BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE

A Message to the Black Community

The hip hop community takes great pride in "keeping it real." But are they really keeping it real, or are they simply struttin' around saying, "look at me," while the corporate elite have them unknowingly doing an updated version of Steppin' Fechit - right down to the ape-like body language?

Now, it's not my intention to broad-brush an entire community of artists, because old-schoolers make that mistake every generation. Their ears just aren't attune to a new and different approach to music - Swing musicians did it to Dizzy and Bird when they developed be bop, and many musicians and critics did it to Miles and Coltrane (especially Trane) when they began to push the boundaries. But in the case of hip hop, it's a little different.

Dizzy, Bird, Miles, and Trane were all well schooled musicians with total control over content. These musicians were the best in the world. They knew more about music than a brain surgeon knew about medicine. In addition, they were totally focused on the art, not self-aggrandizement. But many young hip hoppers, on the other hand, are young, undereducated brothers off the street who are paid large sums of money to portray the Black community in their own image. So while Miles and Trane represented the genius within the Black community, many of these young brothers - certainly not all, but far too many - are rewarded by corporate manipulators to magnify Black dysfunction - and the more dysfunctional, the better.

This is not just my opinion. My position can be substantiated by facts. The fact is, most of these young people don't even have the skill to create their own music - they have to "sample" the music of their predecessors who understood the importance of taking the time to learn music theory, or at the very least, learning to play scales and chord progressions on a musical instrument. And spoken word artists like Oscar Brown Jr. and Gil Scott-Heron were actually poets who took the time to learn the rules of English grammar so they could uplift and educate the community with their eloquence. So to listen to one of these brothers not only constituted a class in history, poetry and English grammar, but they also had the ability to inspire the next generation to educate themselves.

But many of these young brothers who pass for stars today specialize in dumbing down the Black community. Their lyrics are amateurish, their rhymes are clumsy and predictable, their grammar is atrocious, and their message is dysfunctional - they denigrate black women, promote crime and drug abuse, and drag the Black community through the mud. In short, they promote the position that ignorance is bliss. As a direct result, instead of inspiring their fans to a higher level of intellectual achievement, it leaves them unable to speak simple business English, which is essential to getting through a job interview.

And this is not happening by accident. Since the corporate elite in this country can no longer physically enslave the people, they've decided to enslave our minds. In the sixties and seventies the Black community began to move forward, then in the eighties Ronald Reagan flooded the inner cities with drugs in order to support his illegal war in Nicaragua. That effectively took out an entire generation of Black people. As a result, in the following generation we were left with young people who were raised by dysfunctional parents - which means that they were severed from everything in their heritage that took place prior to their parents. These young people are not even Black anymore, at least culturally speaking, they just have dark skin. Am I lying? Count the dark skinned sisters in their videos.

The corporatists continued their assault on our identity by mounting a brutal attack on the nation's educational system and depriving young people to an exposure to history. They then took over all of our access to information by repealing the Fairness Doctrine and taking over the media, leaving our young people completely vulnerable to corporate programming. Consequently, the very same thing is happening to them - and to you - that FOX News is doing to the Teabaggers; it's just a little more subtle. So is there any wonder why young people are prone to promote a form of "music" that's anti-Black, and denigrates the very womb of their own culture? I think not.

And this situation has not only impacted the hip hop community. We now find ourselves in a community where Black people in general are just as racist towards other Blacks as any racist Hillbilly. Think about how you're treated on your job by many of your Black managers and superiors. Many Black people who work for the U.S. postal service, for example, are treated so badly by they're Black superiors that they're literally praying that these Black overseers be replaced by White people.

So if we want to save the Black community, we have a Herculean effort before us. The first thing we must do is stop allowing ourselves to be distracted by all the little goodies that appeal to our hedonism. We've also got to limit the time we spend partying and shakin' our booties and start paying more attention to our kids and what's going on around us. Excessive partying is for kids. When you're an adult it time to take care of business.

Being a parent is about much more than just sitting our kids in a room in front of the television set and feeding and watering them like plants. One of the reasons that we often wonder why we don't understand our own kids is because they're being raised by BET, MTV, and ESPN. Even as I write this sentence they're probably somewhere being programed by a radio or television whispering in their ear, teaching them twisted corporate values instead of your own.

