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Some time ago, I got a phone call and it was my best friend telling me about a party the past weekend in Boston, MA. Apparently, a club owner shut down this party because he thought there were drug dealers in attendance. Turns out the party was a few former Harvard graduates who threw a party at a local lounge in Boston. Shout out to those cats, they actually some cool peoples. As she expressed to me why the club owner was going off, I had to stop her and ask her, “But do you see what we look like when we go out?” Dave Chappelle said, “You may not be a ho, but you are wearing a ho’s uniform.” The same applies to the gross amount of educated Black men who choose to do the same thing with their portrayal of the Black American Thug.
My freshman year at an off campus house party at Syracuse University, a predominantly white four year institution seated in Upstate New York, I observed the following; a song came on the sound system, it was titled, “Many Men” by a popular artist at the time, 50 Cent. What interested me about this scene was that every Black male at this party, also students at Syracuse University, knew each word and recited them with such conviction in their hearts. I wondered to myself, “Who exactly is wishing death upon you?” But as you listen to most young Black men enrolled in colleges across America, and even those young professionals working in white collar corporate America, they relate more to Mobb Deep, 50 Cent, Tupac, Biggie, and many other gangster rappers than anyone else. It has only been recently that you have seen that we’ve turned away from rappers whose entire repertoire consists of drugs, violence and horrible fiscal management and chose to listen to more uplifting music.
As I would walk around campus I would see that young Black men who came from the hood and had every opportunity to succeed and leave the hood refused to let the hood go. I witnessed many young Black men who sat on the stoop of their apartments. I couldn’t understand it, and to this day it continues to baffle me. I was raised in a pretty rough neighborhood in Washington, DC, and once I had the opportunity to get out, that’s exactly what I did, I got out. I didn’t look back or look for ways to maintain a connection with drugs, crime or violence. However, I still continue to see many people who are infatuated with thug life proving that they indeed have a disconnection with society and don’t realize that no one wishes for a “Thug Life.”
In 2004, we would see a popular artist and trendsetter for our generation idolized, he was the most popular college dropout in America at the time. Sitting on a grass hill at another university Cornell University for their “Slope Day” I witnessed thousands of students repeat the words of Kanye West’s music back to him. He paused for a minute during the show and let the crowd speak his lyrics, “Chasin’ y’all dreams and what you’ve got planned, now I spit it so hot you got tanned.” And each student repeated that with such conviction and candor that you would actually think that the thousands of students at this Ivy league university in fact were spending money to get an education that they thought was absolute bullsh*t. But this was not the case, it was only to show that the attraction towards fast money, fast living and easy success was more attractive than the journey of a college education. But Kanye was no thug, he was just a rapper, the son of a college professor, Kanye made a career of telling young kids that college wasn’t for him, and maybe it wasn’t for them either. His freshman tour travelled the country mostly at college universities to sold out shows.
When we look at Black America in our social settings, we see something troubling. If we are not in a suit, at times, we are dressed in a fresh pair of kicks, jeans that are either too baggy or too tight, and sunglasses that are much too big for our faces. We show up to nightclubs in Black SUVs with tinted windows sitting on too large rims. We blast Rick Ross from our stereos. We tell ourselves that Plies’s song, “Plenty Money” exemplifies our feeling at that time. This is a PSA for Black Male America: When you show up to places in public dressed like this, behaving like this, promoting this, you look like THUGS. And for those of you who do not, but prefer a grown & sexy approach, I honestly question if you are wearing a button down now because Jay-Z said throwbacks weren’t cool anymore, or you legitimately don’t agree with that image. Pause for a moment and take a look at the Throwback jersey that is located in the back of your closet.
Many people suggest that the fascination with Thug Life is a reflection of the neighborhoods that we came from and the things that we looked up to in our youth. The “real” role models in our communities. As Kanye would go on to say in another song, ”Where I’m from, the dope boys is the rock stars.” So some might suggest that we just don’t know any better, and are indeed just living out our childhood dreams now that we can afford to finance our dreams. I don’t have all the answers. And I’m not innocent in all of this, I’ve been guilty of taking off my shirt and clutching a bottle of Moet with my sunglasses on even though the lights were off in the club. But I had to make a conscious decision to at least acknowledge the behavior as ignorant. Is there some type of insecurity in Black men and their lives? Is it not good enough to be quite normal in the grand scheme of things? As if it is normal to be a great Black father and husband, a successful husband in America. Or do we chase notoriety by emulating the thugs, dope boys or gangsters of our community? Whatever the answers are, we may never know.
However, as for 50 Cent, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t talking to any thugs when he said, “America’s got a thing for this gangsta sh*t, they love me.”
Hey guys, check it out, my new eBook, 17th and K Street, dropped today and the information for download is here. Please download it. Thanks to all who had a hand in the creation, development and publishing of this project. I hope you all enjoy. Most of the faithful readers of SBM.org will really be entertained. I always like to remind you guys that SBM.org is just one space where you can find Dr. J, but as Jay-Z once said, “They only know what the single is, and singled that out to be the meaning of what he is about and being I’m about my business, not mingling much, running my mouth, that sh*t kept lingering, but no dummy, that’s the sh*t I’m sprinkling, the album with to keep the registers ringing. In real life, I’m much more distinguished.” This book will surprise many of you, enjoy.