Tag Archives: culture

Expected Behavior

The very first time I saw Lean on Me, this scene stuck out to me because it was a very powerful message.

It wasn’t a stand out scene but it set the tone for the entire movie. You may have only processed it subconsciously but you instantly got it when you heard it. It is so powerful yet and so simple to understand yet most don’t recognize the impact of it.

Mr. Clark was simply describing how people are who we define them as and thus we can’t be surprised if/when they live up to those expectations. But what happens when people expect themselves to be treated like animals? That’s exactly what happened at East Side High; the "good kids" were so used to watching "bad kids" get treated as if there were failures that they began to become failures themselves and then the teachers treated all of the students the same.

In everyday life, we expect people to fail (admit it to yourself, it’s ok normal), we expect people to give up on others. Due to this we start to expect ourselves to fail and we start to expect people to give up on us when we are in the same situation but we want to be helped. Why does this happen? Because we expect people to treat us like we treat others or how we see them treat others. In psychology this is unofficially called Herd Mentality.

A good example of this is when we see cars disabled on the side of the road with the driver standing outside of it in need of help.  There are very few people if any that would stop to provide aid yet if we were in that situation we would hope that someone would stop but expect no one to do it. You want to be saved, you need to be saved but so many just pass you by.  The situation thus encourages you to not help someone when you see them in the same situation. Had someone stopped, chances are you would be more encouraged to help next time you saw someone in need. ABC created a whole show around it called What Would You Do?.  I’m sure you’ve seen or heard about it.

So what happens when there is a life on the line:

Before I use this unfortunate event as an example I must say that I in no way condemn anyone involved for their actions, abilities or lack there of. It was a tragedy to hear about and I’m sure it was far worse for them to experience first hand. I mention this story only to draw parallels on the forthcoming points.

What would you do in this situation where someone is drowning but you can’t swim? A co-worker and I discussed this when this story happened and he believes that you should go jump in and try to save the kids. I, actually not being able to swim, say that you should do what ever possible to help but jumping in could hurt rather than help. It is a tough question to answer to yourself: Do you do whatever you can or give up to let them struggle or do you fight for them and possibly go down with them?

For the people that are close to me that I care about, I often do everything I can to help when they need it. Often going above and beyond what others think I should. I believe you should support people as much as you would want them to support you, if not more than they would you. Think about the last time you were in a time of need or didn’t realize you were in need and someone was there for you.  Now image if that person wasn’t there or the last time someone wasn’t. Did you expect someone to help? Now I’m not talking about major life events. It could’ve been as simple as dropping something in a crowed room, having your hands full while approaching a door or moving your residence.  You get the idea.

When people come through for you, it feels good. When you don’t expect people to help and they do, it feels amazing! When you help people it feels amazing for yourself also. Try to notice when people want or need your help because they will want to return the favor to you one day or even to a stranger.

A few weeks ago I was walking into a market and there was a woman outside with a teenaged girl.  She had her ID and EBT card in her hand while asking for help to get food for her kids. As I walked up I saw many people walk by them and not saying a word. When I approached I told her I didn’t have cash but if she needed I could pay for whatever she needed.  She agreed and walked out with something to eat for the night. I don’t know if she was telling the truth but I couldn’t take that chance when I have the capability to help.

They say you should pay it forward but I think you should just pay it without expecting something in return or that it would benefit you in the future.

As Simple as Socks and Sandals

 

There’s this great scene (I think it’s the greatest scene in the movie which we will get to in a second) above from The Devil Wears Prada where Miranda (Meryl Streep) explains to Andrea (Anne Hathaway) why she is wearing a blue sweater. Actually it’s Cerulean if you were paying attention to what she said. Lapis is also a shade of blue. I know that because I am into photography, art and web design by the way.

Back to the point, Miranda’s explanation is to educate Andrea on why it is she is subconsciously choosing her clothes.  I think of this every time I see someone walking around in black socks or socks and sandals.  It also comes to mind with the baggy pants phenomenon in the 90’s and 00’s and tight jeans fad of late.

Before I get into this let me first say that I am not a fashion historian but I do pay attention to people’s behavior and fashion. First socks and sandals. It’s a very prevalent practice throughout history and throughout the world regardless of how we Americans think of it. For the record, I personally don’t like it and haven’t partaken in it.

