This article, written by Minista Paul Scott is one of the best analyses of the rise of Waka Flocka Flame and the use of minstrels as models for Black boys. His blog can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/2d3jqnj
::Waka Flocka Flame: Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader::
"All my brothers eatin' chicken and watermelon, talk broken English and drug sellin'"
My Philosophy-Boogie Down Productions
Last night, during the premier of the Hip Hop version of "Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader," 24 year old Waka Flocka Flame, went up against nine year old up and coming rapper, Willow Smith. However, the show ended, abruptly when during the introductions, the host asked Flaka how many years he had been rappin'. After counting on his fingers for several seconds, a puzzled Flame stormed off stage, cussin' at the audience and accusing the host of asking him a trick question...
Waka Flocka Flame is, undoubtedly, one of the hottest artists in Hip Hop, right now. You cannot turn on any Hip Hop radio station in the world and not hear one of his songs blastin' through the speakers. However, what is making Waka most famous these days is not his music but his interviews. Grandma used to tell me that it is better to keep silent and be thought a dummy, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. Apparently, Flocka didn't get the memo.
On a recent episode of BET's 106 and Park, the host, Terrence J asked him about education and Flame responded by saying that he was going back to school to study "geometry." Later when the other host, Roxie asked him about politics, the boy genius said in classic Captain Caveman fashion "oonga boonga...votin' cool."
What is most disturbing, however, is the follow up interview that he gave on a radio station where he suggested that " Waka Flocka Flame" was just a character that he created in order to relate to the boys in tha hood. So my issue is not really with Juaquin Malphurs, the product of the American mis-educational system, but with his alter ego, Waka Flocka Flame that is being used by the industry to make being dumb, cool. A classic case of "I'm not really an idiot, I just play one on TV..."
The popularity of black folks actin' the fool has its roots in the mid 1800's with the black face minstrel performances. In the book, "Split Image: African Americans in the Mass Media," (Janet Davis and William Barlow) historian William Van Deburg is quoted as saying that in a time when many whites feared slave insurrections "the early slave image offered white audiences a comforting , psychological reassurance." He writes that "such intellectually inferior clowns posed little threat to white hegemony."
Such as it is today with black rappers in black face like Waka Flocka , who, despite all the hood talk are only a threat to the residents of the hood and not the socio-economic well being of those in the suburbs.
What is most disturbing about Waka is that he plays into the hands of those who still believe that black folks are more "Straight Out the Jungle" than "Straight Out of Compton." It must be remembered that barely a hundred years ago, African people were being locked up in monkey cages at zoos and forced to perform for white folks. According to Dr. Harriet Washington in her book, "Medical Apartheid," around 1903, a missionary explorer, Samuel Phillips Lerner, captured Ota Benga, an African "pygmy" and gave him to William Hornaday to put on exhibit in the Bronx Zoo. However, in 2010 they have stopped putting black men in cages but place them on stages.
To hear Malphurs tell it, the Flaka Flame character just represents the collective mentality of young urban males who have been victimized by society and he is only using rap music to express their collective point of view. Anyone who knows anything thing about Hip Hop history will tell you that that is a bunch of bull.
Back in the early 80's during the Reagan Era ,when times were ,arguably, socio-economically worst for black folks, rappers like the Treacherous Three and Funky Four Plus One More , expressed themselves very articulately, despite coming from conditions that were worst than those faced by the multi-millionaire rappers of today. We must ask ourselves why do the rappers of the 80's who were teenagers in the Reagan- Bush Era sound more intelligent than grown men in their 20's and 30's in the age of Obama? Just compare the lyrics of a young Kool Moe D or Grandmaster Caz with the ramblings of Waka Flocka or Gucci Mane. So the "product of my environment" excuse just doesn't fly in the face of facts.
What we have is the mass marketing of ignorance, a classic case of supply and demand. There are people who want to see black buffoonery and an industry more than happy to give it to them in large doses.
As we enter into an era where some people are trying to "turn back the clock" on African American progress, the actions of Waka Flocka Flame cannot be viewed in a political vacuum. In a time when many people want to put us back on the plantation we don't need rappers to supply the lyrical whips to beat us into submission.
So, what should we do? In truth, legitimate illiteracy is a major problem in poor communities. However, these folks should be helped and not exploited on TV. Perhaps there should be some "United Negro College Fund" for rappers to encourage artists like Wacka Flaka to obtain a higher education or develop a Hip Hop Rites of a Passage where more socio- politically conscious rappers take artists such as Flame and mentor them.
If that doesn't work, then it is time for some tough love. Like the old "scared straight" program, stupid rappers need to be "sacred smart" or risk being pulled off stage like KRS One did PM Dawn back in the day by crowds of disgusted black folks who are tired of seeing us portrayed as buffoons.
Either way it goes down, a change must come.
These are critical times for African Americans and we are in the fight of our lives against ignorance. We are at the bottom of the ninth inning; the end of the fourth quarter; down by three points with two seconds on the shot clock. There is a time for subtle diplomacy, but as Waka Flocka Flame said himself, there is also a time to "go hard in the paint."
TRUTH Minista Paul Scott writes for No Warning Shots Fired.com can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on Intelligence Over Ignorance lecture series contact email@example.com or (919) 451-8283