Filed Under:  OpEd, Opinion

Lil Wayne’s World

26th September 2016   ·   0 Comments

By Edmund W. Lewis,

I guess y’all heard by now that N.O. — born rapper Lil’ Wayne said recently that there’s no racism in America. The gold-toothed skateboarding rapper figures there couldn’t be any racism given the massive number of white rap fans who routinely download his music and buy tickets to his concerts.

While I never mistook Lil’ Wayne for a nuclear physicist, I figured he at least had the common sense needed to survive in a city like the Big Easy.

His comments about racism make it easier to understand why McMain school officials were reportedly so quick to point out that the rapper only attended the school after Lil’ Wayne identified himself as a McMain graduate. Despite the money he has made and the lavish cars and dwellings he has boasted about, Lil’ Wayne has shown very little in terms of personal growth and responsibility. His multiple baby mamas, tweets about sleeping with an NBA player’s wife and offensive comments about women make many wonders if he is drinking that “purple stuff” he raps about 24/7.

Still, he’s considered one of the music industry’s top rappers and is widely respected among hip-hop’s most gifted emcees. Sadly, that gift for writing clever rhymes has not translated to thoughtful or even common sense-driven remarks about the world around him. Instead, he carries himself like an impetuous child protégé from the hood who only cares about his music and the health of his bank account. Having grown up in a poverty-stricken, violence-plagued city like New Orleans, he ought to know better.

This wasn’t the first time Lil’ Wayne has stuck his foot in his mouth. Several years ago, he was sharply criticized for lewd lyrics that referenced the face of 14-year old murder victim Emmett Till.

Other rappers have also shown poor judgment in their lyrics like J. Cole, who took a lot of heat for making light of autism, and Nicki Minaj, who used the N-word to refer to Malcolm X.

For those who haven’t kept track, hip hop began to lose its way with the growing popularity of gangsta rap, and a white fan base that demanded more and more exaggerated tales of senseless violence, gratuitous sex and shameless materialism. Eventually, demand for this music prompted record labels to dictate the subject matter of rappers and severely limited the artistic freedom of rappers. Ultimately, this trend all but killed diversity in hip hop and created the monolithic mess we see today. Nothing better sums up the current dismal state of hip-hop than the phrase “music is the new cotton”.

Lil’ Wayne needs to understand that gangsta rap often makes it safe for white kids in the suburbs to experience gritty, urban life without being carjacked, assaulted or worse. The themes, imagery and lyrics of this genre do not inspire respect for Black people or Black culture. It is simply entertainment, blackface for the new millennium. With all of the followers he has on social media, Lil’ Wayne could have made a big difference and shed light on the plight of Black and poor people in America. Instead, he embarrassed himself and his hometown.

In his defense, he has been rapping and performing since he was a kid and hasn’t had much time to pick up a book and read about the history of Black people. I would imagine that he also hasn’t had a lot of guidance or exposure to positive films or images of Black people standing up for their rights. If he knew better, he’d do better.

Anyway, I got some questions for y’all:

• Who thinks police departments can change what they are at their core?

• Why can’t undercover Feds ever catch the police shaking down Black civilians or otherwise violating their constitutional rights?

• Why are so few people talking about efforts by the powers that be to make it difficult for Black property owners to afford to live in Algiers?

• If cussing out or verbally abusing a cop is a hate crime in Louisiana, what is it when a police officer uses racial slurs and excessive profanity when addressing a Black or Brown suspect?

• With the business community and elected official backing police departments, and district attorneys, grand juries, federal judges and federal monitors letting them get away with murder, what motivation do they have to change for the better?

• Why do mainstream news media outlets think they can undermine the Black Lives Matter movement by giving as little coverage as possible to police killings of unarmed Black and Brown people?

• How does an unarmed Black man with both of his arms raised in the air pose a threat to an armed and well-trained police officer?

• With as many criminal justice officials, law enforcement agencies and privately run prisons financially dependent on the criminalization, prosecution and mass incarceration of Black and Brown people, how soon can we expect equal protection under the law to become a reality?

• Why should New Orleans taxpayers be expected to pay the Sewerage & Water Board more in higher bills when the agency’s leadership continues to demonstrate poor management, inefficiency and ineptitude?

• How many more times will voters in this majority – Black city allow the district attorney to trick them into re-electing him?

• How much wrath and grief can New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram expect to receive from whites and police after speaking out against the Sept. 16 police shooting in Tulsa, Oklahoma?

• Why is it so easy for former NOPD officers to speak out against the Tulsa police shooting but so hard to speak out about unconstitutional policing in New Orleans?

• Why does a cop need to shoot an unarmed man who has committed no crime after he was tasered by another officer?

• After six years in office, what grade would you give New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu in attracting new businesses to New Orleans, expanding business opportunities for Black contractors, addressing the need of residents for affordable housing, reducing the number of potholes and reducing violent crime?

• Why is it that the American Red Cross refused to use tens of millions donated to help Hurricane Katrina victims, but recently announced that it would spend every dollar collected for 2016 Louisiana flood to help those victims?

This article originally published in the September 26, 2016 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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