So how did it become popular? Same place everything becomes popular, high school of course, particularly jocks. Jocks or athletes typically would dress in their uniforms prior to participating in their sport and often wear their uniforms afterwards. Sports such as baseball, soccer and football often require a specific type of sock to match the uniform.  Since taking sneakers on and off requires untying or unlacing, sandals became the easiest for of footwear that could function for quick removal and protect the feet while in full uniform.

Thanks to the competitive and conformist culture of high school, the jocks are typically at the top of the food chain and idolized by the masses and so adopt their fashion choices. This of course spreads to the younger siblings and then encouraged behavior by these same jocks and influencee’ when they become parents. It then becomes popularized by pop culture and other adults catch on then then a fad is born.

Now I haven’t forgotten about those we refer to as bohemian or hippies. They too dress like this but unfortunately their fashion style wasn’t strong enough to influence the masses.

Skinny jeans are a much simpler explanation. They are just a direct opposition to the baggy jeans phenomenon. Typically it’s called counterculture or rebellion. Tight pants lead to tight shirts and thus a new fashion tread was born.

As always, you don’t have to agree with me. If you think I’m wrong, write your own blog or complain in the comments. Either way is fine with me but one thing is for certain, you can’t say I’m completely wrong if you think about it now can you?

When Hip-Hop Crosses Religion

Meek Mill

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for current-day rappers, I happen to like Meek Mill. Being that he is local here in Philly I had the chance to hear him prior to his signing with Maybach Music Group. So far his sound is slightly different but that’s to be expected once an artist is signed by a label.  The grooming process tends to change some things.

So when his latest song Amen came out I gave it a listen. You can listen below and draw your own conclusions. For me it was a miss for one reason: I’m not a fan of overly religious references in a song. I’m not really a fan of religious music at all. When the local Hip-Hop station sneaks it into their line up, I change the station. I’m not against it, it’s just not for me.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m not an atheist or anything like that. I grew up a Baptist. I didn’t start going to church until I was a teenager and that was by my choice to do so on my own.

When I first heard the song, I was a bit turned off by the constant bellowing of "church", "preach" and "amen". I don’t even like it when people say those things in general conversation but to each his own. Then I got down to the lyrics in the hook:

Now there’s a lot of bad bitches in the building (Amen)
A couple real niggas in the building (Amen)
I’m finna kill niggas in the building (Amen)
I tell the waiter fifty bottles and she tell me say when
And I say church (Preach)
We make it light up like a church (Preach)
She wanna fuck and I say church (Preach)
Do Liv on Sunday like a church (Preach)

To me, there’s a few things you don’t make light of about a person and their religion is one of them. In that regard I think the Flying Spaghetti Monster is one of the most in your face attempts at mocking someone’s religion. I also feel that people have the right to express themselves so I would never knock anyone for displaying one of these things. If you think I just double-talked myself then you don’ understand the difference between rights and freedoms.

So then I heard Meek discussing his song on the radio with a reverend with Meek not truly understanding the definition of the word meek:

Part 1

Part 2

In summary, the heated verbal exchange had all the characteristics of a worthless discussion about nothing

  • Scream loudly in an attempt to prove your point no matter how weak it may be until the other side backs down
  • Don’t listen to the counter point no matter how valid it may be
  • Attack your adversary personally with comments unrelated to the topic
  • Defend yourself by stating only God can judge you
  • And of course, when in doubt, lash out

Had this taken place not on the radio but in person on the street, I think there would’ve been some unneeded violence. Both sides of this argument were poorly constructed. Meek seemed to be seeking ooh’s and ah’s from the crowd while the reverend wanted Meek look like a bad person.

I’m at all surprise by this type of behavior from either of them. This type of exchange is why people tune in to watch Love & Hip Hop, Basketball Wives, Real Wives of Wherever and the rest of the shows like them. Those shows are built on the expectation that someone will fight or argue which for some reason brings in viewers. It’s almost the same reason some people use as to why they watch hockey.

If you haven’t heard the song then listen for yourself. Maybe it’s about time I finally pick up a copy of The Great Debaters. Maybe they should also…

 

Putting words to good use

Here’s a project I wish I thought of first. (Actually, I did around the time that I dreamed up this site a few years back but not to this extent.) Here’s the premise, they take song lyrics and analyze them by date, region content and a whole lot of other things. Then you can find out things such as who was the first artist to product place a shoe or how long did it take for the word shorty (showdy or showdee depending on where you are from) to be used across the coast.

