Saturday, March 29, 2008
5294: Hip Hop Leads To Rap Sheet?
From The Chicago Sun-Times…
Hip-hop attitude leads to mayor’s downfall
The reign of Detroit’s chest-bumping, earring-wearing hip-hop mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, is poised for an awful ending. I can’t say I’m mad about it.
While the details of Kilpatrick’s troubles are stuck in a state of alleged-ness, one can’t help but wonder if the values and attitudes that swept him into office in the first place are the cause of his downfall. Sure, the music is catchy and a mirror into youth society, but the worst values of corporate hip-hop are empty. If the music is the message, the message is often one of materialism, misogyny, fatalism and moral relativism embodied by the ethos of no snitching.
In a classic case of the coverup overshadowing the crime, Kilpatrick, 37, is charged with perjury, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and misconduct in office related to police firings, $8.4 million in “hush” money and sexy text messages sent between him and his former chief of staff, Christine Beatty. Both face years in prison, a lot of years.
The smoking gun is a series of text messages the then-married Beatty and still-married Kilpatrick exchanged on her city-issued pager. It took a lot of hubris for these two to wax so rhapsodic about waxing each other’s, er, you know, so openly on property that didn’t even belong to them. Anybody who has ever tried to sneak and do anything knows discretion is the better part of sneakiness.
“I’m madly in love with you,” Kilpatrick wrote on Oct. 3, 2002.
“I hope you feel that way for a long time,” Beatty replied. “In case you haven’t noticed, I am madly in love with you, too!”
These two didn’t learn anything from Bill Clinton and the infamous blue dress or Martha Stewart’s adventures in lockdown.
But Kilpatrick’s real mistake was in believing the hype that is hip-hop. It’s a culture stuck in perpetual teendom, where artists, trends and music constantly morph into new states of hipness to maintain credibility. To the extent to which this evolution creates better art, great. But the pressure, for example, for young girls to eschew their natural beauty in favor of the Lee-Press-On-Hair good looks of the newest video ‘ho, well, there’s something morally corrupt in that. That young men know droopy jeans originated in prison culture yet still embrace that look in the name of coolness is corrupt.
Hip-hop has a jewel-encrusted veneer that covers some pretty rotten values. We see rappers surrounded by scantily clad women sipping Cristal by their pools, as flaunted on TV reality shows. We see a generation of young women determined to use their feminine wiles to get ahead instead of valuing the education they can put in their heads. (Oh, why is Flava Flav even a phenomenon?) We’ve even embraced a woman who once called herself SupaHead. Illegal drug use, marijuana, is encouraged.
Twice, Detroiters were suckered, voting for a guy who took out his blingified diamond earring while campaigning the first time so as not to scare off the church ladies, only to put it right back in as soon as he was in office. Well-educated and politically connected, Kilpatrick allowed his hip-hop inspired braggadocio to overshadow his gifts, which to his credit, led to a promising beginning of a new life for a city long on life support.
But a guy who claims to be an upstanding family man who can’t resist the urge to host a pimped-out party featuring strippers in the mayor’s mansion is morally confused. A guy who uses city money to lease his family a candy-red SUV while residents don’t have a reliable bus system is morally bankrupt.
That Detroit, so full of promise, solid infrastructure and great housing stock, repeatedly finds itself bereft of thoroughly decent leadership to take the city where it needs to go … well, I’m plenty mad about that.
Deborah Douglas is a Sun-Times editorial board member.