Gotta give it to Democratic presidential contender John Kerry. He knows how to keep it real. In an MTV interview, the host asked, "Well, are there any trends out there in music, or even in popular culture in general that have piqued your interest?"
Kerry said, "Oh, sure. I follow and I'm interested. . . . I'm fascinated by rap and by hip-hop. I think there's a lot of poetry in it. There's a lot of anger, a lot of social energy in it, and I think you'd better listen to it pretty carefully, 'cause it's important."
He dutifully noted that some of it goes too far, you know, like calling for the killing of cops. But, aside from that, Kerry said, "I'm still listening because I know that it's a reflection of the street and it's a reflection of life . . . "
"A reflection of life"?
Take rapper "Ice Cube," one of the founders of the angry rap group Niggaz with Attitude (N.W.A.). Of Cube's "reflection of life," a recent Los Angeles Times profile on him says, " . . . Cube, who graduated from Taft High School in Woodland Hills (where he was bused daily) and attended architecture classes at the Phoenix Institute of Technology in Arizona for a year, came from a loving, working-class home and stayed clear of gangbanging. His mom and dad worked in maintenance and gardening respectively at UCLA." Now he lives in the mean streets of the upper-class Los Angeles suburb of Encino, with his wife of 13 years and their four children. Oh.
Remember Sister Souljah, the rapper criticized by then-1992 presidential candidate Bill Clinton?
After the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Souljah said in a Washington Post story, "If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?....So if you're a gang member and you would normally be killing somebody, why not kill a white person?" Yeah, I guess this is "important" -- especially if you work as a cop.
Someone tell Kerry that the overwhelming purchasers of street "social energy" music consist of white kids, comfortably keeping it real in the suburbs. And as for reflecting life, take a look at some of the rap/hip-hop videos. The jewelry-draped performers often bounce around with barely-dressed, jiggling women. The rappers rap about having sex, getting high or doing drugs -- often with a backdrop of a spacious mansion, equipped with swimming pool and Jacuzzi.
When former Democratic presidential candidate rival Sen. John Edwards considered himself "more electable" because of his humble circumstances, Newsweek wrote, "Kerry admits he never had to deny himself any but the most lavish of material wants. But that's irrelevant to electability, he said. 'It's not the circumstances you come from; it's the values you fight for,' Kerry said."
Again, the senator feels that rap and hip-hop represent "anger" and "social energy," and it's "important" to listen to. How condescending. No, Senator Dawg, the answer to this "anger" and "social energy" is not to feel their pain, but to offer the oh-so-politically-incorrect alternatives. How about urging the disaffected to adopt the appropriate "values" that lead to success? You know, get an education, work hard, avoid making moral mistakes, impose self-discipline, defer gratification, and refrain from bringing a child into the world without the financial, moral and spiritual resources to assume such an awesome responsibility?
Despite "Jiggy Fly" Kerry's respect for "music" that, in some cases, calls women "bitches" and "hos," his message should be: "Hard work wins. You get out of life what you put into it. Avoid making bad moral mistakes. No matter how dire your circumstances, you have a moral obligation to attempt to better yourself. If your home lacks a good role model, seek out a teacher, relative, friend, member of the clergy, or neighborhood youth center or some other charitable or self-help organization."
Meanwhile, "black America" -- despite the "anger" and "social energy" of the rappers/hip-hoppers -- continues to prosper. At $631 billion, the gross domestic product of "black America" places it in the top 16 wealthiest countries in the world. Black homeownership rates reach almost 50 percent, and the 22.7 percent of blacks in poverty in 2001 showed a decline from the 31.9 percent of 1990.
This progress results from good old-fashioned hard work, perseverance, and the adherence to the very values that "Jiggy Fly" Kerry demands of himself. So, Senator, you might think about this the next time you're cruisin' toward Sun Valley, Idaho, in your Chevy SUV while listening to an N.W.A. compact disc.
Just keepin' it real, Senator.