It’s has a lot of promise and I hope that it exceeds its funding or if it doesn’t continue to look for funding because I really like this project.  It’s good to see a creative way of using Hip Hop that isn’t being utilized anywhere else. I’m sure there will be others that will come along and still this idea and use it in other forms of music but I hope it’s this project that spins off into other genres. 

Pledge you support today as there are only a few more days left to donate.  There are incentives depending on how much you donate from chocolates to beta or lifetime access to the site.  I’ll be pledging my support because every dollar counts!

The Take Over – Updated

I have to say, I really hate making statements like this but it seems to be proven over and over again.  While this post includes racial topics, it is not intended to be a racial or prejudice issue, just pointing out some observations.

There’s been this long standing social stigma that blacks can make something popular then once whites adopt it, it no longer becomes cool because of over use or abuse of use. Over use happens when you apply too much and abuse happens when you apply something beyond its intended use.  I’ll give you two examples, baggy pants and the words phat and hot.

Baggy pants, origins aside, exploded in fashion among blacks and then skaters came along and took baggy pants too far then surprisingly went the other way and opted for super tight pants. Thanks to Pharrell, blacks became skaters to and started wearing tight jeans too.

Of course people never gave up on this trend and still continue to do this today. I can’t speak for anyone else but I wore my baggy pants for comfort. To get away from the tight or fitted pants look of  my younger years.  I never had my pants too low unless I didn’t have a belt and it couldn’t be helped but I never did it to purposely show my underwear as people do today. As with most things that young people do, it lead to an outcry of the older generation and there were laws attempted to be made to prevent it but that’s hopefully all behind us now (pun intended).

But you didn’t come here to read about pants, no this is about music.  You may remember that Cee-Lo released a song over the summer called F**k You:

Of which 50 Cent quickly jumped on:

Which was all and good. Everyone liked both versions and and we had a summer jam.  Now fast forward a few months to the  George Lopez Show and we find William Shatner’s attempt at the song:

Well thanks Shatner, the song had a good run while it lasted.

UPDATE  – Damn, my post wasn’t even a few hours old and yet again I discovered Gwyneth Paltrow on Glee (never seen the show and don’t plan to by the way). It would be nice if the original artist can enjoy some time to enjoy the success of this song.

Serious Radio

It’s around 7:20 AM and just like any other morning I hope into my car, turn the key and the radio comes on.  As always while getting situated, the sounds coming out of the speakers don’t register as intelligible at first. A few seconds pass and I recognize what is going on; a phone prank. Not being a fan of this "ageless" gag, I tune to another station for relief. A few minutes later and it starts again but with different voices. On to station number 3 and they are giving a recap of a phone prank I thankfully missed earlier.  WTF?

After enough of the Hip Hip and Top 40 stations I move to the R&B stations hoping for relief.  Hopefully the more mature DJ’s can bring a more serious tone to my day but alas not.  The buffoonery is more intense so that it lacks the taste and is only mildly amusing. Is this the humor of the older generation or is it a left over of different times when we were to be mocked rather than treated as equals?  Whatever it is, it is not something that I can tolerate for too long.  And did I mention that some of them also do phone pranks?

What happened to radio?  When did it become so devoid of originality? As one of my friends put it, the radio is like a tape stuck on replay (or a playlist on replay for those of you that don’t get the reference).  Ever since the radio companies were bought by parent companies (ClearChannel, Radio-One,…) they have become franchises serving the same menu across the country. 

Gone is the local flavor that made us tune in.  No more does the local artist get his first break to be heard.  Playlists are distributed to all stations and re-run throughout the day to push the latest release.  Payola may not be a published practice but it is clear that it is being masked in some way.  How else can you hear the same songs every hour during peak listening times (rush hour and 8 to 10).

With the advent of digital music devices, radio is now in trouble. Once HDRadio is put into play, I believe that radio will vanish completely. Radio must evolve or rather revert back to it’s roots to survive.   Bing back the local influence that once ruled the airways.  Let the listening audience dictate the playlists and play a broader variety of songs.  There has been too much music created to only play the same 34 minutes of music throughout the day. This one is for you Radio Raheem!

