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Hip-Hop Fridays

It is understandable that many older white Americans would be upset after viewing the new movie "Black and White". It must be quite a shock to learn that your children are heavily under the influence of young Black men and women that fit the description of "hoodlums" according to your worldview. Even conservative Republican John McCain's children are fans of Busta Rhymes and one can only imagine the discussions that go on around the McCain family dinner table in reference to Hip-Hop music.

I saw the movie yesterday and loved it. I must first offer a disclaimer: I co-managed the multi-platinum act Wu-Tang Clan that stars in the movie for two years. Having said that, other than a poorly scripted ending, the movie is a must-see for anyone who is mature enough to handle the violence, cursing and nudity that frequent the movie.

The movie most vividly depicts the race politics that permeate Hip-Hop culture and exposes the double standards that apply in the life of an art-form/industry that creatively is dominated by young Black males. Having been in the music business for nearly 10 years, I can assure you that most of the movie depicts reality for Hip-Hop artists that have reached the upper tier of success in the industry.

Laced with symbolism that may take two viewings to sink in, the movie navigates the influence of Hip-Hop culture from the streets to the recording studio to the sports world and most strikingly into the homes of white suburbia. And it is the impact that the art form/industry is having on white youths that many will be shocked to learn about when they see the movie. But the impact is not exaggerated -- it is real. And I can never express the surprise it was for us, as young brothers in the music industry when we first learned of how many whites in America were buying Hip-Hop music. It was an even greater surprise to learn of our die-hard white fans in Sweden, Germany, Britain and Holland.

The theatre where I saw the film has received several written complaints about the movie. The complaints all centered on the movies supposed racism toward whites. A theatre employee told me that one white male stormed out of the movie disgusted and wanted his money back because he could not believe that a movie could be made where Blacks were so "racist" toward whites. I have even read online discussions where after viewing the movie some are labeling Blacks as fascists. Many whites are outright enraged by the film and others after viewing the film express that their feelings are hurt. Any movie that can generate that kind of reaction has touched a nerve.

What a public service this movie has performed in revealing the harsh realities, cultural dynamics and possible political implications of Hip-Hop culture; implications that an older generation of White America can see very clearly. Implications that it appears are causing a few to have sleepless nights.

I was pleased to see that this week on Hardball, the show's host Chris Matthews had the founder of Def Jam Records, Russell Simmons, on as his guest. It was interesting to see Chris Matthews admit that his children were big fans of Hip-Hop. Russell handled himself extremely well, just about rejecting every point Matthews made. He did so with intelligence and authority. And he seemed to have hit Matthews with a stun gun when he informed him that as many as 80% of hip-hop records sold are being purchased by whites. Matthews, operating from a predictable misconception, was totally disarmed. The white Don King of Beltway politics, for once, was at a loss for words…it was a classic moment in Hip-Hop history.

Brace yourself and go see "Black and White". While you may be offended and upset when you leave, you certainly will learn something...

Cedric Muhammad

Friday, April 14, 2000

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