DR. BOYCE WATKINS
In my 20 years of teaching in various business schools, there’s one thing I know for sure: Marketing DOES work. The best kind of marketing is the stuff that doesn’t look like marketing at all, like a viral Mountain Dew commercial, or a song on the radio where the word “Molly” is repeated over and over again, in a way that bangs down the door of your subconscious mind and plants itself into the deepest parts of your brain.
Oh, you don’t know what Molly is? Just ask your teenage son or daughter. If they didn’t know what it was last month, they now surely know what it is, where to get it, some friends who use it and might even know when they plan to try it themselves. This brand has been thoroughly introduced to nearly every teenager in America, especially the ones who love Trinidad James. In the words of former President George W. Bush, “Mission Accomplished.”
You see, there’s a reason that Reebok once paid Rick Ross millions of dollars to put his chubby little toes into their sneakers. It wasn’t because he was training for the Olympics. They paid him money because he is what some might call an “urban influencer.” Kids in the hood see Reeboks on Rick’s feet, and they go out and buy Reeboks themselves (even if they don’t have any money). So, to those who don’t think that repetitive messages in hip-hop have an impact on the subconscious thinking of our kids, I ask this: If kids imitate rappers based on what they wear on their feet, don’t you think they might also pay even closer attention to the content of their music?
My point here is simple: I’m not surprised that police are now saying that Chris Kelly, a member of the group Kris Kross, probably died from a drug overdose. We also shouldn’t have been surprised when Lil Wayne went to the hospital (again) for “seizures.” Rick Ross also went to the hospital a few months ago for seizures, and both men want you to believe that their conditions have nothing to do with their long histories of drug and alcohol abuse. I can’t say for sure if all that “purple drank” Wayne’s consuming is causing his seizures, but I can guarantee that it doesn’t help. Oh, don’t know what “purple drank” is? Just ask your teenage son, it’s been extensively marketed to him already.
Hip-hop on the radio (which isn’t controlled by Black people, it’s only puppetry with Black face) is now pushing a hard lifestyle, where staying high and drunk is a source of pride. The powers-that-be know that a young Black man constantly seeking out his next high is probably not going to become the next Malcolm X. It must be a relief that we contribute so readily to our own oppression.
I wasn’t surprised when the rapper Nate Dogg died younger than most. Just a few years ago, Nate released a really hot song that ended with the words, “Hey hey hey hey……smoke weed everyday.” I’m not sure if someone paid him to issue what sounded like a Public Service announcement promoting excessive marijuana consumption, but it surely had an impact.
The point here is that when we see the fallout from the consistent promotion of drug use and alcohol consumption, we just might want to be a wee bit alarmed. Our kids might need to hear graphic stories about how many men and women are serving 30 year prison sentences for committing felonies that occurred while they were under the influence of one of the substances being promoted by artists nation-wide.
One young man, 19-year old Justin Jones, admitted that he deserved the death penalty after murdering someone when he “hit some weed” that was laced with PCP. When I see Justin, I see a man who could have (or might already be) someone’s father. He could have been a great husband, attorney, or perhaps a black leader. His English was definitely broken, but there was a degree of intelligence, conscientiousness and naivete that told me that had he been raised with the right messages, he could have been something other than another payday for the prison industrial complex.
I point people to an article on RapRehab.com, which shows that many of the companies that own and market hip-hop labels and artists also have significant ownership stakes in private prisons. I’m not exactly sure what’s going on, but the Finance professor in me says this ownership structure is probably no coincidence. So, the truth is that those who love Black people and those who love the power of hip-hop may want to take up arms against companies that have spent billions of dollars seeking to control the minds of young Black kids.
I’m sorry for the death of Chris Kelly and I’m honestly getting dressed for the funeral of Lil Wayne already (it should be happening any day now, I regrettably must admit). What bothers me most is that these are just two of the millions of brilliant Black boys who had their brains destroyed before the third grade. Nothing great has ever been accomplished by people sitting around getting high and drunk everyday, and these messages have ruined an entire generation.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the author of the lecture series called Commercialized Hip-Hop, the Gospel of Self-Destruction.