Hip hop performer David Banner brought his road show to the U.S. Congress on Tuesday, and you have to give him this: he’s consistent.
No matter how pornographic his lyrics, no matter how many kids he helps to corrupt, no matter how callously he maligns fellow citizens as “niggas” and “hoes” and no matter how coarsely he portrays black urban culture as an open sewer, he has a ready explanation: It’s somebody else’s fault, not his.
Plus, he wasn’t about to change his style before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection. He used profanity throughout his testimony.
“Change the situation in my neighborhood and maybe I’ll get better,” he smugly told one member of Congress.
The first refuge of a scoundrel is to blame others for his conduct instead of accepting personal responsibility. The problem is, this blade cuts both ways. When some young thug is on trial for a gang rape and tries to blame the culture around him, will Banner accept a measure of responsibility for the crime?
The second refuge of a scoundrel is to point to his good works, as if they cancel out bad behavior. Hollywood stars are particularly good at this, spinning out ever-more vulgar trash while collecting awards for donating a tiny fraction of their time or outsized incomes to a cause. Banner’s no slouch about pointing out his own charitable works.
The third refuge of a scoundrel is to point to other bad behavior and measure oneself against that instead of a higher standard. As Banner put it, “Drugs, violence, sexism and the criminal element were around long before hip-hop existed.” Well, then. That must make it okay to perform lyrics like this, from Banner’s “Like a Pimp”:
By the time I hit the door
I saw hoes on the flo’
Niggas dressed in suits
Tricking all day long….
When I hit the club,
Imma be wit David Banner
A thug ass nigga….”
This is followed by a base description of female anatomy and female masturbation, and then some more wholesome stuff like this:
We some south side pimps
And we ain’t giving a f—
Poke yo gul in the throat
And make her swallow the nut…”
These examples are not even close to the most graphic material.
In contrast to David Banner’s self-serving explanations and in-your-face blame shifting, rapper Master P (alias Percy Miller) made no excuses before the subcommittee. He openly apologized for his past filthy lyrics, and urged hip-hop performers to get rid of the misogynistic, violent and obscene material.
“I want to apologize to all the women out there. I was honestly wrong,” Miller said, noting that he would not let his own children listen to his previous songs. Now, here’s a guy who gets it.
Banner (born as Levell Crump) was apparently unmoved by the concern for children expressed at the hearing by National Congress of Black Women Chairwoman E. Faye Williams, who smacked the entertainment industry for leading “many of our young people to believe that it is OK to entertain themselves by destroying the culture.” Record company executives at the hearing responded by defending the filth as freedom of speech, noting that they have magnanimously provided “parental guidance” stickers. This helps kids find the bad stuff much more quickly.
Meanwhile, Banner gave his best “the neighborhood made me do it” routine.
It was similar to the message he gave while accepting a “Visionary Award” in 2005 from the National Black Caucus of the State Legislature in Louisiana for his work assisting victims of Hurricane Katrina.
In that speech, he noted that he had been in the flooded streets of New Orleans the day after Katrina, passing out boxes and offering other assistance. Of course, no one faults him for his concern and self-sacrifice during that horrible time. And he reminded everyone that he is “in the hood” when others are not. Fair enough again. But he seized the occasion of the award to take a swipe at people who “criticize” his lyrics:
“We are gangsta because the establishment and situations that we live in in this city are desperate…Instead of thinking about the cursing, think about what I put in about the neighborhood.”
Sorry, but it’s about so much more than “cursing.” It is about warped portrayals of sex that sully young minds and promote attitudes that destroy communities. What should be an expected norm — getting and staying married — is now seen by many in the inner city as an impossible dream. If Hollywood has its way, this will become the norm for the rest of the country, too.
How did the ‘hood’ get so bad in the first place? Why are street gangs, serial violence and urban decay endemic? Let’s see. One major factor was the Great Society’s welfare programs, launched in 1965, which rewarded out-of-wedlock births and created a culture of dependence. And we can add the sexual revolution and a hip hop “culture” that glorifies casual sex, degrades women and destroys personal responsibility and hope.
But even with all of that, it’s still up to the individual to make choices, as comedian Bill Cosby has been saying to packed audiences all over America.
Instead of following poseurs like Banner, let’s hope more kids respond to the countercultural message of people like reformed rapper Master P and Bill Cosby, who are offering kids a future — not more excuses.