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David Muhammad: The Truthdig Interview

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Posted on Apr 3, 2006
David Muhammad
From printroom.com

David Muhammad, an Oakland-area activist and mentor for incarcerated youths, talks about the rise of new urban drug concoctions like “Bo” (codeine and Robitussin) and “Thizzin,” (taking ecstasy, usually combined with other drugs).

By Sheerly Avni

(Page 3)

So you don’t blame the rappers?

As I wrote, I believe that many of the rappers are themselves victims. If they had an outlet to disseminate a more positive outlook, they would, but it’s still these major corporations that determine what gets promoted and what gets on the radio.

Jay-Z addresses your question in his own lyrics, claiming that he had to dumb down to sell records:

I dumb down for my audience
And double my dollars
They criticize me for it
Yet they all yell “Holla”

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And then he goes on to say that he would rather rap consciously, but he can’t make money doing so: 

I know what I’m up against
We as rappers must decide what’s most impor-tant
And I can’t help the poor if i’m one of them
So I got rich and gave back
To me that’s the win, win

That’s his perspective.

Wait, are you excusing Jay-Z? This is a man who does not need to make any more money.

Part of my anguish around that is that I love Jay-Z. He is conscious, intelligent and very witty, which is part of why I love some of his lyrics. I also appreciate and support what he’s been able to do as a black businessman. But no, I can’t excuse him putting out some music that promotes the culture of death.

What he’s doing is the very definition of selling out! Still I would put most of the blame on the corporations which not only allow this kind of negative hip-hop but actively promote it. Every national music video station is owned by one station: Viacom.

Here’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about. A lyric in Kanye West’s first big hit: “Dope dealers buy Jordan, crackheads buy crack / the white man gets paid offa all of that.”

Now, when this video came out, MTV bleeped the word “white.” Over and over again, they will debase women and glorify thuggishness, but this is what they decide to censor: “the white man gets paid off of all of that.”

So yes, I think corporations like Viacom and Clear Channel are the most to blame for the culture of death.

But the rappers bear a responsibility?

Yes, I am putting some blame on the artists. Particularly rappers like the Jay-Zs and E-40s. E-40 is also intelligent, and he’s been around for a while, I respect him. But in attempts to make money and “promote the movement,” he’s promoting behaviors that are destroying the community.

So you have the Hyphy movement in the Bay Area, and Crunk in the South, these new forms of hip-hop that are much more savage in its presentation, even if the rappers themselves have shown that they can be incredibly positive at times.  David Banner, who is responsible for one of the worst songs, is incredibly positive in real life. [Editor’s note: The chorus of multi-platinum artist David Banner’s wildly popular song “Wait” runs: “You make a nigga wanna fuck your ass on the couch / While we’re still in the club, show your pussy love / Work that clit / Cum girl.” Click here for other lyrics mentioned in this piece.]

When this man speaks publicly, he opens in prayer. After Katrina, he was responsible, speaking out against the government, making efforts to work with and help rebuild the community.

But then look at his lyrics. This is not just degradation of women but irresponsible behavior in men.

Orlando Patterson argued in his Op-Ed that it is men who suffer the most—

Seventy percent of the [new cases of] women getting AIDS are black, so you can’t say that they are not being hit. “Culture of death” behavior as promoted for black men is violent and illegal, while the behavior promoted for women is deviant and sexually irresponsible.

Right before we started talking, I received a call from a woman in Contra Costa calling me about a report in CA, a report she’d just received that black children engage in sex earlier than any other ethnicity.

The girls are suffering, but in a different way.

In your article, you wrote that you feared being called a sell-out. Are you concerned that by slamming hip-hop you’re picking up some strange bedfellows?

Most black people are in the Democratic Party, but most blacks tend to be more socially conservative. You do find yourself taking strange bedfellows. I did not agree with how C. Delores Tucker conducted her campaign against hip-hop, nor did she always keep the best company. If you watch her in the Tupac Shakur movie, she’s sitting next to William Bennett, the same William Bennett who said if you abort black babies you can improve the crime rate.

So yes, I worry about this. But I also agree with Bob Herbert, who said in a column a few weeks back that we need a new civil rights movement, one that comes from within the black community. We also need to address this amongst ourselves. 

[laughs] And actually on that note, I’m sorry, I have to cut this short, I have these three young men in the car, and they’ve been waiting for me very patiently.


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By Stephen, April 24, 2007 at 5:39 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I just attended a talk led by David Muhammad, and am now wondering how “edited” the above interview was.  The gentleman who spoke tonight was rambling, bordering on incoherent.  At one point in a discussion on the role of black leaders on college campuses he held up pictures that he insisted proved that martians (yep, from Mars) inspired the sphinx and taught egyptians to build wooden helicopters!  I wish I could say I was kidding. 
I could imagine that something as thoughtful as the interview on this website could be pieced together from his ramblings, but only with careful editing bordering on fiction writing.  So again, I would be interested to hear a reply or see a discussion concerning the editing process employed on this site.

