Sunday, August 11, 2013

Yes, Jay-Z is a role model, too.

You can't dictate who another race's role models should be.  I know it's hard for some white conservatives to understand, but you can't tell black people that their role models need to meet your approval.  Well, you can, but we're going to ignore you.  No matter how much you think Condoleezza Rice would be better for black youth than Jay-Z, you don't get to make that decision.  If it were up to you, do you really think Superfly would have taken hold in the 70s like it did? 

Pretty random topic, right?  Well, I had a conversation with a lady on Twitter today about this exact thing.  I should have been focused on my work, but this was way more interesting.  Because what kind of person tells me (as an example, just to make this sentence work) that my role model isn't good enough for them?  You've got to have some big balls, lady. 

Why shouldn't a kid look up to Jay-Z?  The man is rich and famous, and since kids are stupid and shallow these days, that's really all they need to know.  But he was a drug dealer, that lady said, and drug dealing rappers who glorify drug dealing are not worthy of role modelhood.  I'm paraphrasing, because she was way more long-winded.  Also, in my mind, she was wagging her finger at me.  "Tut, tut," I think she said.

On the surface, she might be right.  After all, these are the things that they say about Jay-Z on Fox News, and we all know they're never wrong.  At least they picked someone who has rapped about the drug game, unlike the time they went after Common.   But yes, Jay-Z did sell drugs - almost 20 years ago.  And if the crux of your argument against rappers being role models is something one used to do 20 years ago, you've lost the argument before it even started.  I mean, if you picked Nicki Minaj for this debate, I would have agreed with you, unless the goal was for your kids to become clowns.  It would have nothing to do with her drug history, because I don't know if she did or didn't.  I just wouldn't want my kids to act like that.

Also, let's not start digging into the past of some of these conservative heroes, because I won't even need to leave the decade before I get a hit.  But we're talking about Jay-Z.

Anyway, he's changed his life since those days.  Yeah, he got a little stabby there at one point, but all in all, he's turned things around.  You don't see him getting into fights or arrested for marijuana or gun possession.  He built companies, bought others, run other companies, sold those companies, and built more.  He's produced movies.  He was a minority owner of a sports team, and now, he's a sports agent.  A guy that was a drug dealer from Brooklyn.  Now, he's got an art film out on HBO and had Samsung buy his album to give away for free.  He's married to the biggest singer on the planet.  He can call the President.  What about his life doesn't make him a role model? 

What, the music?  You can disagree with the music all you like, but the life story shows people that no matter where you are, no matter what your circumstances, you can change them, and you can get out.  However, since you brought up the music, well, for one, I know you haven't listened to any of it.  Jay-Z had exactly two albums about drug dealing, and one of those was actually about a movie.  The other one was about why you shouldn't become a drug dealer.  All of his other albums were about being rich, famous, and sex with women.  Money, cash, hoes, in essence.  And the time he shot his brother.  And that one song about his mom.

So ever since that first album, Jay-Z has rapped about his life after he stopped being a drug dealer.  If you're going to accuse him of something, at least know what you're talking about.  Now, if you want to get on him for misogyny?  Fine, he probably wasn't the best on gender relations.  Cussing too much?  You got me there.  Defending the use of the n-word?  We'd be on the same side.  I think he's got a lot to be proud of, though.  He has a creative mind, a hard-working individual, and knows his business.  So if anyone is going to get through to some of these kids, it would be him.  They can't say he hasn't been where they've been.  

That's not to knock Condoleezza Rice, because she's a role model as well.  She's a positive woman who came up during segregation, played all kinds of musical instruments, taught at Stanford, advised two Presidents, and was appointed to the Cabinet; fields that are almost always dominated by men.  No shade on Condi at all, even if she does have Bush's stink on her.  But to cast Jay-Z aside because of the decisions he made in his past is really discounting his value.  Not only that, I guess black people just accept flawed individuals more easily than white conservatives do.  One of the benefits of so many of us going to jail, I guess.

The fact that he sold drugs, grew up in a fatherless home, shot his brother, and still managed to become what he is today is what makes him a role model.  His life is the life that a lot of kids of all colors see every day.  He's not pushing the drug life on kids, he's shining the light of redemption.  And if you can't see that, then I don't have anything else for you.
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