Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ghetto Fabulous

Time was, people wanted to leave the ghetto. Once upon a time, American ghettos were bottomless pits of hopelessness and danger where nobody in their right mind would choose to remain if they had half a chance of moving somewhere better. And if they did choose to stay, they stayed to try and change the ghetto into something else. Somewhere along the line, record companies started telling people to stop trying -- to wallow and embrace rather than escape or transmute. To keep it real. To internalize the ghetto instead of fighting an uphill battle to transform or escape it.

Record companies didn't create that notion. Rap and Hip Hop didn't even create it; you can find strains of mysogeny and odes to surrender as far back as you're willing to look. Black people who reject the ghetto as it is have always had to face other black people who think they're sell-outs, who say they're trying to be white -- People who think they're not black if they try to move beyond what they think is their station in life. Record companies didn't create that idea, but they did realize it's easier to sell. They did realize depicting the ghetto as a glamorous lifestyle that people should aspire toward would hook more customers.

Maybe to us, every dollar we spend on this stuff may simply mean it had a good beat, but to them, every dollar we spend proves them right. Maybe to us, this is about self esteem. Life on the stoop isn't usually "Boyz n the Hood." Life in the "ghetto" is like life anywhere in a sense: much more good than bad in it if you pay attention. But is it something to aspire to? Unless you have Snoop Dogg's money to throw around, the ghetto can't be all that fabulous. At what point does self esteem end and stagnation begin?

On the positive side, that's not to say this is all that's out there. I'm currently playing this song into the ground. I'll be tired of it by next week:

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