I’m a hip-hop head. On any given evening after work, I turn on my rap playlist on my ipod and instantly become gangsta. On my commute home, blasting my music, and reciting lyrics- I am murdering cats; I am a dope boy; I’m balling out in my Lambo just living the life. Then I get home, put my car in park, turn off my ipod, and return to normal. It is easy for some to compartmentalize rap music as just entertainment. However, it becomes the demise of a community when it is the most desired lifestyle because it lacks true substance. It is even sadder when these rap artists are so confused on who they are they feel they need to portray drug lords to have a viable market and street credentials in the black community. I have called it the “Big Meech, Larry Hoover” Complex.
Though I an not a black man, I have had lifetime court side seats, and I am the loudest cheerleader, supporter, endorser and sponsor for Black Men. And from that standpoint, collectively, black men are lost and confused -some, most…not all. They are trying to define themselves though socioeconomic status, religion, sex, and sexuality. They have no idea what their role is in their family, community and society which is understandable because it is not like there are millions of examples running around. And while black women are not far behind, I think there are more positive examples of black womanhood than black manhood.
So exactly what is the standard of excellence for black men? Well, it varies. There is not one definition of success for it can be achieved and measured a thousand different ways. The focus should more be on setting a clear standard for failure- the denying of true self, circumstances, values and mores to mimic those images selectively dispersed through media for validation, economic gain, and/or achieve a certain status. The face of what it means to be black and a man is vast; however there should be a collective agreement that black manhood will no longer hold the connotations of one that neglects his responsibility to his education, his family and children, his community and ultimately his respective betterment.
And while there is nothing wrong to have aspirations to be a hip hop artist, I would like to see more of young black boys say they want to be next Kanye, Common, Lupe, or Mos Def- those that are true to both the art and their own stories. Then maybe we can raise the next generation to appreciate who they are and thus define the roles they play in their families and communities. Then they may even to aspire to be teachers, doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and be the catalyst needed to change not only the images of black men portrayed in media but also globally redefine what it means to be a black man.