BY JEANETTE LENOIR
The spectacle that is Tekashi 6ix9ine can only be described as disturbing. And, like the manifestation of Donald Trump, we have no one else to blame but our American worship culture. Similar to Rock and Roll, Jazz and many other musical inventions, Hip-Hop and rap was birthed by African American culture. The days when we saw black artists express themselves by rapping to tell stories of their experience in a country hostile to their humanity are long gone. From Vanilla Ice, Eminem, Iggy Azalea, Cardi B, Machine Gun Kelly to the grotesque Tekashi69, it’s evident Hip-Hop is forever changed. Today, any knucklehead from the richest neighborhoods, or a strip club dance pole can spray paint themselves with tattoos, don the typical rap gear and spit rhymes about the mean streets they called home, how tough and strong they are, how quickly they’ll shoot you in the face with an AK or Glock, and of course, how many “bitches” or “nigga’s” they got. Oh, and they’re all so incredibly rich that they use stacks of bills to make phone calls nowadays. Even if none of it is true.
What started out as a movement to talk about the struggles of black lives in America following the assassinations of black leaders like Malcolm X and MLK, has turned into what the rainbow pendejo exposed on Instagram Live. The Hip-Hop and rap movement has been derailed and the message hijacked by get rich quick schemes and soft porn stars that even corrupted the ones at the head of it all. Because enough money, sex and notoriety will make you give up just about anything.
As detested as Tekashi is for snitching on his fellow gang members, it didn’t stop millions of people from tuning in to his clown show to brag about his riches, and grossly flaunting the white privilege he’s loaning from the feds for his cooperation. All while boosting about getting away with murder, similar to the Klan in their hay day when they were systematically acquitted for lynching black people, burning their homes and terrorizing them from sea to shiny sea. Time and circumstance are the only difference between the two. Listen closely to the words Tekashi spews while using easy women and cheap sex tricks to gloat about getting away with behaviors no black artist or regular black folks could ever get away with.
Entering his stage with a classic Bob Marley song that turned into the theme song for the TV show Cops, featuring the arrests of mostly black people, Tekashi, flashing his expensive watches and gnashing his horse teeth bedazzled with diamonds and gold yells, “You can never do this! You can neva!” And, he’s absolutely right. Black people in similar positions can never do that. Just ask Meek Mills who learned real quick that his punishment for violating his parole would not only be swift and extreme, but it would be served piping hot by a black judge, the Honorable Genece Brinkley, who clearly had an ax to grind and to prove her loyalty like Stephen in Django Unchained. And, Mills is only one example of a long list of disproportionate punishment doled out by law enforcement.
We, The People, share very different experiences in America. And despite how cringe-worthy that reality is, that’s the harsh truth of the matter when it comes to black people. The callous killing of Ahmaud Arbery—considered a “justifiable homicide” by the local DA—is a prime example of the different lives we still live in a country that owes its glory and might to the black enslaved bodies that planted and picked crops, that help build a nation, including the White House, to amass incredible wealth and privilege only few enjoy.
“You’re a little boy. I’ll kiss you on your forehead. Sit down,” he goes on, waking up the dead with words long gone slaves and oppressed Jim Crow era black people had to bitterly swallow as they watched their country take pride in enacting the 13th amendment, all while leaving them empty-handed, and demanding they compete in an unequal game of life and the pursuit of liberty. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, boy! Sure, but you stole my boots and put thorns on the road you want me to walk on.
Inhumane doesn’t even scratch the surface of this long-standing injustice. And, the term “boy” is a hideous racist stain for black Americans, as its roots are deeply embedded in the unrepentant diminishments of our humanity. Nonetheless, millions, including Hip-Hop celebrities, tuned in to witness Tekashi behave badly. And, he’s worshiped for it, especially by our younger generation, many of whom seemingly only interested in the culture of debauchery. He’s used as a tool to sell our Hip-Hop in a market that devalues our culture and detests our existence. And, we take front row seats in support of it all. Snitches get stitches, they say. Sure, only if you’re black. Tekashi is being protected by the feds like the pope, despite his criminal behavior. And, as a gift for helping ensnare more black men who were being criminals right alongside him. Justice is not blind, it’s stupid and hateful.
That’s the only reason Tekashi can proudly disrespect black music and culture. He’s babysat by a legal system that will pay any price to keep us cemented in our societal place as second-class citizens. If you didn’t feel the sting of Tekashi, you’re not paying attention to the unwavering trajectory of our American culture. A culture that refuses to recognize how our painful history has shaped us, how it continues to inhibit our growth, hear our cries for real freedom, and call to equally benefit from our country’s prosperity.
Let me be clear. I love my country and the ideals good people from all walks of life are steadily working towards. All I’m crowing about is recognition of the ugly truths of our black lives and circumstances, and to demand change. And, that my country love me back. Not through lip service but by way of sincere actions that will ultimately bring about the equality some white people are so deathly afraid of. Paving the way with diamonds and gold for the likes of Tekashi6ix9ine and his middle finger is painfully symbolic of the unwavering disdain for us, our Hip-Hop culture and rightful claim to America.
Nevertheless, and despite all the disrespect we still endure, we must maintain a firm grip to the mighty spirit and words Maya Angelou left us with: “Out of the huts of history’s shame, I rise. Up from a past that’s rooted in pain, I rise. I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide, Welling and swelling I bear in the tide. Leaving behind nights of terror and fear, I rise. Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear, I rise. Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise, I rise, I rise.” Marching on, black people will continue to rise, guided by the lessons of W.E.B. Du Bois to avoid the temptation to hate, despair and doubt, we shall overcome.