Rap, Race and Respectability Politics

What is going on with rappers and their narrow views of racism?
Here is a snippet of the some views over the few months or so.

KANYE WEST
“Racism is a dated concept. It’s like a silly concept that people try to touch on … to separate, to alienate, to pinpoint anything, it’s stupid. … It’s something that was used to hold people back in the past, but now there’s been so many leaps and breaking of the rules that it’s played out, like a style from the 1800s.”

PHARELL
“The New Black doesn’t blame other races for our issues. The New Black dreams and realizes that it’s not a pigmentation; it’s a mentality. And it’s either going to work for you, or it’s going to work against you. And you’ve got to pick the side you’re gonna be on.”

KENDRICK
“I wish somebody would look in our neighborhood knowing that it’s already a situation, mentally, where it’s f—ked up. What happened to [Michael Brown] should’ve never happened. Never. But when we don’t have respect for ourselves, how do we expect them to respect us? It starts from within. Don’t start with just a rally, don’t start from looting — it starts from within.”

COMMON
Black people should “extend a hand of love” to white people to remedy racism in our country.

I can’t help but to note that all these commentators having embraced financial success all of a sudden have forgotten that racism is institutional and systemic. Of course it’s easy to take these statements out of context, but really guys?

Tell me Kanye, how can you honestly think that racism used to hold people back. Used to? It still happens every day. Not just to blacks but across the board.

Pharell, and his whole concept of new black is bollocks. Take that money away from you that you are reserving for your court case and drop your behind in Ferguson, Missouri and see if it is about picking a side.

Kendrick, well I am confused because you started with the them and us. To be fair maybe some of that chat was about promoting his album but I still think he’s off the mark. Them and Us? Really dude.

Common just needs to drink some coffee. Starbucks.

I guess there are those who suggest that unlike figures of the past maybe it’s not the best idea to look at rappers for some balanced commentary on racial politics. And if you do maybe we should just stick with J Cole, Talib, and Immortal Technique, as it would seem the others have such a long way to go.

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