Real Dads Stand Up

If you haven’t heard by now, a father in Florida boarded a school bus to confront the bullies of his daughter who has cerebral palsy. During his escapade, he threatened violence against everyone on the bus including the bus driver and children on the bus. You can see the details in the videos below

The support for him is overwhelmingly positive which I though was surprising.  Here a black man went onto a school bus and threatened children with violence and he is being supported. I’m not sure if his daughters illness has to do with the support but I have a strong inkling that it does.

Does Hip Hop fuel the bulling flames with it’s culture?  It may very well be since it is full of confirmations, conflict and issues that seem bulling like.  Many rap battles start due to someone being a bully and calling out his target.  If the bully isn’t confronted or responded to, then the target faces the ridicule and possibly being ostracized from his or her peers.  Many artists have threatened to (and some succeeded in) end the career of another artist or some type of violence against someone they know.  Beanie Sigel often referred to himself and an album as the Broad Street Bully.

We know bullying won’t stop in Hip Hop and despite all the claims, we know that Hip Hop influences peoples actions so what can we do to stop it?  Just as the "expert" in the video above says, we need to put it on the audience to stop the conflict.  If Lil Random Guy says he’s going to put an end to DJ Wusisface and in response DJ Wusisface claims to know the mother of his child and has a sex tape, the audience should take the responsible route and ask "why can’t they both exist". 

But I know that won’t happen.  We’ll want to see the sex tape then we’ll want to hear their diss songs all for the sake of entertainment.  Which is the true reason for bullying.  The bully is just looking for a way to entertain himself because he was not taught how to properly do so.  So rather than getting to the point of having to get on the bus, let’s teach our children that bullying isn’t a form of entertainment, it’s an act of low self-esteem and the lack of the ability to occupy oneself without it being at the expense of another’s well being.

The Audacity of Vulgarity

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine was listening to a religious talk show on an AM station where the topic was about vulgarity.  After the show, my friend called me and asked, "Why is our culture so vulgar? Why is our music so full of references to sex, b’s and h’s?"  Of course many have asked this for years. I too have pondered this question.

I wondered if this is really all we know.  Looking at Hip Hop from the outside in, there are lots of examples of vulgarity.  We don’t often see or notice it because we have become accustom to it. We use profane language in our homes then tell our children not to used "adult words."  We wear clothes that reveal parts of our bodies many people tend to cover up.  And let’s not even mention the things we watch and listen to

We’ve become numb to many of the things that society at a large considers vulgar.  Sometimes it is pointed out to us in the wrong way by people who don’t understand it.

These are the people who preach that we must learn from our mistakes of the past and point out key moments in history to back up their points but then in the next breath inform you that you should get over slavery and pretend it never happened.  But that’s a different discussion.

Is it time to let go of the notion that we can brute force acceptance of our behavior  or culture on others?  Maybe, maybe not. That’s for society to decide.  Me, I guess I’m just going along for the ride.

Social Media Day

Maybe you’ve heard of it but chances are you haven’t.  Today is Social Media Day.  In a nut shell it’s a day to celebrate the revolution of media becoming a social dialog.  So sign up for a Meet Up near you then go out and be social;  Tweet, FB, Check-in or whatever your favorite site uses then go meet some people.

Why is this Hip Hop? You do use these services don’t you? And more than ever, we need to be out representing in a positive way.

What are we doing?

I turn on the radio and I hear rappers singing about who they know, what they have and what they’re going to do someone for whatever reason.  And then I turn on the TV or pick up the newspaper and I see the result of it.  Yesterday in Chester, PA, a 2 year old boy loses his life to gun violence.

A few days before, a man is shot under unknown pretences.  Months before in the same city, a woman is shot by a stray bullet while sleeping in her bed. 

This is just a few examples in one city.  I’m sure you have many others in the city you live in or near.  The temperature is going up and with it so does the violence in the streets.  We have to get a grip on ourselves and each other.  The value of life is diminishing in the eyes of our youth. 

We say our music is the message of the streets, a way for the oppressed to speak about atrocities they’ve seen so that the world can know of their struggles but we don’t learn from its messages.  We’ve turned our music from outcries and celebration to bragging and boasting of how much we (or rather the artists) own. 

