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Friday, August 11, 2006

Of Coons and Saints

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This is a game, and I'm your special man
"One day, to everyone's astonishment, someone drops a match in the powder keg and everything blows up. Before the dust has settled or the blood congealed, editorials, speeches, and civil-rights commissions are loud in the land, demanding to know what happened. What happened is that Negroes want to be treated like men."
—James Baldwin

I'm aware that the whole Phonte As Paul Wall—he got the internets goin' nuts!—thing is, like, so two weeks ago; I was, in this case, inspired by holy Alanis herself:

First off, sexism, like any other form of discrimination, is a very ugly thing. And whether or not Tay's intentions were innocent (and I'm guessing they were), homegirl was offended, as she certainly has the right to be. I'm not touching the whole "she-shouldn't-have-aired-him-out-on-MySpace" thing, as that's obviously not my call to make. My issue is with something else entirely…

Maybe its true that no one actually listens to Little Brother, 'cause nowhere in LB's oeuvre have I ever heard anything that would lead me to believe that Tay is this righteous musical monk who’s beyond making a comment that could be interpreted as sexist. And I have to say that in her initial post, Tara* ever-so subtly implies that Tay and Pooh have, at some point, anointed themselves as purveyors of all that is pure and "enlightened" in an otherwise Ignant industry. Not true. Little Brother, if anything, speak to the everyday, all-AmeriKKKan chain-rocking nigga that dudes like Kanye and Lupe, who are really exaggerated caricatures of the Everyday Negro, supposedly represent—which is to say, they’re a little bit conscious, a little bit Ignant.

The fact that Phonte and Pooh—two everyman types with no clear-cut agendas or "irony" or over-the-top personalities—are scrutinized to death for the sole reason that they aren’t Jeezy or T.I. or Nelly (or the Coup or Mr. Lif, for that matter) is disturbing in that it seems to support the theory that blacks will only be accepted when they play the roles that far too many whites are comfortable seeing them in—which, like it or not, are the Coon and/or Saint. In other words, Mos was on point when he claimed that "there’s never no in between," and us culluds in these overdrawn wildernesses of North AmeriKKKa are either niggas or kings or bitches or queens. Little Brother, in contrast, are lunchmeat and thermoses, i.e., too pedestrian, too damn normal, too much like…real actual people?

Take it from someone who knows something you don’t, YTs: In AmeriKKKa, no one ever has a problem with blacks that play to the lowest common denominator. It’s different, though, when we refuse to be what many whites and the oh-so conditioned "black community" (even our conditioning’s conditioned!) want us to be. At which point, our every move is scrutinized, our every blunder blown up to extreme proportions. (I’m, for that very reason, relieved that Colin Powell never ran for president.)

Obviously, this discussion is, in the words of Dead Prez, bigger than hip-hop. (Ralph Ellison wrote a book about what I’m getting at—maybe you’ve heard of it?) But it’s surely no coincidence that Little Brother, not to mention their contemporaries (Common, the Roots, et al.), when not being flat-out ignored, are constantly getting picked apart by the press, while, when it comes to dudes like Rick Ross, it's all Kool and the Gang. Bet Rick wouldn’t be catching all this heat were he in Phonte’s shoes. Then again, Rick is a coon, and coons are expected to say dumb shit. Phonte, on the other hand, doesn’t act like a coon, so he must be a saint. Shame on him!

Newsflash: Most black people are just that—people. We catch cases (court case, briefcase, suitcase, cases of Chris) and read books and go to strip clubs (and church) and occasionally crack titty jokes. Just because we're not leaping over hot coals to entertain you with our "swagger" doesn't mean that we're "boring." (Actually, we as real live people reserve the right to be "boring" or "pretentious" like everyone else.) On the same token, the fact that some of us aren't leaping over hot coals to entertain you with our "swagger" doesn’t mean we’re trying to pass ourselves off as Martin Luther King, Jr. Please marinate on that. I’m done.

Assignment: Ask yourself: Do I really enjoy rap on its own terms, or do I need irony or "swagger" to get me off?

Gonna go watch "106 & Park"—it’s the biggest colored show on earth!

*No xxlmag.com bloggers were harmed during the making of this entry.