"Sending Black folks in White coats to infiltrate our congregation..."-Scarface
I'm on the treadmill this morning, trying to sweat out all of these toxins I've been indulging in over the last nine days. Unfortunately, the treadmill had a TV on it, which allowed me to partake of yet another toxin in the form of this interview.
Thomas Chatterton Williams is the author of a book called "Losing My Cool." Its a book about how he...eh, let me let his synopsis explain:
Like many young men in America, Thomas Chatterton Williams grew up in awe of Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls, and the parade of bling-bedecked rap stars he saw on Black Entertainment Television. Williams emulated their lifestyle - sporting chains and expensive designer clothes purchased for him by his girlfriends, who were themselves little more than accessories to Williams. He and his friends roamed the streets, maintaining their status by intimidating passersby. In public, Williams lived the thug life exalted in his favorite rap anthems, yet at the end of the day, unlike many of his peers, Williams went home to a haven of learning and intellectualism--a safe, enriching environment filled with literature provided by Williams' father, known as "Pappy".
In LOSING MY COOL: How a Father's Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-Hop Culture (The Penguin Press; May 2010; $24.95), Williams describes how he managed to juggle these two disparate lifestyles--"keeping it real" in his friends' eyes and studying for the SATs under his father's strict tutelage. Pappy grew up in the segregated South and hid in closets so he could read Aesop and Plato. He envisioned for his son a lot in life greater than his own, and encouraged Williams to read and educate himself, and to embrace the opportunities that had not been available to Pappy's generation. As college approached and the stakes of the thug lifestyle escalated, the disparity between Williams' street life and home life threatened to undo him. Ultimately, Williams would have to decide between hip-hop and his future.
Williams is the first of his generation to measure the seductive power of hip-hop against its restrictive worldview, which ultimately leaves those who live it isolated and powerless. LOSING MY COOL portrays the allure and the danger of hip-hop culture like no book has before.
Of course the news is going to want to interview guys like this because it supports the narrow view that they already have of "Hip Hop Culture." They think that its all gold chains, Timbalands, blunts and 40s...when its actually wood necklaces, expensive sneakers, joints and champagne now (I keed, I keed). But still, its obvious that Sir Chatterton's exposure to "Hip Hop" was a limited one and he hasn't bothered listening to paying attention to the last ten years. Dude must have watched BET and MTV, not the actual music videos, but rather the exposes and documentaries they did on "Gangsta Rap" ever so often.
And this shit about him emulating rappers, having women and intimidating passers by? You know what that sounds like to me? It sounds like in the midst of reading his 15,000 books, dude turned the TV on, saw a rap video...took his allowance and bought some Willie Esco and Phat Farm...went downtown...tried calling a woman a bitch to get her attention...got cussed out...ran home and got back into his books.
Now, do I agree that certain elements of Hip Hop can be luring and misleading. Yes, I do. But that doesn't mean that I think that the entire culture is just one thing. That's where common sense and the home-taught, not school-taught analytical skills come into play (Sir Chatterton holds degrees in philosophy and Cultural Reporting and Criticism.
Would I like to see more children get put up on the writings of James Baldwin, Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison? Of course. But don't blame this younger generation lack of knowledge solely on "Hip Hop Culture." Hip Hop Culture isn't firing teachers and closing schools. Hip Hop Culture isn't letting schools deteriorate and become filthy. Hip Hop Culture isn't removing music and P.E. from the schools. Hip Hip Culture isn't making teachers molest students and threaten to give them a failing grade if they don't impregnate them.
The subtitle of his book bothers me as well. "How A Father's Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip Hop Culture."...hell does that mean? My Dad loves me, taught me how to fight, taught me how to love, took me to basketball games, introduced me to different genres of music (including Hip Hop) and even got me into the church...but I wound up spending most of my adult life (so far) writing about Hip Hop. Did Hip Hop culture "defeat" us?
I'm trying to keep this post cool, because I would really like to holler at this cat at his book signing tonight, plus I just informally hit him on twitter. But I'm sorry, this shit is corny. Hopefully actually reading the book and getting to talk to dude himself can change my opinion or look at this differently, but I highly doubt it.
In the spirit of the homie Chuck Creekmur's words on Fox News once. I am one of Hip Hop's biggest supporters...and detractors. Yes, there are plenty of things in this (pop) culture we call Hip Hop that bothers me. But I also know that there are wonderful things about it that still exist.
Emulating what you see on TV for a few minutes and getting in trouble for it can not be blamed on Hip Hop. Though its obvious that certain images and music get spread through the mainstream more, you can't sit here and take a blind eyed approach to an entire culture. If you emulated what you see in a 'Pac and Biggie video, but chose to turn the TV off when The Fugees or Goodie Mob came on, that's on you player.
But yeah, Williams will be speaking at Decatur Library Auditorium (215 Sycamore Street, Decatur, GA 30030) tonight at 7:15. Its right across from the street from the Decatur MARTA Station. Fall through.