At one point in history, the artist grew tired of the problems and banned together to try to send a positive message to the youth:

 

Theses days, the artist ban together to help line their pockets:

Look at the lead photo a little longer.  Burn it’s image in your mind.  Imagine that it’s someone in your family.  Imagine it’s someone you know.  Now imagine that it’s you.  If we keep up what we’re doing, one of those phrases will be true!

Time's 50 Worst Inventions

Time Magazine just released a list of what they’ve deemed The 50 Worst Inventions.  Most notable on the list are recent inventions such as the Segway Scooter and the Facebook Application Farmville.  I’m no fan of either of them but I am a fan of Hip Hop so let’s take a look at it’s influence on the list.

First up, Venetian-Blind Sunglasses.  These hideous things were left back in the 80’s until but Kanye decided to go back and pick them up.  They took a couple unneeded swipes at him in the process but he did bring them back into style.  

Next up on the list, Fake Ponytails. Sorry ladies but I put this, weave and wigs in the same category.  I know someone won’t like that but fake hair should be left for play time, stage or theater.  IF you want long hair, grow it.  While we’re on the subject, Hair in a Can and Bumpit also made the list.

The last on this list is Auto-Tune.  I’m not sure if abuse of an invention should make it appear on the list but i am sick of hearing the damn thing.  See here for a list of offenders.  There are too many to list.

Certainly the sound had it’s place with Zapp and Roger’s use of the talkbox.

Worse than the N word ? Urban

I actually got a surprise while researching this topic.  Typically, I look for an image using Google Image Search and it took a couple pages before I reached an image of a black person.  This is contradictory to how the word is typically used.  Only when using the keywords Urban Youth did I get my expected results. 

So what’s the big deal here? Often times Urban is used as a code word for black, though it is often combined with other words (radio, youth, clothing, music, television, etc) for this meaning.  It’s used so often, that it isn’t given a second thought but its audience.

Many businesses and organizations have capitalized on this misconception.  Many include urban in their names to further identify their alliance with race such as  Urban Outfitters whose clothes don’t seem to fit into this definition and National Urban League, a civil rights organization.  Just as Urban Outfitters points out, not all terms or businesses are code words.  Urban Legends and UrbanDictionary stem from uses in language that doesn’t exactly predate stereotypes but doesn’t get its meaning from blacks living in the city. Often in Mom and Pop stores it hangs above the music and in the news it describes the people but why?  No history exists of the words association with blacks as of yet but it is in heavy use with no misunderstanding of what it means.

Of course I have my own theories on the subject?  My first guess is White Flight where whites, moved from urban areas to suburban areas.  This changed the ratios of whites to blacks in urban areas therefore creating the stereotype of large amounts of blacks live in urban areas.  But wait a second, blacks live in the suburbs too.  More so in the south than in the northern states. 

I don’t need to quote statistics to prove that blacks live in other areas than in cities, just look around.  If someone is working in a store, chances are they live in the area.  Especially when it comes to teens.  Teens don’t travel as far as adults do to get employment.  They go as far a the bus, train or parent will take them within a reasonable distance.

So what harm can this do?  There is a huge movement of racists and stereotypical behavior starting to surface.  The media will have you believe that it started because of the Tea Party Movement or since Obama started running for president.  I believe it started with the popularity of the internet and the new sense of anonymity that it give people.  The is one of the founding properties of the KKK and the internet has further this.

Get at me dog

First off let’s get some things straight, I don’t condone nor to I condemn dog fighting.  I’ve never witnessed or been a part of it.  I believe there are far worse atrocities going on in the world that need attention than this.

Second, dog fighting is not a product of Hip Hop, black culture or even the United States.  It has a long standing in history along with fighting other types of animals.

Third, Michael Vick, didn’t increase dog fighting incidents.  He only brought to the surface what society chose to ignore.  Even since Vick was linked to this activity he has been blamed for every case that has come about. As if he was the originator of dog fighting.

I’m not going to defend him or his accusers.  What I want to know is when do you really pay your debt to society? When do you finally get to move on from your crime after serving time?

