Last night ABC’s Nightline aired the a report that was the result of “rare access” following Lil Wayne around the world for 3 years. I happened across it because I am a voracious studier of culture and race and—ok, I’ll be honest. I had just finished watching a DVRed episode of Atlanta, and while simultaneously surfing my Flipboard, I saw a blurb about the Nightline episode and said “Lemme see what this fool is talmbout.”
The “news magazine” condensed 3 years of mediocre skateboarding, discarded blunt guts and Styrofoam cups of “purple drank” into less than 30 minutes of incendiary statements. By the time you read this, I’m sure your social media timeline has been filled with video clips and quotes from the piece. If not, here are a few of them:
Lindsey Davis: What do you say to the people who call your music vulgar, misogynistic, degrading…
If that’s what you think about the music, if that’s what you categorize it under, so be it. All those things made me who I am, and I am a very successful man. Please keep looking out for more. It’s coming baby!
On Black Lives Matter:
It just sounds weird that you put a name on it. It’s not a name. It’s not whatever, whatever…
I am a young, black, rich motherfucker. If that don’t let you know that America understands Black fuckers matter these days, I don’t know what it is. Don’t come at me with that dumb shit, man! My life matters.
On whether he feels connected to Black Lives Matter:
I don’t feel connected to a damn thing that ain’t got nothing to do with me. If you do, you’re crazy as shit. You. I’m connected to this motherfucking flag right here (pulls out red flag)… I’m a gangbanger. I’m connected.”
By now you’re probably in your feelings about Weezy’s antics. You’ve likely already grabbed your metaphorical torch and pitchfork and jumped into one of rapidly-forming cyberspace lynch mobs ready to castigate Dwayne for his idiocy. Before you join the teeming masses from the self-righteous comfort of your couch, allow me to remind you of two very pertinent facts:
- Lil’ Wayne is a rapper. A rapper who raps about guns and bitches. A rapper who boasts about the amount of codeine cough syrup he drinks. A rapper with face tattoos. With an “s.” Plural.
- We did this.
The stupidity that Lil Wayne’s jawline-less face spat, escaped through diamond-encrusted teeth he bought with the money we gave him. He was spouting his vile mix of tomfoolery and ignorance from a platform that we built for him over a 25-year music career. We bought the wood. We hammered the nails. We knew who Lil Wayne was before he went on ABC. Did you expect a nuanced political discourse from a man who says of dark-skinned women “I bet that bitch would look better red?” Lindsey Davis is an educated journalist who knows which questions will likely flummox a rhyme-spitter high on marijuana, drunk off sizzurp with barely a G.E.D. If there is one honest broker in this entire fucked up equation, it’s the man who we endowed with the voice, stage and celebrity to spew this nonsense. Anyone who feels like Lil Wayne crapped all over the Black Lives Matter movement on national TV must also consider who gave him the food to turn into dookie.
This is what we do.
Lil Wayne’s notoriety is not because of happenstance. We keep putting men like this on a pedestal and then get furious when their stage gets so high we can’t reach them to knock them off. Even then, we continue the cycle. Whether it’s Waka Flocka revealing on live TV that he’s too dumb to vote, or Young Thug (that’s right. We’ve made a star out of someone named “Young Thug) revealing that Mike Brown’s death is relatively unimportant when compared to the bling of diamonds. We wash, rinse and repeat by empowering the same disposable artists with the spotlight and requiring nothing of them as recompense.
Here’s the thing about art: It means something. The men we put on television screens actually represent us, whether we like it or not. There are people whose entire idea of Black people is constructed from media images, TV and music. How do you think they see us? Your sons and daughters? The companies who put microphones in these men’s hands and stuff million-dollar contracts into their pockets do it only because they know we are stupid enough to keep buying it. If you’ve ever seen the video of Bobby Schmurda dancing his jig while record company CEOs decided whether to sign him or not, then you know that there can only be one explanation why these billion-dollar corporate entities keep pushing a never-ending barrage of thug music into the world’s eardrums:
Wocka Flocka was not a unique talent the world needed to hear. Gucci Mane is not the voice of a generation. You think Trick Daddy was a paragon of feminist virtues before he said that bullshit about Black women? If Bobby Schmurda wasn’t in jail for—you guessed it—“gang schmurda” you wouldn’t be missing him right now. If a love song puts you in a romantic mood, what do you think this perpetual self-destructive music does to a brain? You think the people who pay them don’t know that?
Once they are fueled by 15-year-old white teens, they are already runaway locomotives, but we are the ones who shovel the coal to get their engines running. We keep contributing to our own destruction even though we know we are the tastemakers and trendsetters. We either have to stop choosing arsonists as our torchbearers, or we have to stop acting surprised when they burn everything down
I’m not entirely sure that it is fair to ask Black people to have a litmus test for the artists we support. What I am sure of is that it is either disingenuous, naïve or stupid to expect someone who makes a living as an inebriated buffoon, thug caricature to not actually be a buffoon thug caricature in real life. If we really want to stop Black celebrities from acting like idiots, we have to stop making idiots into celebrities.
So before you burn all your Weezy F. Baby CDs and swear off platinum-toothed rappers with sippy cups full of codeine, if you really want to blame someone, back dat azz up and grab a mirror.