

  • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

    First, Mr. Belafonte didn’t really call Jay Z out in the way that Jay is making it seem. He used Jay Z and Bey as an example but he was talking about Black celebs in general. And, Jay referring to Mr. Belafonte as “boy” on his track is unforgivable and a sign of how truly ignorant Jay Z is.

    Second, like SweetSass has already said, Jay Z is a guy who sold drugs. Then he lucked out into a rap career where he made his money calling us n*ggers, h*es and b*tches for the enjoyment of White suburban kids. So, he and most other rappers should be looked at more as modern day minstrels rather than people who have any inclination to do anything for anyone other than themselves.

    And. Bey is just along for the ride.

    • Dignan 2

      I was with you 100% until you brought up the white suburban kids. Not that you’re wrong on that point (you’re not), but you discount the fact that Jay has an awful lot of Black fans too, which ignores the point that he’s been calling black folks ninjers, h*es and b*tches for the entertainment of those same black folks. In my eyes, that makes him something worse than just a minstrel, but it also calls his fans into question.

      Disclaimer: I’m pretty ignorant about hiphop, so my opinion is being served with an appropriate amount of salt.

      • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

        Here’s the important thing, Dignan, if Black folks decided that from today on they were not going to buy any rap nor support any rap artists rap wouldn’t miss a beat money wise. But, if White suburban kids and 20 somethings decided not to support rap, it would go out of business.

        So, yeah there are plenty of Black folks that support Jay but if we stopped he wouldn’t miss our money. If White folks stopped, he’d be standing inline behind DMX to file bankruptcy.

        • Dignan 2

          Well, agreed. Although if black folks were to stop supporting Jay, and he were rapping about ninjers, h*es and b*tches to an ENTIRELY white audience, then it would be much more clearly seen that he’s a modern day minstrel. Strangely, having a large black fanbase kind of muddies the water on that issue.

          And don’t get me started on the major record companies…

          • dmcmillian72

            Okay… I can not stop laughing… @dignan2:disqus’s use of the made up word “ninjers” caught me all the way off guard! Why is this word so funny to me?! Geez, I’m devolving into my (much, much) former 12-year-old self laughing about some idiot farting in class!

            *Ahem* So sorry… CARRY ON!

        • Todd

          All I will say is the market has spoken. As conscious as people claimed to be, you saw what they put their money towards.

          That is why capitalism is wonderful. You can BS people, but you can’t BS your wallet and bank account. They know what you truly value.

          • Dignan 2

            It’s also why capitalism sucks, though. Or rather, capitalism puts a magnifying glass on the fact that we suck.

            Also, I’m curious if this comment will go to moderation.

            • http://www.NextStepEducation.org/ Bunni

              youre one suck below the max allowed sucks per post, so you should be fine. Giggity.

          • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

            The market was not free though, Todd. It was corporate record companies that saw that conscious rap wasn’t popular with White kids and gangsta rap was. So, conscious rappers had a hard time getting their product out while gangsta had the total support of the record industry machine. therefore, it’s not as simple as people stopped buying conscious rap and bought gangsta. I can’t believe you are naive enough to think that conscious rap died a natural death.

            • Todd

              You just said that “conscious rap wasn’t popular with White kids and gangsta rap was.” This is non-trivial in a marketplace where White people are roughly 45% of the customers. (For the record, another 45% are Black, and the rest get in where they fit in.) How is that not a free market? If I can choose between selling a product to 45% of the market and selling it to 100%, ceteris parabis, the product with a market potential of 100% will win.

              You’re also conveniently forgetting the politics of hip-hop, where conscious rap had an easier go, and moderate political support, as opposed to gangsta rap, which consumed the resources of the FBI and state and local law enforcement. Those big corporate entities ended up being the ones to push gangsta rap mainly because they had the deep pockets needed to fund the lawyers to fend off the government. People were getting arrested over records. If anything, you can make a reasonable case that corporate control of hip-hop was an indirect consequence of government regulation.

              I always get annoyed when people posit that if it wasn’t for XYZ, people Would Just Do Right. Could it be that people just feel empowered by the fantasy of being hyperviolent and hypersexual? It might not be your cup of tea, but it’s a theme of American folk art from the dawn of the Republic, and I feel it should be accessible to all regardless of skin color.

              • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

                I have no idea where you are getting this even split between White/ Black rap consumers. That’s just false. Seventy percent or more of rap consumers are White.

                Anyway, I think your anger is keeping you from getting what the point of this conversation was.

      • Sigma_Since 93

        Val probably said that to also point out that when you look at the demographic of Jay’s sales, those white suburban kids dominate his album sales.

  • NikkiB

    I believe the real issue is that Jay Z is concerned about any opposition whatsoever (the JHova mentality here)- and it clearly struck a nerve w/ him. It’s the entitlement (whether famous or not) that I feel is sickening. Instead of being charitable and having dialogue about it w/ Belafonte he seems concerned with their public appearance as being perceived as charitable. You know, kind of like showing up for a Trayvon Martin rally…a couple days after Solange only w/ camera in tow.

    For all the businesses they run, and for all who “hate on them” simply why not post a link to an organization he’s involved with? And Belafonte brought up Springsteen bc he is active and involved with all things New Jersey and that’s admirable. There’s no real color issue in the same way Warren Buffet works with LeBron as they learn from each other. If not for nothing, it’s a tax write off that can help others.

    • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

      “…You know, kind of like showing up for a Trayvon Martin rally…a couple days after Solange only w/ camera in tow.”

      Yep, that was pretty transparent.

    • Sahel

      The only New York rapper who has tangible charity links is 50

      • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

        50 does go hard for his causes and has the same backstory as jay, but even if he didnt, would i really be surprised, probably not. maybe my expectations are just low

    • http://www.NextStepEducation.org/ Bunni

      I would have respected Hov if he took Belafonte’s comments like “oh werd?” and did some flashy benefit that clearly meant more about his image than the actual cause. Would still be an aintaboutshittery move, but it would be better than spitting 16 bars about being offended by being called out. I just cant with the way he handled it.