Tuesday, February 26, 2008

::Mr. Combs, you ARE the weakest link::

I know that phrase is cliche and played as hell, but it so applies in this situation. If felt like I was having a lobotomy Monday night as I watched him struggle through his performance during the made-for-TV production of Lorraine Hansberry's classic Rasin In the Sun. Phylicia Rashad was phenomenal. Sanaa Lathan and Audra McDonald were great. But Puff just couldn't get into character. One of the things I found disturbing was that he didn't dispose of his ostensible New York accent. It reminded me of RZA in American Gangster. Even though it was nails-on-a-chalkboard painful, there was immense irony in how he actually fit the role of Walter Lee Younger. There are so many parallels between his cultural role in Hip-Hop and the fictional character of Mr. Younger.

The moment of truth for Walter Lee was that of making the decision of using his deceased father's life insurance policy to purchase a spacious house in the sprawling suburbs for him and his extended family currently living in a cramped, sordid tenement apartment in a 1950s Chicago ghetto...or following a pipe dream of opening up a liquor store in that very same ghetto with a friend (Bill Nunn a.k.a. Radio Raheem) and making a killing.

"Think big. Invest big. Gamble big; hell, even lose big if you have to."

Against the instruction of his mother, who had jurisdiction over the money, Walter Lee neglects his fiduciary responsibility and funnels the money into his liquor store, which was a failed project before it even materialized. In a similar twist, Puffy, using what was was bequeathed to pop culture by musicians of yesteryear (i.e., songs), essentially spearheaded the movement of the accelerated pimping and bastardization of Hip-Hop culture in 1994 by relegating those songs to mere samples. No stone was left unturned in the process. Puff even sampled Public Enemy, a pro-Black Hip-Hop group, for his own cut "P.E. 2000."

The liquor store in the Black community is symbolic for feeding depression and anxiety with anesthesia. Instead of cultivating messages that would potentially empower the at-risk Black youth his music both depicted and targeted, he chose to issue ramped up messages of braggadocio, excessive materialism, narcissism, Black-on-Black crime, involvement in illegal narcotics, sexism, and misogyny. All the very elements which are counterproductive to the Black community at-large. In short, Puff chose to build a liquor store instead of investing in a house...just like Walter Lee.

Author and sociologist Thomas M. Shapiro once wrote that homeownership is the most important way for families to accumulate wealth. Especially Black families. It is a gateway to better schools and neighborhoods. Land also has the best potential for appreciation. Not 24" rims and diamond-encrusted platinum chains.

Though at the time of Hansberry's play, redlining and other racially biased social practices prevented Blacks from moving into white neighborhoods. In 2006, the Census Bureau reported that 48% of African-Americans owned their own homes. I'm sure that in 1959, when Hansberry's play debuted on Broadway, the rate of African-American home ownership was probably less than 15%.

But ten years later, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 sought to remedy that. But being that it didn't solve the issue of inequality in salaries and earnings between whites and Blacks, it did nothing but put a band aid on a festering sore. And being that the real estate market has been in steady decline for the past year and a half, I'm not sure home ownership rates for ANY race or ethnicity is getting better. But I digress...
Lorraine Hansberry must be rolling in her grave. Nah...she's probably rolled all the way to the front gate of the cemetery by now.
Diddy...you officially suck.

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