So, Sinead O’Connor drafted this five page open letter in regards to the tragic murder (yes, I am calling this a murder) of Trayvon Martin. Besides expressing her sincere and well written sympathies for his murder, she also went off on a tangent to ask why Black youth are killing each other and to blast the music industry, particularly Black rappers, who are “silent in the spiritual matters of importance right now.”
O’Connor writes: “Don’t be guided by rap. Gangsta or otherwise. Sure.. enjoy it.. adore it…as I do… but realize this…rap ain’t about your civil or spiritual rights, baby boys and girls. It.. along with most music nowadays.. is about falsenesses and vanities. Bling, drugs, sex, guns and people- dissing. It’s giving you the message you ain’t ‘good enough’ if you don’t have bling and ting.. and money. Or if you’re not what it deems ‘Hot’.
Then she said: “Forget bling. Forget “Get Rich Or Die Trying.” That is an evil message. Evil my dears is only life backwards. Turn it the right way up. With music. The messages American black youth are being given through music are not about the spiritual and therefore strong and conquering but PEACEFUL making of YOUR country into the wonderful place it secretly is and can be.. BECAUSE OF YOU, and BY YOU!!
O’Connor, who is probably best known for the cover of Prince’s Nothing Compares to U (I actually prefer her cover to the Prince version) and tearing up a picture of the Pope on Saturday Night Live (which ultimately killed her career and got her a one way ticket back to Ireland), had some really good food for thought in the letter. Her analysis about this being the year of change seems prophetic and I’ve often speculated about the cosmic significance behind the series of events happening globally; from the uprisings to the OWS to strange weather, rising gas prices and even the Martin murder.
Likewise O’Connor raises a somewhat valid point in relation to Black on Black violence. It’s a similar sentiment that I have heard expressed by other folks, who ask why is so much attention being placed on one death when there are other deaths at the hands of Black folks happening everyday in the community. I don’t know to me this whole “but what about Black on Black violence” discussion does nothing but to derail what should be our rightful reaction to a grave injustice. Last I checked, the police and prosecutors were not refusing to arrest the Black perpetrators of violence or helping them to hide their guilt – allegedly. Likewise, not everyone has been silent in the community about black on black violence. In fact there have been plenty of marches and rallies, as what we witnessed in the Martin situation. There are also mentors, community activists, teachers and after school providers who have been doing the work to save our Black men. Now, just because those, who are attempting to derail the outrage (and focus on what we have already been doing), haven’t heard of it probably has more to do with your involvement in these communities than your sudden concern about Black on Black violence. But O’Connor (and others) paternalism aside, move to the point: Rap Music.
O’Connor calls out the rappers for having a lack of awareness and virtually being MIA when it comes to important stuff in the community. I have written similar pieces about the lack of conscious music in hip-hop and the over concentration on acquired material wealth, which has been projected into the music. So I totally get where she is coming from. But I do wonder if we are making scapegoats out of rappers and ignoring the very systematic conditions behind why these rappers might not speak out.
For example, Shadow and Act is reporting that a TV show is currently being taped called “Ghetto Court” featuring DJ Eric B as the judge. Yes, one half of the same dynamic duo that gave us Lyrics of Fury, Know the Ledge and Don’t Sweat the Technique will be pretending to be a judge on a show with “ghetto” in the title. Not much else is known about the show other than it is expected to air “sometime this year” and supposedly they already have 25 episodes in the can.
Now, while it is at all possible that this program will show a more humanizing aspect of folks who live in lower class communities called ghettos and that there gripes will be treated with the utmost dignity and respect. But this is television, which is the same medium that gives us “Basketball Wives,” “Love & Hip Hop” and the “Real Housewives of Atlanta.” In the land where ratings are key, no one is interested in the more humanizing side of the Black experience (or any experience for that matter, just ask Oprah), they want to see fights between crack addicts and baby moms. So there is no need to guess the level of debauchery and the shenanigans that will transpire on this show.
I want to be mad at Eric B – in fact I am kind of mad at Eric B. His foray into degrading Black television hits right at the heart of O’Connor’s point about the lack of awareness among hip hop artists – even the ones from the Old School. But then I begin to wonder what has he been doing all this time? It’s been 22 years since their last album, Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em dropped and there was that messy split from their record label. I do vaguely recall Eric B releasing a solo album after their breakup. The album, which featured a softer side of Eric B, I’m pretty sure, flopped. And even after an extensive Google search of his current day happenings, I couldn’t find anything. Which leads me to believe that he is probably hard up for cash and willing to “sell out” a whole bunch just to get a it.