I was in Detroit at a function that I thought was supposed to be fashion show. It ended up being a little more “hoodish” than I expected and played much of the music you all produce. Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, and many more of your colleagues of the genre were the dominant music selections of the evening. Most of this music I had heard before but admittedly this music is not my first choice. I am more a fan of jazz, old school, gospel, and funk…but we all have our preferences.
They had technology that allowed the DJ to display the video of the song being played in a huge video projected on the wall of the club. What I saw in the videos was very interesting to me because it had been years since I watched music videos. (Here is where you can feel free to call me a cornball if you haven’t done so already. I am no longer “up on it”!) There were men wearing gold teeth, dreads, wearing sun glasses in the dark, sagging pants, wife beaters, heavy tattoos, and they were all bouncing around. The women who were being groped by the men were wearing tight outfits and many were hardly wearing much of an outfit at all. They were all bouncing around in a form I really wouldn’t call dancing but…bouncing. Most of the videos had individuals flashing money, “flossing” jewelry, women dancing seductively on men, and a few videos had a few demonstrating their prowess in the illegal drug selling industry. Again…this was very interesting. I must have stood there watching videos in my own world for at least 30 minutes. If a bomb blew up I wouldn’t have noticed because I was so intrigued at what I was seeing.
When I came out from my daze of amazement, I realized I wasn’t being polite to or attentive of my friends who I came to the club with so I started looking around for them. They had long since walked away from me as I was not the most fun to hang with that night being so consumed in the videos. However, as I scanned the crowd for my friends at the club I noticed something that was even more amazing to me. All I had been watching on the videos was being played out EXACTLY as it was by those who were at the club. There were men wearing gold teeth, dreads, wearing sun glasses in the dark, sagging pants, wife beaters, heavy tattoos, and they were all bouncing around. The women who were being groped by the men were wearing tight outfits. They were all bouncing around in a form that I really wouldn’t call dancing but…bouncing. It was amazing! Life was truly imitating art. Now it felt more like being in an anthropology study than having a night out with friends (here is another time you can feel free to call me corny if you haven’t done so multiple times already or if you are even still reading up to this point).
An even more interesting part was the actions that were almost perfectly correlated with the music. Let me demonstrate…
Below are the lyrics of a song entitled “I’m On One” by DJ Khaled which received a positive response.
“All I care about is money and the city that I’m from
I’ma sip until I feel it, I’ma smoke it till it’s done
And I don’t really give a f#$k, and my excuse is that I’m young
And I’m only getting older so somebody shoulda told ya”
They played this song twice and both times I would immediately smell weed in the air being smoked.
Check out a sample of the lyrics of a song played while I looked onward entitled “Blowin Money Fast” by one of your colleagues Rick Ross.
“Look at it this way you ni$$az side ways
Always getting money my ni$$az time pace
So f$#k a ni$$a I’m self made
You a sucka ni$$a I’m self paid
This for my broke ni$$as This for my rich ni$$as
Got a hundred on a head of a snitch ni$$a”
As I listened to these lyrics I noticed the men in the crowd looked very angry and soon as this song started the DJ announced some young man was buying free shots of expensive liquor at the bar for all women who asked.
There was another song that ignited an even more amazing response from the crowd. That was a song by one of your colleagues Wale entitled “Make it Rain”. Check out some of these lyrics.
“Imma make it rain
Straight shots don’t toast champagne
That K O D a lil bit of change
And these broads all know my name hold up
Imma make it rain
Straight shots don’t toast champagne
Magic city a lil bit of change”
When the crowd heard this music they did much of the same things they did upon hearing the song by Rick Ross. They would look angry and purchase free shots of expensive liquor at the bar for the women. However, a few of the young men (I say young but I am 34 and many looked older than me so I guess I am attributing their actions to their age) started to throw money up into the air and made it rain dollars all around the club. If a girl was dancing seductively on the floor they would ball up dollar bills and throw money in the air over her so the dollars would fall on and all around her. This was the most amazing thing I had seen in all of my life! I actually knew one of the young men who threw money into the air and know for a fact that he still lives home with his mother, was searching for a job, and was taking a “break” from finishing college at the moment (he is older than I am).
At that time I did what any self-respecting, dignified, financial expert, national media analyst, entrepreneur would do…I started picking up dollars! That’s right…if a dollar came in my area it went into my wallet! I got over $20 that night…4x the amount I paid as a cover charge to enter. I never looked at hanging out as a potential profit generating or investment opportunity but there aren’t too many places in the market these days that can generate a 300% return in less than 90 minutes.
Nonetheless, after the excitement of the free money…I realized who was throwing it and the thoughts in my head made me depressed. Residents of MY HOMETOWN were throwing their money into the air as if it had no value. They were acting in the exact same manner as the irresponsible people I was watching on the video. Most were Black…and the unemployment rate of Blacks in Detroit is as high as 40%. Can they really afford to throw this money into the air? Women in MY HOMETOWN, who are supposed to be demanding respect, were on the floor shaking their backsides in order for men to throw money at them in the most disrespectful manner I had ever seen. Does this action have anything to do with the literacy rate of Detroit being at a staggering 47%? I can read a Spanish book better than almost half of my hometown can read an English book. How can you get a job if you can’t read?