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By big AL, October 13, 2006 at 11:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

hiphop,the music I adored as a youth,has unfortunately become a tool of the libcoms(liberal/communists)its purpose is to destroy the youth through self-destruction,and drive them to the point where they think blind rebeliousness to everything orderly and good is an honorable thing,against the “authority”.more brainwashing…a shame that such a beautiful artform has been hijacked,showing all Black males as gangsters and pimps,drunk off “petron”,high on E,and fucking all their"biatches"further degrading women.how sad it is.

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By ilttsk, October 4, 2006 at 6:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Pretty much nothing seems important. Pretty much nothing noteworthy happening these days, but such is life. Not much on my mind lately. I’ve basically been doing nothing. I just don’t have anything to say lately. I’ve just been letting everything happen without me these days.
breast feeding
hidden camera
http://funny.outsos.info/fetish.html

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By Premie Zereuwa, August 8, 2006 at 8:20 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Your piece is quit interesting though, suffering in the prison of another country for a piece is work is still questionable. i believe nigeria is our mother land which no one can deny that fact. you are a hero in the eyes of the world and i believe Nigerians are proude of you, It is very necessary that one is above human’s destruction in a way of receiving the DIVINE KNOWLEDGE OF THE LIVING PERFECT MASTER (SATGURU MAHARAJ JI) WHICH WILL TAKE YOU AWAY FROM EVERY PROBLEM IN THE PRESENT AND FUTURE. As a native of the land our ancestors always protect his children from every form of danger and i must to say here that it is not only that you are imprison for the piece of the work published but always for racial,political,social and economic reason but with Divine knowleedge one is free forever.

I am from the Eastern part of Nigeria and experienced the same too during the Abacha Coup and recieving the Divine Knowledge today is a total freedom. As a champion you are in the eyes of the world you needed a guide and protection of the real creator.

I would want to know more about you and don’t hestate to ask me any question.

Thanks
premie Zereuwa
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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By SATGURU MAHARAJ JI, August 8, 2006 at 7:58 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sent: 2006 08 08

Dearest David,

ITS ABSOLUTELY INSPUTABLE THAT THE BLACKS ARE HIGHLY BEEN REGARDED AS NOT PART OF THIS WORLD BUT UNKNOW TO ANYONE THAT “BLACK IS THE FOUNDATION OF ALL CREATION” AND FOR SOMEONE SUGGESTING THE TERMINATION OF UNBORN BABY’S PREGNACY IS SO EVIL AND PART OF THE HATREDNESS WE ARE TALKING ABOUT, AS ONE OF THE CONTRIBUTOR QUOTED AS AN ACT OF REDUCING THE CRIME. AS THE GODMAN (SATGURU MAHARAJ JI) THE LIVING PERFECT MASTER OF THIS TIME,THAT HAS COME TO SAVE MAN FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT, MAN IS NOT MEANT TO DIE AS IT WAS AT THE BEGGINING…( THE TIME OF OUR ANCESTORS) BUT TODAY RELIGION HAS TURN EVERYTHING UPSIDE DOWN MAKING US TO BELIEVE THAT IS THE ONLY WAY OUT. I REVIEW LIGHT (DIVINE KNOWLEDGE) THAT MAKES ONE IMORTAL AND GIVE 100% GUARANTEED SAFETY ON LAND,SEA AND AIR. YOU SO MUCH INSPIRED ME AND I WOULD WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT YOU IN DETAILS AND FEEL FREE TO ASK ME ANY QUESTION.

THANKS
SATGURU MAHARAJ JI
LIVING PERFECT MASTER

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By Dereca Blackmon, April 19, 2006 at 3:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

(please add this to my last post)

As to what’s different about music today - 3 things: 1) Headphones - most parents are unaware of what their children are listening to.  My mom came in my room and took my Prince record. 2) Crack - Half of the kids I work with are missing at least 1 parent due to drug use or trafficking 3)The Prison Industrial Complex - when Black teenagers engage in adolescent antics of hypheeism they don’t get a ride home from the police or a call to their parent, they get a criminal record.  Finally, anyone who thinks ecstasy is a throwback to the 60’s summer of love hasn’t purchased it in an urban setting where it is rarely if ever pure MDMA.

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By Dereca Blackmon, April 19, 2006 at 3:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thank you for taking a risk and publishing this excellent article.  I had never heard of truthdig.com before but I know the life-changing work of David Muhammad and have seen very few media outlets that have been willing to tackle this heavy subject in such a thorough way.  Hat’s off to you truthdig.com you’ve won my readership.

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By Captain America, April 14, 2006 at 12:34 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

My only objection to Mr. Muhammad’s interview is that an “explosion” of ecstasy use in young black men is a bad thing. From my own experience and those others have shared with me, ecstasy may well be the best thing for young black men and women. It is counter-intuitive to link ecstasy with any type of violence, they simply don’t mesh. A gangsta on ecstasy is much more likely to make sweet love to his gun than he is to shoot anyone with it! It’s effects are excitement, euphoria, a sense of well-being and connectedness to the world, as well as simply feeling like the name “ecstasy” implies. MDMA was used for decades as an anti-depressant before it ever found its street culture. It seems to me that much of young black america is in a deep state of depression, as they should be, what with all of the horrors of daily life Mr. Mohammad details. Of course there are dangers in taking any drug, but of all the drugs out there, ecstasy is far and away the least likely to lead to violence. Perhaps what America needs is a national take an e-bomb and get to know your neighbors day. Look at the rave scene, despite random violence, you have hundreds of thousands of ethnically diverse people getting together every weekend, enjoying themselves and each others company, taking ecstasy, and simply having fun…...Is that such a terrible thing? Would not our black community benefit from a little more fun, a little more acceptance, a little less depression, if only for a few hours?