And consider this. If they're being taught by the media that the only thing women are good for is sex, what kind of husbands are they going to become? If they never see the pimps on television riding around with kids in the backseat, what kind of fathers are they likely to become? And if they're being taught that drugs, big cars, and bling are the only things that make life worthwhile, yet, they're too illiterate to get a job, what do you think they're going to turn to? That's right - crime.

Now that, my people, is keeping it real.

Miles Davis and John Coltrane

MILES

We knew him as Miles,
the Black Prince of style,
his nature fit jazz to a tee.

Laid back and cool,
a low threshold for fools,
he set the tone
of what a jazzman
should be.

Short on words,
and unperturbed, about
what the people thought;
frozen in time, drenched
in the sublime,
of the passion
his sweet horn
had wrought.

Solemn to the bone,
distant and torn,
even Trane could
scarcely get in;
I can still hear the tone
of this genius who mourned,
that precious note
that he couldn't
quite bend.

Wattree

Eric L. Wattree
wattree.blogspot.com
Ewattree@Gmail.com
Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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Comment by Eric L. Wattree on February 2, 2011 at 2:45pm

Heather,

We all have our roles.  I'm a writer and an educator.  I'm a staff writer for "Veterans Today," and I write for ten other publications across the country, including the Sentinel here in Los Angeles and the Black Star News in New York. 

I come from a long tradition of writers and educators.  There's only one Wattree family in the United States, so we are very easily researched.  My great, great uncle was Richard Wattree.  He started the Wattree School in Louisiana where he taught Black people to read and write, and  I consider that the most important function in the Black community.

In addition, I'm a paralegal, and I regularly utilize my knowledge of the law, on a pro bono basis, to fight for the rights of those in the community who don't have the knowledge and/or resources to fight for themselves. I'm waging war against the United States Postal Service on behalf of postal workers here in Los Angeles and across the country as we speak.  I also created Citizens Against Reckless Middle-Class Abuse - (CARMA) , an organization created to fight for the rights of the poor and Middle Class.

But now that we're on the subject, what are you contributing, other than nonconstructive criticism?  And in that regard, based on what little I know about Buddhism, your approach to intellectual engagement seems to be in  direct conflict with any Buddhist philosophy I'm aware of.  Perhaps you should spend a little time chanting and engage in little quiet comtemplation over that issue.

http://wattree.blogspot.com

Comment by Heather Lee Presha on February 2, 2011 at 10:33am
Um, okay....I read your blog. All of it. Still don't hear what actions YOU plan to take to resolve said issues.
Comment by Eric L. Wattree on January 31, 2011 at 7:24am

HP,

I make my point in the very first paragraph. I simply elaborate on it and give the reasons that I've come to that conclusion. One of the reasons that you may feel that I'm being long-winded is because many in our community don't expect Black people to read. I do.

As a result of that attitude, too many of our publications only provide enough space for writers to give opinions without substantiating them. That in turn, leads to many of our youth becoming accustomed to simply consuming opinions without expecting those opinions to be validated.

That's not a good thing if we expect them to become independent thinkers. That's why we had so many Black peple runiing around calling Bill Clinton "the first Black president" without being able to tell you one ting about what he did for Black people. I still hear people saying it, in spite of the fact that he signed NAFTA sending all of the jobs overseas, and is partially responsible for the Black unemployment rate being nearly twice what it is in other communities.

As for your being Buddhist, I don't see how religious philosophy has any place in intellectual discussions. Allow me to show you why:

You said, "As a Buddhist, I believe that if one human being decides to make a change and puts that thought in ACTION, not only with things actually change, but the people around you and the entire environment will move in the same direction of your desire."

Pure logic tells me that if that were anything other than an axiom that makes you feel good, the Dalai Lama would control the world. Which brings us back to the fallacy of embracing unsubstantiated beliefs.

Now, I've long since recognized that I corner the market on neither wisdom, knowledge, nor intellect, so when I write, I don't to just spread my opinion. I write to stimulate discussion, and thus, thought.

