The rapper Lil Wayne may be ready to take on all haters in the club (since he regularly reminds us that he stays strapped). He may be ready to have sex with every girl in the world (the title of one of his songs), and he might have more money than King Tut. But there is one attack that Lil Wayne was probably not ready for, and that came from a 10-year-old girl.
While I am still searching to find the little girl's name (her management team didn't put her name on the video), in a song called 'Watoto From The Nile - Letter to Lil Wayne,' this child lays out a song that even Weezy himself will have to acknowledge at some point. Referring to herself as a "little queen," she questions why Lil Wayne has decided to make a career out of degrading black women and chasing corporate greed over creating music that is socially responsible and capable of uplifting a community that is dying by the second.
What I respect the most about the little girl's video is that she also comes after Wayne with one of the most powerful forces known to man: The power of love. She doesn't tear Wayne down or attack him (which even I've done in the past out of frustration), she simply asks that they work together to create music that is going to be empowering rather than debilitating. So, not only does this child hopefully wake up the conscience of Lil Wayne and the rest of the Young Money crew, she also made me think more deeply about how I deal with Weezy myself.
The broader point being made with all of this is clear: Hip-hop artists may want to consider the fact that their music has tremendous power. Kids all across America are allowing the messages to marinate in their brains like a flower being soaked in poison. After repeating lyrics thousands of times that remind them to carry guns, have irresponsible sex, ignore education and to chase money at all costs, their subconscious minds carry out the instructions like robots that have been programmed by Microsoft. At the end of the day, we have kids like Afrika Owes, the Ivy League student who may go to prison for running a drug ring, or Jamail Johnson, the member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity who was murdered at a house party in a mass shooting that also hit 11 of his classmates. I won't even mention the millions of kids across black America who will show up for every party or basketball game, but have no interest in cracking a textbook.
Assuming a new identity is nothing new for celebrities who find success in the entertainment industry. It seems as though everyone, from Academy Award-winning funnyman Jamie Foxx to Carmen Electra has a stage name. And even teenage rap sensation Soulja Boy, doesn't use the one he was legally born with. There are many others who prefer to be known by their pseudonyms. Some like Lil' Kim and Redman are obvious. Others like Michael Keaton and Julianne Moore may surprise you. Take a look at the real names of some of your favorite celebrities.
We must remember that hip-hop is not to blame for all of society's problems. There are serious structural inequities in the educational, economic and criminal justice systems that our nation and political leaders continue to ignore. As long as such inequality remains intact, we will always be creating other Lil Waynes. As much as we'd like to beat up on Wayne for being the man that he is, the truth is that both Lil Wayne and gangsta rap were created by American racism. The first and most successful gangsta rap group, NWA, was a direct product of gang violence that started when federal authorities deliberately turned a blind eye toward drugs and guns being allowed into black neighborhoods (they never would have allowed such a thing in white communities). Years later, black teens are shooting each other down with AK-47s, when we all know that African American communities don't manufacture their own guns.
What is also true is that corporate America (which is not run by black folks) has engaged in the mass marketing of black self-destruction by giving massive performance platforms to artists like Lil Wayne, pushing more positive artists into the shadows of hip-hop. This form of marketing creates an apetite for sickening music the same way an alcoholic comes to crave liquor over vegetables. A friend of mine who works for a major radio syndication network said that her boss rejected the plea to put more informative talk radio onto urban stations because "black people will always show up for the party, but will never show up for the PTA meeting."
The little girl's point about Lil Wayne having a choice about his message remains valid despite the usual manipulations of the music industry, by virtue of the fact that Weezy does have a significant amount of ability to control and manage the music that he sends out to the public. Also, being a product of such terrible social dysfunction and by being a father himself, Wayne is conscious enough of his circumstances to fully understand the implications of poisoning the minds of young children. He can't want other "young Gs" going to prison like he did, and he doesn't want his daughter to be addressed in a derogatory way. Lil Wayne has the power to affect these outcomes, and should know it. So, as a father myself, I call on Lil Wayne to understand the power of his words and to use his impressive skills at mind control as an avenue to teach our community something positive. Whatever Wayne does, teenagers pay attention. I hope he uses his tremendous talent for good.
In fact, if Lil Wayne were to dramatically change the style of his music to encourage young people to stand up on social issues, he could have an impact even greater than Martin Luther King himself. Like Dr. King, Lil Wayne is also a great man, an outstanding orator and a natural-born leader with a relentlessly loyal following. Given that issues such as mass incarceration, educational inequality and poverty all played a role in creating Lil Wayne's reality, one would expect that he would be first in line to speak up on such issues (Wayne's contemporary, TI has already done a bit of that by partnering with community leaders to get guns off the streets and speaking in high schools). With all of the civil rights leaders we've had from the church, perhaps it's time that we get a true leader from the hood. Maybe I am day-dreaming, but if Malcolm X could go from being a drug addict and criminal to one of the most significant leaders of his time, Lil Wayne has the ability to do the same. In fact, Lil Wayne is a black leader already, it's just that he's leading his community to further demise. This little girl's open letter is a reminder that Weezy can do better than that.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. To follow Dr. Boyce on Facebook, please click here.