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By Rahkyt, April 7, 2006 at 11:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“The People crave War Music
Because the People are at War.”

War with each other? That’s an even worse interpretation of the ‘reality’ than the alternative, which was discussed in quite the informative fashion in this article.

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By Hawk, April 7, 2006 at 4:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It’s not the music alone it the Video’s that syncronized with the lyrics. Listening to Ragtime,Blues,Rock&Roll; and any music before the advancement of videos meant people listened with their ears not their eyes its different when an image is branded in the mind along with music beause then you can research that tactic back through history its called for lack of better words. ” Brainwashing ” I call it
” brandWashing “.

And I compare it to Nazism, the Grillz and other fashion pieces could be signs of the swazstika or any other icon for that matter.Sometime I even call it Hitler-Hop or Hip-Hop/Crissy the whore of babylons prostituting teen-age daughter and lastly.

The WORD was and is GOD so using the words of ones mouth to say some of these things are blasphemus and I guess the generation/culture in questions don’t believe they’ll be judged by the words they speak or that their was a GOD of their ancestorial slaves

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By dianome, April 6, 2006 at 8:50 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

you know maybe if the program directors at radio stations would stop play’n this stuff (but it won’t) than it would go underground, and not so mainstream, maybe this would help to curve this new death system!

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By Dr. Susan Block, April 6, 2006 at 2:09 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Don’t blame the music.
Don’t blame the poetry.
Don’t blame art or even entertainment.
And don’t blame human sexuality.  Don’t blame our desire for pleasure, for love, for touch, for *cum*
Blame the guns.
Blame the war.
Blame the Gang Leaders on the Street and in Washington.
Blame the culture that stole human beings and made them slaves.
Blame the Crusaders.
But don’t blame the Troubadors.
The People crave War Music
Because the People are at War.

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By Victor, April 5, 2006 at 11:54 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I really enjoyed the article.  I believe that the rappers are just as much to blame for damaging black culture as are the record companies.  I mean after all they do write the lyrics.  They are just money hungry and are willing to sacrifice our culture for greed.

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By Amber, April 5, 2006 at 6:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We all argue for freedom of speech, but what happens when that freedom is abused? Sure, music itself isn’t the problem - but when you take icons of the music industry, writing lyrics promoting drug abuse, violence, and misogyny, then you have a problem. Kudos to Mr. Muhammad for standing up and saying something, and to Sheerly for writing about it.

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By James Harley, April 4, 2006 at 10:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

f

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By sheerly, April 4, 2006 at 3:33 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thanks to the readers for all your comments. One note: All of the programs David Muhammad is involved with are for both boys and girls, including The Beat Within. Indeed, one of the pieces we sampled in this piece was by a girl describing her own experience with “poppin’ pills”

However, the vast majority of incarcerated youth are still young males, and the majority of mainstream hip hop is still produced by men, and written from a male point of view.
-SA

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By benny, April 4, 2006 at 1:48 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It’s too bad that only boys are getting this kind of attention from David and others. WHERE ARE THE WRITING PROGRAMS, JOBS, RIDES HOME AND MENTORS FOR GIRLS?

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By David, April 4, 2006 at 12:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Great interview, but people have been linking violence to youth-oriented music for a century—starting with rag time, through blues, jazz, and, of course, through rock ‘n roll in all its permutations.  And nobody has really found a link between music and violence.  So, without challenging Mr. Muhammed’s ideas, I’d like to know how this time it’s different.  Is is that those earlier music forms did not have lyrics denigrating women and extolling violence, while hip hop does?  Or what?

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By webmacher, April 4, 2006 at 8:48 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Calumny?”

Um, no, I think Mr. Muhammed summarized it accurately. The other stuff Bennett said was just disclaimers to make him sound less horrible (“impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do”)—but he circles back to his claim that if this was done, “your crime rate would go down.”

Take out the anguished disclaimers. You’re left with “But I do know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could—if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.” That’s pretty much the same as “if you abort black babies you can improve the crime rate.”

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By JP, April 4, 2006 at 6:02 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thank you for posting this.  We need to support uplifiting, creative African-American genres, jazz as an example.  The best jazz musicians are African-American, and they should be proud. 

The misogyny and violence of rap and hip-hop are not helping our country.

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By Toby, April 3, 2006 at 8:53 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Great piece - but the Bennett line is highly misleading:

“Well, I don’t think it is either, I don’t think it is either, because first of all, there is just too much that you don’t know. But I do know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could—if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.”

It is bad that someone as sensible as Mr Muhammad would repeat such a calumny.

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