Comment by Heather Lee Presha on December 17, 2010 at 9:34am

Eric, my brotha.

I admire your concern, but you take waaaay to long to get to the point!  :  ) 

If you truly want to keep it real YOU are going to have to do something about it.  As a Buddhist, I believe that if one human being decides to make a change and puts that thought in ACTION, not only with things actually change, but the people around you and the entire enviroment will move in the same direction of your desire.  Please keep this in mind before you write you next blog. I'll be checking for you.

 

Food for thought,

HP

Comment by Eric L. Wattree on December 17, 2010 at 2:27am
Enhager,

I think I went out of my way to point that out:

"Now, it's not my intention to broad-brush an entire community of artists, because old-schoolers make that mistake every generation. Their ears just aren't attune to a new and different approach to music - Swing musicians did it to Dizzy and Bird when they developed be bop, and many musicians and critics did it to Miles and Coltrane (especially Trane) when they began to push the boundaries. But in the case of hip hop, it's a little different."

To make a broad generalization about ANY group of people without exception is to engage in a fool's errand. But the net impact of the hip hop culture on the Black community is overwhelmingly negative. It's not only disrespectful to our culture and promotes dysfunctional values, but it takes us backwards artistically. Please give me the name of ANY hip hop artist who even comes close to matching the verbal eloquence of an Oscar Brown, Jr. or Gil Scott Heron.

I have absolutely no problem with change, but change is suppose to move us forward not backwards - and that not only goes for hip hop but music and society as a whole. Where are the Marvin Gayes, Areatha Franklins, Charlie Parkers, John Coltranes, Miles Davis'? And in the motion picture industry, where are the stars that match the cinematic presence of the great stars of the past, or the griping storylines that could hold you riveted
by the mere power of the writing, without having to rely on car chases, explosions and gore? And in politics, where are the great statesmen who were willing to place the interest of the people before their own political careers? The fact is, these people are no longer being produced in our society - or at least, they're very rare - because the corporatist bean counters are on a mission to dumb down our society in order to maintain control over our lives.
Comment by Eric L. Wattree on December 17, 2010 at 2:20am
Enhager,

I think I went out of my way to poitthat out:

"Now, it's not my intention to broad-brush an entire community of artists, because old-schoolers make that mistake every generation. Their ears just aren't attune to a new and different approach to music - Swing musicians did it to Dizzy and Bird when they developed be bop, and many musicians and critics did it to Miles and Coltrane (especially Trane) when they began to push the boundaries. But in the case of hip hop, it's a little different."

To make a broad generalization about ANY group of people without exception is to engage in a fool's errand. But the net impact of the hip hop culture on the Black community is overwhelmingly negative. It's not only disrespectful to our culture and promotes dysfunctional values, but it takes us backwards artistically. Please give me the name of ANY hip hop artist who even comes close to matching the verbal eloquence of an Oscar Brown, Jr. or Gil Scott Heron.

I have absolutely no problem with change, but change is suppose to move us forward not backwards - and that not only goes for hip hop but music and society as a whole. Where are the Marvin Gayes, Areatha Franklins, Charlie Parkers, John Coltranes, Miles Davis'? And in the motion picture industry, where are the stars that match the cinematic presence of the great stars of the past, or the griping storylines that could hold you riveted
by the mere power of the writing, without having to rely on car chases, explosions and gore? And in politics, where are thegreat statesmen who were willing to place the interest of the people before their own political careers? The fact is, these people are no longer being produced in our society - or at least, they're very rare - because the corporatist bean counters are on a mission to dumb our society down in order to maintain control over our lives.
Comment by enhager on December 16, 2010 at 11:52pm

I do have to take exception. Can you not point out one current hip hop artist who you are proud of and that should be proud of themselves? Just in Leimert Park there are many African American artists (and I mean artist) who have something to say and the musical chops, plus the lyrical education, to get an important message across - look at Dom Kennedy, Medusa, Aceyalone, The 26th Letter. Nationally Q-Tip, Kanye West, Common, Zion I, Wyclef Jean, Mos Def and many more are luminaries. At one time, the older generation also complained about that be bop crap and that rock n roll noise. But it wasn't noise, it was the voice of a new generation.

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