The Brooklyn Nets revealed their new logo design last week after moving the organization from New Jersey. Three days later, New Jersey born rapper Joe Budden appeared on ESPN’s First Take to debate some of the current events in the sports world. One of the topics discussed was Floyd Mayweather and the possibility of going up against Manny Pacquiao. During the discussion, Budden used an analogy to compare Mayweather to fellow rapper Jay-Z. Jay-Z, of course, is a part owner of the Nets and helped design the new logo for the franchise.
My point in mentioning all of this is that sports and Hip Hop are often times interwoven and the results are not always pretty, especially when those who lack a true understanding of both cultures address the two simultaneously.
Phil Mushnick, a writer for the New York Post, had this to say in his Friday column regarding Jay-Z’s involvement in the branding of the Brooklyn Nets:
“As long as the Nets are allowing Jay-Z to call their marketing shots — what a shock that he chose black and white as the new team colors to stress, as the Nets explained, their new “urban” home — why not have him apply the full Jay-Z treatment?
Why the Brooklyn Nets when they can be the New York N——s? The cheerleaders could be the Brooklyn B—-hes or Hoes. Team logo? A 9 mm with hollow-tip shell casings strewn beneath. Wanna be Jay-Z hip? Then go all the way!”
The racial comments, as expected, have resulted in backlash, many calling for suspension and some calling for his job.
As a journalism major entering my junior year this upcoming fall, I have experienced merely a fraction of the demanding work it takes to not only graduate with plans to become a sports journalist, but make it happen with the types of credentials currently listed under Mushnick’s name.
I also don’t like the tendency of some to jump at the chance to call for somebody’s job as if the economy isn’t in the tank and people don’t have families to support.
Either way, the focus shouldn’t be on the potential punishment for Mushnick when there is a much bigger point to make.
Taking the race angle out of a situation isn’t always the prudent decision, but excluding the exaggerated racial slur for just a moment, what Mushnick’s comments truly represent at its core is a common misconception about the Hip Hop culture.
If the Nets were to model their team after Jay-Z’s music, like Mushnick explicitly implied, the sample size would be too large to reach the direct, stereotypical conclusions that Mushnick arrived at.
If the Nets were to model their team after Jay-Z the person, they could be called the New York Entrepreneurs. Maybe the team logo would be a shield with different quadrants embodying success, perseverance, risk and opportunity. Maybe instead of glorifying cheerleaders in an inappropriate manner, we take a theme from Jay-Z’s music that we can all relate to about hustling and working hard to provide for yourself and loved ones and apply it to cheerleaders, considering a good portion of them are working multiple jobs.
The Hip Hop genre as a whole has been scrutinized to great lengths in the past and will continue to get criticized for some of the negative aspects put on display in the music. Even an avid Hip Hop fan such as myself wouldn’t attempt to deny the negative factors exist.
They are in plain sight for everyone to see.
On television, on the radio and exemplified in different cultural trends, the damaging characteristics of Hip Hop have complete disregard for age and what is considered proper.
It really is a shame that the positive aspects are not seen in the same light. It really is a shame that the positive characteristics aren’t shown the time of day and don’t receive the same amount of attention.
In my mind, there are three factors at play here: The radio, the people and the record labels. All three go into what kind of music the artist will create and ultimately, how they are perceived as individuals.
The radio controls what will be considered mainstream and will undoubtedly leave an impression on audiences who don’t typically listen to Hip Hop. In other words, the radio controls the supply.
The people listening to Hip Hop on the radio either know it’s a poor depiction of what the culture entails and listen anyway, or they enjoy the music. Not that there’s anything wrong with enjoying a certain type of music. Everyone has an opinion and who am I to say what people should or should not enjoy?
But regardless of musical tastes, the people control the demand and those who have a deep understanding of the Hip Hop culture know that the radio caters mostly to the casual listener while only showing one side of the coin more times than not.
The record label is the business. They pressure, and sometimes force, artists to make songs that accommodate the demands of the people and fill the needs of the radio. Like any other business, a record label’s main goal is to make money off of their artists.
The three factors are intertwined. The demands of the people affect the supply of the radio and vise versa. The supply and demand of the radio and the people affect the business of the record labels and what direction they will push their artists in.
It’s all just conglomerate and the artists can be reduced to nothing more than employees dangling out in the spotlight for critics to throw shots at.
The artists catch the blame and bad reputation for having selfish motives while the driving forces behind the artists go unscathed and unquestioned. The positive music that the artists create and the work they do in the community go unnoticed because of the three factors listed above.
Hip Hop’s image receives a dent every time a song with a foul message becomes a hit and flies through the airwaves thousands of times each day. The image is further damaged when audiences too immature for the content are seen repeating the negative messages without even realizing what they are reciting.
Overall, in order to avoid circumstances like the comments made in the Mushnick column, the acuity of the average person in regards to Hip Hop has to change for the better.
The radio DJs and radio companies have to start supplying music that spreads positivity and has a meaning that each and every one of us can be proud of. Collectively, the people have to demand that a change is made and deem it as necessary for the good of us all. Only then will record labels follow suit and encourage their artists to think critically about how their music will be perceived by the masses.
Personally, Hip Hop has done more for me than I could ever put into words. I love the genre with all of my heart and it has helped shape me into the person I am today.
The same could be said about sports.
I learned the value of teamwork and dedication growing up playing sports, but I honestly believe the hours spent writing, watching and cheering for my favorite sports teams each week has made me into a better person and enhanced the quality of my life.
When my teams lose, yeah, of course it gets me down. But in every sports fan’s life there comes a time when the lesson of separating sports from real life when dealing with a loss will be taught.
After grasping this separation of what matters in the grand scheme of things and what does not, it becomes very difficult to definitively argue that the paralleled success of both sports and Hip Hop deserves a negative connotation associated with it.
To make the argument that allowing Jay-Z to design the Nets’ new logo is irresponsible is to deny the constructive impact that the shared success of Hip Hop and sports has had on society.
In Hip Hop, there are artists who represent the culture in a positive, calculated way; I know this to be 100 percent accurate.
I was once told that perception equals reality. Meaning, it doesn’t matter what really happened, all that matters is what people think happened and how they reacted.
In this case, I don’t think that holds true.
Perception equals reality for those who are too lazy or unwilling to dig deeper.
There’s a much larger picture to see here and it goes far beyond Jay-Z, Phil Mushnick and the sports world I love to immerse myself in.
My hope is that eventually, Hip Hop will dig itself out of this hole and escape from the box that is constantly placed around the genre by the misinformed. My hope is that eventually, the bigger picture comes into focus for the misguided to realize and appreciate, even if Hip Hop doesn’t necessarily fall in line with their musical preferences.
Editorial Written by Tanner Hall aka Dedication3 for Defsounds.com.
For more great reads from Tanner visit his blog, sundaysoonjets.com here.