Tuesday, December 28, 2010
I recently just finished reading a book by Jay-Z called Decoded. In it he breaks down the lyrics of many of his hit songs and his motivations for writing the rhymes he does. I absolutely flew through this book and it made me realize something. For as much as hip-hop music and culture is infused throughout American culture, it generally is ignored as an art form. The artists who perform are looked at as thugs who just throw words together that rhyme and typically are disrespectful to women. While there are some artists who use it irresponsibly, there are artists who are socially conscious and take great pride and painstaking detail to their craft.
I think what bothers me most with those who bash the entire culture is that other artistic expressions are given the benefit of doubt to use their art to maybe exaggerate to get a point across. In Robert Rodriguez films the protagonist usually lays a swath of destruction from here to Tijuana yet if one rapper makes an exaggerated claim it’s taken as one hundred percent truth. If Eminem says he’s going to kill someone he must be telling the truth, he can’t possibly be trying to convey a sense of anger that we all have had at one point in our lives right?
Classic literary figures have used profanity to get points across for years, yet once again rappers are held to such a high standard for some reason that they aren’t given the same luxury. It seems to me that people are so busy listening FOR words that they miss the point the overall piece is trying to make. For instance, I once played a song called ‘This can’t be life’ by Jay-Z and there is the use of violent imagery in the song. They used that to mean there can be no depth to the song at all. What they missed was it was the story of a young hustler looking at his options if he failed to make it in the music industry. As Jay-Z said: “It’s all white noise to them till they hear a ‘bitch’ or a ‘nigga’ and then they run off yelling ‘See!’ and feel vindicated in their narrow conception of what the music is all about. But that would be like listening to Maya Angelou and ignoring everything until you heard her drop a line about drinking or sleeping with someone’s husband and then dismissing her as an alcoholic adulterer.”
I’m not saying you have to love hip-hop, you have the right to dislike it as just not your taste. But to paint such a rich and ever changing culture as just pimping, thugging, and profanity is downright criminal. Do your homework, respect the culture. That’s all this hip-hop head is asking.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
I hear people say all the time that sports is devoid of heroes. And with the news being filled with spoiled basketball players spurning hometown, football players accused of domestic assault and countless examples of steroid use in both baseball and track I can see where people are coming from when they draw these conclusions. But maybe the problem is we’re looking in the wrong places. Humor me for a moment, instead of looking on the playing fields perhaps we should be looking at the sidelines for someone who we consider a hero.
Up until Saturday evening Miami or “The U” as it has been called had a man of integrity, honor, and most importantly a man who taught boys how to become men. This man was Randy Shannon. To understand how remarkable the turnaround was at Miami you need to know what the U was like before his arrival. There were numerous reports of a pay for play scheme with the esteemed lyricist Luther Campbell of the 2 Live Crew, (seriously look up some of his lyrics, it may not be safe for work though,) rampant drug use, and countless arrests. This team based its image on having a team full of young thugs who were brash and tougher than anyone you could throw on the field.
But being tough has nothing to do with being a thug or a criminal.
Shannon is as tough as they come and has never been arrested. You see here’s a guy who’s father was murdered when he was three. Here’s a guy who saw his older twin brothers become addicted to crack cocaine when he was ten. Here’s a guy who saw AIDS ravage and take away his sister but also his brothers. Yet he forged on. He steered clear of the negative effects of his environment and graduated from high school and went on to the University of Miami where he not only excelled on the field, he excelled in the classroom. After all of the roadblocks that would cause a normal person to break down and give up not only did he not relent he used it as fuel to become a National Champion and a college graduate.
But Randy Shannon didn’t stop there; he began his coaching career as a graduate assistant. Literally the lowest level outside of volunteering to coach pee-wee athletics a coach can get and a mere 7 years later he worked himself to be an assistant coach for the Miami Dolphins. But his heart remained at the University of Miami. After returning there as defensive coordinator he began the great turnaround.
You see Shannon broke rule number one of college athletics that they don’t want you to know about. You see he valued his kids education and character more than he valued wins. In his time as head coach his team finished third in graduation rate behind the Army and Naval academies. Not too shabby. Arrests under Shannon were virtually non existent with only one player getting arrested. He taught his players the value of getting an education and acting like men. Unfortunately for Shannon the NCAA doesn’t care about creating a culture of scholars and gentlemen, it prefers its culture of ex-cons with multiple championships.