Wednesday, September 26, 2007

BET. Black Entertainment Television. Usually I roll my eyes at the mention of this television station. Yes, it has it's purpose. Like when I'm trying to learn the dance from Soldier Boy's video, I can count on seeing it when I turn to Channel 42. Last night I flipped through my favorite channels looking for something anything to watch (or at least listen to as I cooked dinner). When I landed on Black Entertainment Television, the guide on my screen said HIP HOP vs. AMERICA. Since this wasn't the normal video show or the millionth time they played the movie "Juice" I stopped to see what this was about. It was a forum of open dialogue between those who exist in and profit from the music business (HIP HOP) and those who have issues with the content of hop hop (AMERICA). The panelists included Nelly (I swear money and a personal trainer made him SEXXXXXXYYYYY...hahahahaha), T.I., Dr. Eric Michael Dyson, Stanley Crouch of the New York Daily News, Benny Boom (music video director; kinda cute, big head though), Diane Weathers, former editor of Essence magazine, Master P, and Big Perm (known as the Rev. Al Sharpton to the rest of the world...hahahahaha)

For one solid hour, BET held my attention. I didn't turn the channel during commercial breaks. I didn't even get up from my chair to cook dinner until the program was over. I watched, listened, nodded my head in agreement with some things and shook my head and/or rolled my eyes at others. It was captivating to watch both sides articulate their problems with the other. (Don't think I didn't notice that the producers for the show picked 2 hip hop artists who have a pretty decent command of the English language to sit on the panel for the duration of the program. What? Trick Daddy wasn't available??? hahahahaa).

Honestly, I agree with both sides. Music, regardless of genre, has always had an edgier, more adult content subculture. There are sex and/or violent songs in just about every genre in American music. However, the question is why is it that it's primarily the sex drugs and violence that is portrayed in the hip hop music?? When are we going to see the versatility?? Who's in control - the artist or the record label or the channel that plays the videos??? During the dialogue, everyone kept talking about Nelly's "TipDrill" video as the prime example of what's wrong with hip hop music, especially the scene where he apparently swipes a credit card down some chick's ass. A writer on the panel whose name escapes me at the moment, said that it is unfortunate that regardless of everything he may have done in his music career, Nelly will always be known for that video and nothing else. She went on to point out though that because of his stature in the hip hop community, he shouldn't have had to do that type of video for BET's Uncut. What I found interesting about this conversation is no one called BET to the mat for its role in perpetuating these stereotypes. T.I. made a point by saying something to the effect of "if we hired teachers in button up blazers and dresses down to their ankles to dance in our videos, BET would look at it and say 'we can't play this, mannn' and it would never see the light of day. " However, amongst everyone else trying to speak at the same time, his argument got lost in the sauce.

Another interesting point made by those on the HIPHOP side was since when did music become the end all and be all in the Black community?? When did music become our parent, our teacher, our pastor, our guru, our saviour??? When did music solely define who we are??? No one one the panel fully answered these questions. But it raises a valid point. There is no distinction between child content and adult content anymore in this country. Period. When I was a child, and my grandmother would host her infamous parties, my ass was in the bed sleep. That was when they played the Millie Jackson and the raunchier, edgier music of their day. If I even peeped out the bedroom and was past the bathroom, I would get acquainted with her hand on my behind really quickly. I was not allowed to watch Purple Rain because that was for "grown folks" even though I loved Prince. When I was a pre-teen/teenagers and songs like "Do Me, Baby" by BBD were on my cassette tape, I would fast forward past that song so my mother wouldn't throw the tape in the garbage (which she eventually did when she heard that song). The lines are distorted now. Parents and children listen to and watch the same thing when it comes to entertainment. It's not up to BET, the rappers, the singers, and music executives to explain to children what is and what isn't appropriate for them. Last I heard, that job belonged to parents.

Do I think that a lot of the music coming out today is pure USDA Grade A shit??? YES! Do I dance to it in the club??? DAMN RIGHT! Does this crap define who I am as a Black woman in this country?? NO. Do I think people may initially judge me because of the images they see on a channel like BET??? YES, unfortunately. But who's fault is that? The artist for detailing the stereotype? The record label for funding the stereotype? The music channel for perpetuating the stereotype? Or the person watching for not looking past the stereotype??? This program raised more questions than answers. Maybe there will be more answers in Part 2, airing tonight on BET.

Thanks, BET. You should air more programming of this caliber. We as BLACK folks can be ENTERTAINed by more ways than one by what we see on TELEVISION. Now can you play that Soldier Boy video just one more time??? I am thisss close to have that dance down.

1 comment:

rashad said...

people kill criticizing hip hop all the damn time. the problem isn't with the music(although lots of it was wack) the problem is what the media chooses to highlight. i play lots of good hip hop, but i don't see it being played on video channels.

and i gave up on seeing something substantive on BET when they got rid of Madeline Woods.