If you want to drag animal cruelty through the mud, take a look at horse racing.  It’s everywhere so much so that there are laws specific to it and

 

 

The Mob Mentality

Some mobs are good; Mobb Deep, Goodie Mob. Some mobs are bad; Capone, Giancana. And some mobs are just plain our wrong; lynch, flash.

Most of the examples above are debatable (with the exception of lynch) except the flash mob.  Here in Philly, teens have started to massively gather in an area for no other reason other than being told to do so by Facebook, text message and word of mouth.  The media, in it’s effort of sensationalism, has labeled them flash mob which happens to be the most recent buzz word for large gatherings of people.

No one, including the participants themselves know how or why this started or even why they are doing it.  Regardless of this, some members of these crowds have caused problems in their meeting spaces by fights, looting and causing damage.  Of course this doesn’t sit nicely with the inhabitants of the areas which they are rightfully justified for feeling as such.

Throwing away the thought that these gatherings have only happened about 2 or 3 times as of this writing I wonder why can’t our youth gather for a cause rather than random mass loitering.  I as well as many others, would have applauded them had this been a protest on the Healthcare Bill to say "Yes, we want this for our future!" or even to demand an education bill of the same magnitude.  Come on youth, give us something to say that you are ready to step up and take the lead where the previous generation let you down.

Of course I can’t put the blame solely on the youth.  There are many factors here.  First there is the organizers whom ever they may be.  Was this done for the sole purpose of causing trouble or was the meaning lost somehow?  Secondly, the media, merchants and law enforcement may have over reacted at bit.  Why’s that?  Well, if you look at the videos below you will see that there’s little to no media coverage of outrage against the events below. True these events were clearly planned and thought out, there’s just something about jumping at the chance to label a large gathering of young black people as a problem that bothers me.  But of course we can’t let them off for the trouble some people did cause.

So what should we take from this? 

  1. If your going to gather in a large group, know what it is for and if you don’t know, don’t show.  No need to be a sheep following the herd. 
  2. If you are going to be part of a flash mob, make sure you are doing something cool like the people below.  Some of them are stupid but they don’t have the police commissioner and mayor threatening to change curfew laws.
  3. If you are going to organize a flash mob, see #2.

 

 

Battle of the S's ? Sharpton vs. Smiley

Depending how you look at it, first Tavis Smiley went on the Tom Joryner Morning Show and said:


[Source]

to which Rev. Al Sharpton called into the show to respond:


[Source]

and then the two spoke together:

And yet again it continues…

Things like this is the perfect introduction to a future article coming soon.  Stay tuned and ponder what they really are arguing about and how they are representing "us".

Worse than the N word? Ghetto

Growing up up the ghetto I always knew what it felt like to be ostracized.  Times were different than they are now back in the 80's. It wasn't the overtly racist  era of the 50's and 60's but this was definitely before  being black was popular.

Black celebrities weren't as plentiful on TV unless they were athletes.  The Cosby Show was the only "black" show on but stars could be seen in shows like the A-team or Love Boat. And Hip Hop was just starting to blossom.

I remember the first time I realized the negative impact of the word ghetto was on a trip to the beach in Ocean City, MD.  While checking into the hotel with my friends, the woman behind the counter ran down the list of rules.  One of the rules was "No Ghettoblasters". At the time I was confused from never hearing the term before. She explained to me that they were big radios that people in the cities carry around.  We didn't have one so there was no need to worry.  I gave her a funny look and went about my vacation undisturbed.

It wasn't until a few years later when a comedian performed a joke on Comic View did the word take off in mainstream use. I remember hearing people use the term describe the ways we did things to get by in a negative light. Using a hanger for an antenna, drinking Kool Aid, driving an old car or just something different than the accuser became, ghetto.

I wondered why this happening. The I noticed that people thought it was funny but it was a case of people laughing at you not with you.  Those making the joke were too ignorant to the fact that they were making fun of their own culture and themselves. 

As always, the term was picked up by those who understood the use of the term and began to use it with a different meaning.  Once again a word became code for blacks or in this case, the things that black people do.  It is a form of hidden racism and unrealized self hate which does nothing to further our development in the world.

In our hurries attempts to look and act cool, sometimes we create things which appear to enhance but only injure. There's that old lie we tell to children that "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" to help combat teasing but we should be teaching them that some words have hidden meanings and lasting affects. We are made of flesh and bone not rubber, words penetrate deeply.