- Category: Commentaries
- Written by Bryan Birch
I don’t know when it officially began. There was no ceremony, no bells or whistles, there was no parade and certainly no vote by the masses (but if there was, it was more rigged than Florida’s in 2000 and more corrupt than Kenya’s in 2007). The only evidence was one man’s (self) declaration.
While putting out a mixtape after mixtape he stayed hot in the streets to those who already knew him, and was able to intrigue those hadn’t heard much of his earlier work. With a steady stream of his music being played, the stage was set for his 2008 release of The Carter III . The album went platinum in its’ first week, which is almost unheard of these days, and it was well received by critics, peers and fans alike. The album was named the third best album of the year by Rolling Stone magazine, Lollipop was named one of the top singles, and despite his mediocre stage presence he performed at awards show after awards show.
I never bought into the hype. I’ll admit that he has maximized whatever talent he has, and that to his credit, he worked very hard to do so. I don’t think that should have made him the greatest hip hop artist alive in anybody’s eyes, but somehow it did. After months of sold out shows, and Grammy awards and getting both Nivea Hamilton and Lauren London pregnant, there’s little doubt that Lil Wayne felt on top of the world, invincible even.
I doubt that these are the only factors to what comes next, but they were certainly part of the equation. With his rock album getting constantly delayed by the label, Drake taking a lot of the shine away from him in the Young Money crew, Lil Wayne didn’t seem like as much as much of a hot commodity as he did a year ago. Enter his new song featuring Dem Franchise Boys, “Whip it Like a Slave.” Yes, you read that correctly.
Insulting doesn’t even begin to describe this song. Not just insulting to the listener, but really to everybody involved. The implication that making and selling crack is somehow on par with the suffering of millions of our ancestors who were brutalized and dehumanized for hundreds of years is beyond shocking and irresponsible. The fact that this song was written doesn’t say anything positive about Lil Wayne or Dem Franchize Boyz, at this point, that’s a given. But what does it say to society, specifically, the international African community that this song has been tolerated and accepted?
With the wide number of media outlets available at this time and point, it is certainly easier than it ever has been to have one person say something that gets broadcasted to large numbers of people, whether it’s supported or not. What’s really troubling about this song is that, Lil Wayne is not some small time person making a stupid comment. He’s a major recording artist on a major label, who is the so called “hottest rapper alive”. While I don’t expect the label to interject as this black man makes a coon out of himself, one would hope that at some point, someone, anyone around him would have talked him out of his belief that recording and releasing this song was a good idea.
Since Lil Wayne has been so widely accepted by (particularly) young black people, it’s not surprising, but still very disappointing that this song hasn’t caused a larger upheaval by the masses. Songs like this marginalize the black experience an black people as a whole. Overtime, it gets harder and harder to understand and appreciate how hard black people not just in America, all over the world have had it. It’s difficult for a lot of young people to grasp the hardships involved in the fight for civil rights, or how invaluable a black person’s life was during the Jim Crow era. As a result, trying to make them comprehend the widespread hate, disrespect, and overall dehumanization of black people during the Trans- Atlantic slave trade seems impossible. But it isn’t. However it is made more and more difficult when statements like those made in this song are flung about recklessly to appeal to the very people it should be revolting.
Currently, I’m reading The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill, and it is a fantastically written book. The story is excellent, well researched and everything you could ask for, but the imagery, is so vivid and haunting, in transports you to a different time and place where you almost feel too close to the scenery to be considered safe. Historical fiction books such as this, coupled with real life slave narratives such as those by Fredrick Douglass and William Wells Brown, paint a true picture of the black experience when the words whips and salve are involved. It’s not to say that all music should be socially and morally responsible, because different people will of course have different views. However, if this song were written by Eminem, Rush Limbaugh or any white person with a microphone in their hand, they would be called an enemy of black people and boycotted until eternity, or until it stopped making headlines. Poison, no matter who doses it out, kills and this song is pure hydrochloric acid to anyone with even a shred compassion for those whose lives were stolen from them from the time they were brought into this world until the time that they left it.
The Lil Wayne era was ushered in with great anticipation and fanfare, but after hearing “Whip it like a Slave” I hope it ends abruptly and with an equal amount of jeering. Though such a result is unlikely, I do at least hope that those who listen to the song, do not ingest its’ content. I know that everyone loves to hide behind free speech when they say something insulting, but responsibility and accountability do not diminish the value of free speech, they actually enhance it. So now that Lil’ Wayne has said what he has to say, I do hope that his fans and supporters will hold him accountable for it and let him know that his speech though free to be spoken, has long lasting and expensive consequences on our collective history, and he does not deserve he right to speak on our behalf.