On R.Kelly. Or how we promote celebrities who act a hot mess because we like their ‘art’.

r kelly

“I don’t know what you heard about me, But a b**** can’t get a dollar outta me,No Cadillac, no perms, you can’t see, That I’m a…..’ P.I.M.P.'”

There I was, age 14 sitting in my bedroom bopping my head shamelessy to ‘Fiddy’s’ newest joint (I use the word joint, because I must have been high) with my brother, who was pretty much akin to to my musical drug dealer at the time. Me and my supplier (my brother), had a great relationship. Just like drugs, hip hop music was contraband material in our household, and punishable with fairly severe penalties. If we got caught listening to anything deemed inappropriate for our age group or just inappropriate full stop, my parents would swiftly confiscate the illegal material, and the offending party would face the criminal justice system of our household. Like being caught with weed by the police. But my lil’ broski would surf Limewire and ensure we had a steady supply of morally degrading and ratchet music.

Where was I? Oh yes. 50 Pence. So there I was, feasting on his latest creative offeringa and caught up in my own little suburban gangsta’s paradise..who cared that I had seen his video earlier that week, which consisted of a harem of half naked women gyrating while he sat on a throne dressed as  a pimp? Who cared that the majority of those women were black or brown women (i.e. me)? Who cared that he was reinforcing negative stereotypes about my community?

“I’m that nigga tryin’ to holla cause I want some bread
I could care less how she perform when she in the bed”

Looking back, I don’t really understand what my thought process was. Actually, I don’t think there was much of a thought process. I thought the beat was hot, so I was prepared to party like it was 1999.

There was a great article on Xojane this past week about why we should boycott R.Kelly. For those of you who don’t know, it’s pretty conclusive that R.Kelly is probably a paedophile. Or there are just a strangely high number of underage girls who have decided to falsely accuse R.Kelly of being a paedophile as opposed to accusing any other R n B star. I mean, this might be the case – I’m black and Adventist so I am culturally predisposed to believing in conspiracy theories. Crazy stuff does happen. But the likelihood is that actually, he’s probably a bit of a paedo.  (http://www.xojane.com/entertainment/why-i-wont-listen-to-r-kelly about this.)  It’s just that he’s also one of the greatest RnB singers of all time according to a lot of people. Undeniably he has an amazing voice. Boycotts seem so…pointless right? There are enough people who won’t boycott him for it to not make it worth your while. But there’s a video of him urinating on a child. Like, this is actually filmed – he is urinating on a child. And for those of you who might even have an inkling of an idea of her being 14 making it more ok, please take a seat. Far away from any secondary school or anywhere with girls under the age of consent. Firstly, if you find urinating on people sexually arousing, that’s your prerogative I guess…but 14 year olds probably shouldn’t be your prime target.

I’ll admit, I’m one of those people who loves to boycott stuff. Not for the sheer sake of it -mostly because I tend to get angry and passionate about things really quickly, but actually can’t usually come up with a meaningful idea of how to change the big bad world that we live in practically. The easiest and quickest me for me to register my displeasure or disapproval of something is to boycott it. I stopped buying Nike trainers when I was 15 after I read No Logo by Naomi Klein (great book btw). I boycotted Nestle for a couple of months. I’ve tried to boycott Primark but I bought a reindeer onesie from them about 5 hours ago (onesies have changed my life and I will never be the same again). I’ve generally boycotted the majority of pop chart music because it sounds cack. But like many of us, I’m inconsistent and hypocritical. I watch stuff I shouldn’t. I speak out against shops with unethical trading practices but if I see a new shirt I want, sorry little Bangladeshi girl, you need to sew faster and watch your head in case the building collapses.

What I’m saying is, this isn’t a sanctimonious blog from someone who is consistent with her ethics at all times. It is though, a little thought process from me on how I need to do better and encouraging us to do the same.

Let’s be straight first…boycotting R Kelly or any other artist who either consistently creates art that is inconsistent with our personal ethical code, is almost like targeting the little guy. Make no mistake, rappers who rap about ho’s and rims are not just generating this material in a vacuum. There is a powerful machine that actively encourages and profits off this mess, and the machine is not owned by poor young black men. Having said that, the machine is there to make money. If you won’t buy it, they won’t make it. It’s really that simple. The majority of hip hop/rap music is bought by young middle class white people – but the concept of something being ‘hip’ and ‘cool’ is actually created by young black people – so if they thought 50 Cent was whack, he would cease to be profitable, even though they aren’t the primary consumers. In a broader sense, we all, whatever race or group of people, are the consumers. Different demographics are targeted by different products etc, but money makes the world go round, and if we want to control how the world moves we need to think about how we spend our money.

I’m just deciding more and more now, that in order for me to be comfortable with myself, I need to put my money where my mouth is. And my time. So although Top Boy might be enjoyable, let’s admit that if we give ratings to shows that portray young black people as criminals, that’s not saying much about our self respect is it? If we believe that it’s wrong for poor people to work in sub standard and frankly disgusting conditions, let us demand better from clothes producers and actually NOT buy at these stores. We don’t need half the clothes we have. (I’m saying this to myself), we’re just greedy. If you know animals are being forced to live in practically abusive conditions for your cheeseburger, don’t just feel bad about it, do something. Love is a verb. Perhaps buy free range if you’re not willing to give up meat. Small things do make a difference. Yes, there are a million things you could boycott, and it does seem overwhelming at times, but that doesn’t mean we should do nothing – look at Rosa Parks. What would have happened if she said ‘I’m only one person’?


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