Oprah’s snub has rappers in uproar

Leonard Pitts Jr.: syndicated columnist

Would somebody please tell the hip-hop community to stop whining?
Go drink some Cristal, buy some bling, pimp some hos or do whatever it is they do for amusement, but please, cease, desist, shut up already about how Oprah Winfrey has hurt their feelings.

For those who came in late: Over the last month, a trio of high-profile rappers has leveled criticism at Winfrey for what they feel is her disrespect of their medium. The first blast came from a gentleman who calls himself Ludacris, but whose birth certificate identifies him as Christopher Brian Bridges. He said that when he appeared on Winfrey’s show to promote the movie “Crash,” in which he co-starred, she treated him dismissively.

The complaint was echoed by 50 Cent (born Curtis James Jackson III) who complained to The Associated Press that Winfrey rarely features hip-hop on her talk show. “Oprah’s audience is my audience’s parents, so I could care less about Oprah or her show,” he said, sounding, of course, like a guy who cares way too much.

Then Ice Cube (nee O’Shea Jackson) got into the fray, complaining to FHM magazine that he’s never been invited to sit on Winfrey’s couch.
“She’s had damn rapists, child molesters and lying authors on her show.
And if I’m not a rags-to-riches story for her, who is?”

Not that anyone asked me, but I could answer all of this in words of one syllable: boo hoo.

Winfrey, though, evidently feeling these gentlemen deserved more response than that, went on a New York radio station and told DJ Ed Lover that rumors of her distaste for hip-hop are exaggerated. “I’ve got a little 50 on my iPod,” she said.

Some of us chose to take that revelation with a box of salt. Some of us were left wondering when, how and why liking hip-hop came to be a litmus test for, well … anything. Winfrey went on to explain that her problem with hip-hop is that some of it offends her “sensibilities.” She will not, she said, support music that marginalizes women.

You think maybe she could have been referring to that rap video where a credit card is swiped through a woman’s backside? Or to any of the hundreds of other videos where women are treated as props and accoutrements? Or to the ones where they are addressed in terms normally reserved for prostitutes and canines?

Here’s what amuses me: These guys actually think they have a point. They actually think they’ve been wronged. And never mind the thousand and one ways their music has wronged us all.

The lords of hip-hop made their fortunes and their fame by flipping the middle-finger salute to middle-American alarm and apprehension over their music, its rawness, its explicitness, its violence and its effects. They were outsiders, loud and profanely proud in their rejection of white picket fence mores and norms.

Fine. They have every right.

But now they’re singing the blues because the ultimate arbiter of white picket fence mores and norms wants nothing to do with them? Now they’re seeking sympathy because they are denied a stamp of approval from Middle America’s main gatekeeper?

Cry me a river.

I mean, what do they expect? You can’t have it both ways. You cannot curse people and expect them to support you, cannot offend them then ask them to welcome you. I’m reminded of what mama always said about respect: You got to give some to get some.

Perhaps this is news to the hip-hop nation, populated as it is by people who routinely embrace values neutrality and moral relativism, who often duck responsibility for what they say and how they say it, who frequently refuse to recognize that words have meaning and consequence.

But if it’s new to them, it’s validation to me. For the better part of 20 years, hip-hop’s overriding message has been, “Bleep the mainstream.”

Apparently, these guys are upset that they’re being taken at their word.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may contact him at:
lpitts@herald.com