Hip-hop’s future doesn’t seem to be waning in terms of popularity and artists contributing to the art form. It conveys the community’s emotions, its penchant for materialism and antics of social malice. Jay Z and Beyoncé are symbols of hip-hop royalty whose only transgression to some is their dismissal of higher education. Beyoncé isn’t a college graduate but she is a beautiful, daring and voluptuous entertainer. She’s a talented businesswoman who has a knack for procuring sponsorships and advertising.
The new generation of Cash Money Records artists, YMCMB’s Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne and Drake are all individual and independent artists within a brand. Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj are versatile, offering antic-laced ideals of showmanship. Drake, the calm one, highlights and even romanticizes hip-hop artists of the past.
Then there are the artists who are brands unto themselves: Wale, Big Sean and Kendrick Lamar. They’ve made a lane for themselves, their own individual paradise in hip-hop.
When rolling out highlights Wale, he’s not donning traditional hip-hop attire. He’s in a suit and tie, which substantiates our hope that the culture of African Americans will define hip-hop as a nuance or an idea of it, not describing the entire African American community as solely hip-hop. The foundation of the African American culture is cemented in family, love, church, belief, aspiration, art — the creative arts, the creative spirits — and literature. We applaud Wale for obliging and embracing the idea of portraying a distinguished African American male wearing locs, a suit and tie. Appropriately dressed, he would fit well into the photo of the president with Beyoncé and Jay Z.
We must appropriately address hip-hop’s place in our community. The violence in our community is often likened to gang affiliations to early hip-hop artists and the glorification of materialism at any cost and the annihilation of young African American life — crimes, drugs and mayhem.
We applaud Wale for his distinguished look with the hope that he might inspire other young African Americans. What you don’t see is that most bank presidents and investment bankers don suits while doing billion-dollar deals. That’s bigger than any platinum artist or record has ever done. Let’s raise our expectations to begin to illuminate STEM careers, tech companies and the fact that software engineers earn more than the average rapper. Entrepreneurs who’ve founded publicly traded software companies should be the aspiration. Ownership of one’s identity should be the goal.
Hats off to all those African Americans who are bold enough to uphold their illustrious heritage and are taking charge of their futures. Peace to all those who believe and understand that the culture of hip-hop is only one aspect of your identity and definitely to all those fathers involved in their children’s lives and the mothers who have not given up on the fathers.
Wale’s cover story featuring him in a suit and tie will hit newsstands this Thursday, Sept. 29, 2013.