Commercialized Hip Hop: “The Gospel of Self-Destruction”?

Posted on May 18, 2013 by


Or Is it Narcissistic Personality Poison?

By Brother Mxolisi T. Sowell / Ozo-Sowande

Social commentator Dr. Boyce Watkins, Ph. D., has denounced “commercialized hip hop,” calling it “the gospel of self- destruction.” He points out seven threatening and destructive messages that characterize that musical genre and is highly critical of the corporate interests of the country that produce and market that music, as well those who reward the artists with lucrative service (advertisement) contracts and use the negative, stereotypical aspects of the genre to sell their products and indoctrinate the youth, particularly African American youth.

Dr. Boyce Watkins

Dr. Boyce Watkins

Dr. Watkins is also critical of the ineffectiveness of parents, elders and others (teachers, preachers, intellects, celebrities, et al) to address and confront the destructive reality. He minces no words in saying, “We must be stronger than the forces designed to destroy us!”

The seven tenets of commercialized hip hop, recurring themes that serve to advocate and market a certain life (or death) style, presented in hypnotic and suggestive fashion, according to the good doctor, are as follows:
1) Stay high or drunk daily.
2) Have sex (with anything that moves!).
3) Carry a gun; don’t be afraid to use it.
4) Prison — it’s a badge of honor! Be proud; keep it real.
5) Be ignorant and proud of it; don’t be acting white.
6) Never save or invest your money.
7) Never show respect to any woman.

Watkins passionately elaborates on these themes and the impact they are having on our youth, particularly Black boys, in an audio message entitled “Commercialized Hip Hop: The Gospel of Self-Destruction.” He holds that the artists who present these themes are the real “mega-preachers” of Black America, reaching and influencing greater numbers of young people than congregational ministers. As a result, Watkins holds that we are in a life or death situation.

“Before you can correct, you must connect,” is a message Watkins expresses for parents, elders and others who would endeavor to communicate with young people – our children and youth, even the artists themselves — to steer them away from the life/death style that those themes are advocating; to get the artists to use their talents and influences for positive purposes. His essential message is that we must do all we can, at every opportunity, to establish the communication and influence that will allow us to become “stronger than the forces designed to destroy us!”

For artists such as Rick Ross (glorifying date rape drugs), Tyler the Creator (using Black male stereotypes to create a Mountain Dew TV ad), Lil Wayne (sickly using some grossly disrespectful, obscene lyrics comparing the appearance of a woman’s private parts after he has had his way with her to the late Emmitt Till’s grotesquely mutilated face at the hands of racist savages) – and others, Boykins issues the call for conscious and intelligent voices to join him in seeking to get them to stop selling their souls (and ours) through such outrageous garbage; or forcing them to stop by finding the ways to cut off the cash flow that encourages them to spout out their poisonous precipitations.

Narcissistic Personality Poison?
Many “hip hop” entertainers have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), according to Jineea Butler, founder of the Social Services of Hip Hop and the Hip Hop Union. Her theory was later defended, proved and expanded by a New York Times Magazine article stating that entertainers in general suffer from the disorder.

Ms. Jineea Butler

Ms. Jineea Butler

As a hip hop analyst, Ms. Butler has become an expert at investigating the trends and behaviors of the hip hop community and addressing the issues that surrounds what she has coined the ‘Hip Hop Dilemma’ — the common  distasteful physical, emotional and/or mental experience that negatively impacts individuals who are involved in or come in contact with the culture. She has pioneered in encouraging hip hop artists to produce better products and in empowering young consumers to become analysts themselves, to embrace the positive and refrain from the negative embodied in the lyrics of that music.

To the extent that NPD is a factor in hip hop productions, it behooves us to seek some understanding of that condition, its causes and its possible impacts.

Narcissistic personality disorder symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic, may include the following:
• “Believing that you are better than others * Fantasizing about power, success and attractiveness
• Exaggerating your achievements or talents * Expecting constant praise and admiration
• Believing that you’re special and acting accordingly * Failing to recognize other people’s emotions/feelings
• Expecting others to go along with your ideas and plans * Taking advantage of others
• Expressing disdain for those you feel are inferior * Being jealous of others
• Believing that others are jealous of you * Trouble keeping healthy relationships
• Setting unrealistic goals * Being easily hurt and rejected * Having a fragile self-esteem
• Appearing as tough-minded or unemotional.

“. . . Narcissistic personality disorder crosses the border of healthy confidence and self-esteem into thinking so highly of yourself that you put yourself on a pedestal. . . . You often monopolize conversations. . . . You may have a sense of entitlement. And when you don’t receive the special treatment to which you feel entitled, you may become very impatient or angry.

