Rapper Ice Cube is the Black Man’s Oprah.
(ThyBlackMan.com) I’m not sure of the status of the relationship between the rapper Ice Cube and his fellow icon, Oprah Winfrey. The last I heard, the two didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye. But then again, Oprah has built a bridge with a fellow gangsta rapper, 50 Cent, showing me that she has a capacity for forgiveness that is nothing short of admirable.
When I went onto CNN a few years ago with Wendy Williams and Roland Martin to discuss the beef between Oprah and gangsta rap, I saw an irreparable divide between the two. Oprah, a woman who has experienced abuse at the hands of several men in her lifetime, has no reason on earth to support men who use the word “b*tch” as much as President Obama uses the word “Michelle.” In fact, almost no group of people has worked harder to disrespect black women than gangsta rappers, and this is not acceptable.
But the fact that someone has done something unforgivable does not, in any way, mean that they’ve done nothing good for the world. The rapper Ice Cube, despite being the self-proclaimed father of gangsta rap (which I believe he is), has done a great deal for black men who rarely hear voices in media that speak to their experience. There is little economic benefit for advocating for black men, who suffer at the hands of depression-era unemployment, crippling mass incarceration, educational systems that marginalize us from birth and a violence epidemic that has become a living nightmare.
While most of us will never understand what Oprah went through as an abuse victim in Mississippi, granted. But in defense of men like Ice Cube, we will also not understand the mortifying experience of being an 8th grader in South Central Los Angeles, where bullies tote AK-47s and threaten to blow your brains out on the way to school. Trauma breeds trauma, and much of what we see from both Oprah and Ice Cube reflects the fact that their voices are manifestations of horrors that too many black kids experience every day of the week.
To that point, I would have to give Ice Cube tremendous credit for being an increasingly inspirational voice for black men, both young and not-so-young. Listening to his music, you’ll hear verses about the effect of systemic racism on the psyches of young black boys. You’ll hear him encourage young men not to shoot one another. He raps about getting an education, building your own business, taking care of your family, staying out of prison, and maintaining a productive vision for your life. That’s gangsta.
So, not throwing the baby out with the bath water might mean appreciating Ice Cube for what he’s trying to do for young black men while accepting the fact that he has not always been a perfect human being. Thankfully, the messages in his latest music have deviated from what black children are given by their daily brainwashing, courtesy of companies like Clear Channel: Get high and drunk as much as you can, murder each other whenever possible, waste your money on bullsh*t, and remain uneducated. If you think these messages are being spread without an agenda, then you’re dead wrong: The psychological destruction of the black male is the key to undermining black families and communities, so the greatness of many black boys is neutralized in kindergarten.
When I had my forum last month with Min. Louis Farrakhan in Chicago, one thing that crossed my mind is the way our boys’ minds are being poisoned with a psychological virus. This virus is airborne, spread through the radio waves in messages that put many of our young men on a path to self-destruction. Similar to zombies in the Brad Pitt film, “World War Z,” millions of potential doctors and lawyers are taught to believe that they are meant to be gun-totting thugs who destroy everything in their path, including themselves. Similar to the way and antidote is typically a modified version of the virus itself, it is an evolved rapper like Ice Cube who serves as our best chance of changing the trajectories of kids who’ve been led astray.
Those who don’t think that toxic media messages matter need to only take a marketing class to realize that MARKETING DOES WORK. Bill Cosby didn’t invent Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), but he did convince millions of kids to choose to attend them. Lil Wayne didn’t invent violence, but he certainly helped make it cool and popular. The reason Reebok paid Rick Ross millions to wear their sneakers is not because they expect him to be sprinting in the next Olympics. They did so because when he wears a sneaker, our kids wear the same shoe. So, if kids are emulating what Ross wears on his chubby little feet, then don’t you think they are paying even more attention to the lyrics in his music?
While I’m not sure if Oprah and Ice Cube will ever grace a stage together, I find them to be interesting parallels. Oprah empowers women to overcome the structural obstacles designed to beat them down, and Ice Cube has learned to help black men envision their greatness. They are two sides of the same coin, and both of these celebrities seem to “get it” when it comes to using your power for a productive purpose, and not just to make yourself rich.
I wish every celebrity would get on the same page.
Staff Writer; Dr. Boyce Watkins