One of the most repulsively fascinating facts about contemporary black popular culture is how it continues to reach fresh lows. It finds new ways of leaping all fences that would bar it from falling into a bottomless pit of tastelessness. All of the insults and burdens of minstrelsy have been bested by black comedians and rappers who have made stupidity, hedonism, pimping, misogyny, pornography and violence their stock in trade.
One defense of this amoral sense of life and culture is that black people didn’t invent any of it, so why shouldn’t they, like the white people, be able to make big money from it? As one imbecilic black man in television said to me, “I ain’t hating on these brothers. All they are doing is dealing with a market the same way that the white people do. This is capitalism and they’re responding to a market. You know the old saying, ‘Whatever the market will bear.’ “
Now we find that comedian Damon Wayans has spent the past 14 months trying to copyright the N-word with “iggas” instead of “iggers.” He wants to put it on apparel and whatnot. So far, he has not been successful but one can imagine young American kids wearing that word emblazoned on clothes and listening to rap “songs” in which the N-word frequently appears, in conjunction with “bitches” and “hos,” among other denigrations.
Of course, there is a defense. One Hollywood Negro said that “Damon is no fool. He might be pulling a Brer Rabbit move that would mean that he would take control of the word and make everyone pay to use it.”
I responded rappers and others would merely put the cost in the budget. The Hollywood guy agreed.
However this comes out, it is further proof of how remarkably decadent our moment is. On the one hand, opportunistic numbskulls use the rhetoric of free speech and the liberal arts to justify the thick presence of misogyny and insult in their material, meaning that constantly referring to women as bitches and hos is an expression of their artistry and their freedom of speech. So is the constant screaming of the N-word.
Now we have a comedian attempting to copyright the N-word so that everyone who uses it will have to pay him for the right. I guess that takes its place right next to John Singleton, Spike Lee and Will Smith supporting the dehumanizing “Hustle & Flow.” In the world of entertainment, the siren call of the commercial, however hollow and denigrating, seems impossible for many to resist, a fact that transcends all ethnic, sexual and religious distinctions.
When Essence magazine began a campaign against the prevalence of misogyny and insult in rap material, literally hundreds of thousands voiced their approval. This proved that this product is disgusting to millions of black women and their supporters. Unfortunately, the most important movement in popular culture since the emergence of rap itself floundered. Essence let the campaign fizzle after editor Diane Weathers, who shaped the magazine’s response to popular muck, left the magazine.
If Damon Wayans wins his quest for ownership of the N-word, one wonders to whom – if any – he will have to answer.
BY STANLEY CROUCH, Courtesy of NY Daily News.