“But underneath all this behavior often lies a fragile self-esteem. You have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have a sense of secret shame and humiliation. And in order to make yourself feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and efforts to belittle the other person to make yourself appear better.”

Is it A Man thing?
“Narcissistic personality disorder is rare (about 1 percent of the population). It affects more men than women. Narcissistic personality disorder often begins in early adulthood. Although some adolescents may seem to have traits of narcissism, this may simply be typical of the age and doesn’t mean they’ll go on to develop narcissistic personality disorder.

“Although the cause of narcissistic personality disorder isn’t known, some researchers think that extreme parenting behaviors, such as neglect or excessive indulgent praise, may be partially responsible.

“Risk factors for narcissistic personality disorder may include:
• Parental disdain for fears and needs expressed during childhood
• Lack of affection and praise during childhood
• Neglect and emotional abuse in childhood
• Excessive praise and overindulgence
• Unpredictable or unreliable caregiving from parents
• Learning manipulative behaviors from parents.

“Children who learn from their parents that vulnerability is unacceptable may lose their ability to empathize with others’ needs. They may also mask their emotional needs with grandiose, egotistical behavior that’s calculated to make them seem emotionally ‘bulletproof.’”

(It seems to this writer, that there is the need to understand the parental shortcomings cited in the Mayo Clinic’s materials, in the context of the devastating values and policies that racist, individualistic, commercial-materialistic American history and culture continues to impose on their lives; and our collective inability and/or unwillingness to become “stronger than the forces designed to destroy us!”)

A Role for the Black Press
Ms. Butler was a participant on a panel at a recent National Newspaper Publishers Association (The Black Press) meeting (mid-March 2013), where the need for the Black press to reach beyond its aging base readership was a primary topic. On that panel, she offered the following:

“Corporations come to the hip hop community and engage us . . . The ‘disconnect’ is that the people that came before us don’t think that we want the information.” She said that the Hip Hop generation not only wants information, but they also desperately need leadership, too, and the Black Press can fill that void. “You guys have got to come teach us . . . You need to show us the way.”

Ben Chavis

Ben Chavis

That panel included Benjamin Chavis, an online educator and long-time activist, who works with many Hip Hop artists. He agreed that publishers, who suffer from an aging readership, need to attract younger readers, many of whom get their news primarily through mobile devices.

“The Hip Hop generation didn’t fall out of the sky,” he said. “They were given birth by this generation. The irony is some of us don’t even recognize or affirm what we gave birth to. We can use our newspapers to reaffirm that recognition and I guarantee that reciprocity can take off.”

Mantras for Black Empowerment
Some of the themes that our newspapers, parents and elders, teachers and preachers, youth and hip hop artists, et al, can use to promote the reciprocity needed are given voice in another of Dr. Watkins’ audio messages (8 Principles of Black Male Empowerment), which are pertinent for empowerment across all lines of distinction in our communities. These themes, which could become the foundations for “positive mantras” living within and strengthening the mind-sets, purposes and determination of our people, male and female, young and not-so-young, are as follows:

1) I believe anything is possible, if I work hard enough to achieve it. (Believe in yourself; let no one/nothing pull you down.)
2) I am a leader, not a follower. (Do not be overcome by the “hip hop tornado.”)
3) I elevate the thinking of those around me. (Through thought, action and courage; the key to my freedom resides in me.)
4) I value education and want to get as much of it as possible. (And use it to help my people and community.)
5) I will make good choices – in all things! (I will take responsibility for my actions and outcomes.)
6) I will always set goals for myself and work to achieve them in spite of setbacks. (Goal-less persons are simply waiting to die and/or indulge in instant gratification!)
7) I will work to elevate myself, my family and my community. (I will not allow capitalism to undermine reciprocity in me nor turn me into a selfish, individualistic being.)
8) I will build wealth and be financially responsible.

In this message, Watkins’ reiterates his admonition, “Before you correct, you must connect.” Further, he admonishes that, “Walking away from education and financial responsibility is to walk right into the hands of slavery.” He issues an emphatic call for all – particularly the “Black intellectuals” – to “come back” to our communities to facilitate the “bailout” of fatherhood, family and community that we unquestionably need.

Finally, we are reminded by Watkins, “Everything has a ripple effect; including doing nothing.”

Ankh, Udja, Seneb!!!

(PS: For more serious food for thought on the subject, read this: “The Secret Meeting that Changed Rap Music and Destroyed A GENERATION” Even if it is fictitious, it is loaded with TRUTH.)