Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Queen Shaahida: How Rapper Kanye West Helps Me

As a fan of rap music, I believe that Gangster rappers like 50 Cent and The Game can learn a lot from “the Louis Vuitton Don.” I would go as far to say that they should be more like Kanye West; the world would benefit and so would the children of the ghetto.

I’m not exactly a political activist but I am a product of what everyone calls the “ghetto” and I believe that as a child of this recent generation I am obligated to be educated. My dear friend Mr. West helps me with that and adds some soulful sampling to keep me engaged. Kanye West is not what I expected him to be. He rhymes about all the finer things in life including education and politics. Who wouldn’t love him?

When I first saw a picture of “Mr. Fresh, Mr. by his self he so impressed,” he was wearing a pink Polo shirt, with the collar “popped” and Gucci loafers. But still, he was a rapper. It was weird that he didn’t rock the baggy jeans or that he claims that he has never sold drugs. As a young black girl who also dressed as if I was awaiting an acceptance letter from Blair Academy, I was impressed. I longed for a deeper connection with the rapper: through his music.

Kanye West is a phenomenal artist and conscious rapper who holds a strong opinion about blacks in the school system. And though he went from a “College Dropout” to “Late Registration” and then somehow moved on to a “Graduation,” he values education and does everything that he can to spread that message across America, especially to the black youth (and most of all the males.) Young black men, after all, have one of the highest dropout rates throughout America.

West is also a part of an ongoing campaign titled “ED 08” which focuses on education in America. In one of West’s early songs he critiques blacks and their lack of motivation to be educated:

“…ain’t no tuition for havin no ambition/and ain’t no loans for sittin yo’ ass at home/So we forced to sell crack, rap and get a job.” I’m not sure if he meant it as an insult or as black awareness; it was a very bold and honest statement. It may have sounded like a joke; I believe it was a gateway to expressing the lack of educated blacks in this country. West is very active in politics but does not call himself a politician. "Politics is a business...I'm more social. I just care about people." He grew up in an upper-middle class neighborhood in Chicago and also attended college; in my book, that gives him the right to advocate for education.

I did not grow up in a middle- or upper-class neighborhood and did not always attend some of the better schools in the New York City area. I grew up in an environment where it seemed like all the girls were pregnant and all the “men” sold drugs. It was just like hell except we had fire hydrants.

It was Harlem, but my home had a Columbia University-educated black woman and a determined immigrant from Trinidad so it’s safe to say that it was impossible for me to go wrong. But I’m no “Miss Goodie Two Shoes.

No, I had my share of late night Bob Marley sessions and ghetto hood fights. But I always valued my education. I didn’t know if I was exactly on the road to a university but I knew that I was different and that the classroom was my safe haven. I stressed the value of education in my life and tried my best to stress it in the lives of others, so when a young handsome hustler gave me the option of leaving school, staying home, having his children and basically becoming a statistic, I declined. And I made sure he understood that I would not live off of anybody and I vowed to earn a college degree and not become the statistic that society was waiting for me to turn out to be: dumb, pregnant and uneducated.

I give some of the credit to Kanye; he keeps me going and gives me inspiration through his musical talent. So whenever school is a drag and I’m down on my luck I slip my IPOD headphones in and listen to my soul teacher as he preaches, “We wasn’t supposed to make it past 25/But the jokes on you we still alive/Throw your hands up in the sky and say we don't care what people say”

Queen Shaahida is a student of journalism at the University at Albany, SUNY. She wrote this as part of a new student-run blog called Naked News Lives: CHECK IT OUT!!!


R. Lee Gordon said...

While there are the good in us who struggle daily to reach and teach our youth, brothers like Kanye inspire us to know there are at least a few media's role models who can also do and be so much as "Speakers of Unity", and in improving the quality of education and life for our young generation.

R. Lee Gordon
UniTee Design, Inc.
Toll Free: 888.OUR.RBG.TEES

Anonymous said...

Good Job Boo