Rap artists…I don’t blame you for everything. Bottom line is the revolution begins in the home and it isn’t your job to raise our children. However, the actions that I saw in the club that night were in a direct response to the images and words that you portray in your videos and music. With all of your lyrics you use to glorify incarceration as a badge of honor, is there at least a small part of you that can admit you could be the reason Blacks are 13% of the US population but almost 40% of the prison population. The parents need to do a better job…I certainly agree…but can’t we help them out a little?
I am an idealist but I am also a realist. There is no way, at least anytime soon, that I will be able to get you all to change your lyrics which I truly believe are abusive, irresponsible, and attribute in part to what is wrong in our communities. However, I am a solution oriented person who believes in working things out in a way all parties involved can get something.
MY SOLUTION FOR RAPPERS FOR COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT
I have a way that will allow you to not only continue to make money, but also make a difference in the community. This solution will not require you to spend a dollar or change anything on your tour but will require a minimal amount of time that I promise won’t be much at all. Since you go on tours frequently promoting your music, allow my nonprofit to “shadow” your tour stops providing economic empowerment workshops for your fan base.
Here is how it would work. Let’s say you have Friday concert in Miami. On the Thursday evening before your concert I will provide an economic empowerment workshop in the hotel in which you will be staying (most hotels have large rooms that host conventions and if they don’t we can select a space nearby). I would do the all of the planning and bring together a panel of local experts that will address the needs of the local community which are your fans. This panel would address tangible empowerment in the areas of financial literacy, education, employment, and incarceration. These experts will not only provide tangible solutions, but because they are local they will be able to become a resource for your fans to be used for empowerment after we have left the city.
Where you come in is we get to use your name to promote the tour and get people to attend. I am on CNN and CNBC frequently, but I make no false assumption that my name will get as large of a draw as a prominent rap artist in this demographic. All you would have to do is make an appearance to talk to the crowd for a few minutes and perhaps sign a few autographs. It will be up to the panel to empower your fan base. We would appreciate it if you would offer a few free backstage VIP passes to a few attendees as a prize for listening to give them a little extra incentive to come out and learn something.
You wouldn’t have to pay a dime because with your name and draw there wouldn’t be major bank in the country who wouldn’t want to sponsor this initiative. I have a large network of banking institutions and foundations so funding this would be very easy for me. We might even be able to put a few thousand dollars in your pocket in appreciation for each city that you open up to this initiative.
How do you benefit? This initiative would be PR gold for you. Your name would be associated to something positive that would lead to the empowerment of your fan base. It is needed and would make a large impact on thousands who would never have sought out opportunities or empowering information of this sort. However, I recognize that you are a savvy business person so here are some additional benefits:
· You would build a stronger brand and recognition with those financial institutions in our network that are most interested in sponsoring events that build financial awareness (Bank of America, Chase, Citigroup, etc.). Your broad outreach will prove to be a major interest to those financial institutions who would like to tap into your target demographic as potential clients and an empowerment tour such as this would improve Wall Street’s image to the American people and the world.
· You will be provided access to our global multimedia networks to discuss your empowerment work in the community (CNN, Money Magazine, Fortune, Black Enterprise, BET, etc.). My network encompasses viewers and readers throughout the world who are interested in refreshing, human interest stories about artists making a change in their community. I look forward to the opportunity of setting up a few interviews for you…I have worked with many producers at CNN, CNBC, BET, Black Enterprise, to name a few that would jump at a chance to publicize this story. Let me be your PR agent!
· Participation in this initiative could generate an additional stream of residual income for you as a public speaker. As a known figure with an already established brand, you would be able to demand higher fees as a speaker and book more speaking engagements. I charge $6,000 per workshop…your fees would start out as almost triple that figure due to your high demand. Imagine making almost $20,000 in one hour by talking to a group of college youth or at a professional convention. I would gladly assist you in opening doors to grow your opportunities in this regard.
· The curriculum being taught in the programs will be invaluable to individuals who understand they must soon begin to think about ways to maximize their earnings in the most productive manner for themselves, family, AND their community. Let me educate you about a life outside of music so the money you have earned can be used to benefit others in your community and will last for generations empowering your childrens’ children.
Again…I am an idealist but also a realist so if you are one of the few artists who did read this entire piece, let’s work together. For those who didn’t get to the end, I pray this gets into the hands of someone who knows what to do with this information be it an agent, manager, friend, or concerned citizen like me. Although I truly believe the message in your music is destructive…I am not judging you as person, nor do I believe that you would listen to any requests of me asking you to stop your means of making money. You have influence and a heavy persuasion on the community; all I am asking you to do is to complement what you are doing with something positive to make a much needed change for the community. I don’t have the reach you do…very few people do. Although I disagree with Tupac’s “Thug Life” mentality I must acknowledge that it was tempered with social consciousness. He seemed to have been on the verge of starting an economic movement within his fan base but was taken from us too soon to see anything come to fruition. Let’s pick up where he left off. All you need to do is say two letters…OK. I hope to hear from you soon.