Snoop:America's Favorite Gangsta or America's Favorite Coon?
THE BRIDGE: An Unholy Marriage
By Darryl James
"MoccaCoca. Ikashizzle. I got the hookup, Nephew."
"I'm not sure what you just said."
I used to love Snoop. His sing-songy rhymes laced with the countriness of a second generation Arkansas transplant fit so well over the beats made by Dr. Dre, that no neck could keep from making heads bob in slow syncopation. And I just knew that as he rose in his game that he would also elevate his content. Sadly, I was right, but in a different way.
Snoop has elevated his content from white America's favorite gangsta rapper, to corporate America's favorite coon.
Yes, I said it--Snoop is cooning. What else can be said when viewing his latest commercial venture--for Chrysler no less--in tandem with that corporation's former chief executive officer, Lee Iacocca?
In the commercial, Snoop is unleashing as much coon gibberish as he can in sixty seconds, while the distinguished corporate statesman is rendered unable to decipher the language of the strange dark man.
It’s like dogs and cats having sex with each other.
I have to be honest--there is something that white people love about Snoop that is making me lose my love for him. Imagine--squeaky clean Corporate America and big bad Snoop. It's not as though he's some bad boy actor who is simply playing a role. Snoop purports to have a real life claim to gangster fame.
Think I'm tripping? Well, Ludacris, who is also a hot rap star, was kicked off the Pepsi brand ad campaign based on explicit lyrics in his album. But with Snoop, here's a coon who admittedly sold drugs and gang banged, was charged with murder and maybe even slapped his wife, representing one of the largest corporations in America--in essence, selling cars to sixty year old white men and blue-haired white women.
Explain that one, Nephew. He got the hookup fa' sho'. They need us so much that they'll take anything. Did I say they "need us?"
The simple truth is that America understands our ability to hawk a product better than we ever did. And even if they have to go to the most disgraceful of us to pander to the nation's love affair with Black culture, they will. With Snoop, they did, garnering one of the most popular, who is also one of the most disgraceful.
Corporate America understands how it works, even though most of us never give it a second thought. Popular culture is based on Black culture. Whatever we do, if it becomes popular, they will take it mainstream. The biggest problem is that when it goes mainstream and generates revenue, very few of us will partake of the rewards. Another problem is that usually what goes mainstream is a caricature of who we really are.
That caricature of who we are is a small portion of our existence, but once it is packaged and sold back to us and the rest of the world, the impression is that the caricature is all we are really about. Sadly, we often get that impression ourselves. For example, the world thinks we are all thugs based on the images sold most prolifically through Rap music and the bastardization of Hip Hop culture. Once that image was sold back to us, our sisters began looking for a man with a little thug in him, and our brothers began to act like thugs. And we began to think that using the word “Nigga” was a revolution.
A handful of us will clown our culture for a punchline and/or a paycheck, but Corporate America is using us, not celebrating us, and they don't give half a damn how we look in the process. Fa' shizzle, my nizzles.
Another modern day Stepinfetchit, Puff Daddy, P-Diddy, McGriddle, The Riddler, or whatever he's calling himself these days (The Buffoon formerly known as Sean), spearheaded America's embrace of the gas-hogging, ridiculously oversized Hummer. In the world's richest nation, which has some of the poorest people, it took this embarrassment to Black Nationalists everywhere to make it cool to be excessive, with the poorest and the dumbest of our people standing first in line.
So, why did Nike have a problem with Kobe? He's an admitted adulterer and accused rapist, but so what? He's Black and he was more than willing to run and jump for the boss. Hell, if OJ's knees weren't shot, he'd still be willing to run through the airports for Hertz. But alas, America convicted him for sleeping with a white woman...I mean...you know what I mean.
But the problem with Kobe and OJ is that they aren't anyone's bad boys. They tried to be nice guys and while they didn't represent the race, they didn't go out of their way to make the race look bad, either. And Corporate America needs a Black person to dance, sing or tell jokes for every white version of a commercial featuring white people who are dignified.
They order the pizza for their family based on a discount--we rip and dip. They call for the Kool-Aid man, while we predict personalities based on what fruit each person takes in their drink. They ask: "Can you hear me now?" We ask: "Where you at?" They advise: "If you can find a better car, buy it." We advise: "If it's mo' fly, then you must buy."
Through my publication, Rap Sheet, as well as it's conference and marketing campaigns, I worked with Sprite while it became the fastest growing soft drink brand in the 1990s. The world made sense then, because it was all about being squeaky clean and avoiding the appearance of bad taste or bad public behavior. But things have changed and while the soft drink may not have wanted to align itself with a modern day coon, it invented one in the form of the miniature puppet that could be positioned to clown Black socialization and sensibilities. ("Show 'em my motto!")
And it's not a new phenomenon.
Racial stereotypes were used to justify slavery from the very beginning of that peculiar institution’s existence to the bitter end. White racists employed a propaganda campaign to make Africans look backward and inferior, both culturally as well as genetically.
With Jim Crow, that campaign was embedded in the popular culture of the nation--in entertainment as well as radio and print advertising. Through this propaganda, with help from the self-hating Negroes who willingly participated, Black existence in America became synonymous with silliness, a general lack of sophistication and stupidity.
In the early part of the twentieth century, bug-eyed Negroes and horribly racist caricatures of Black Americans were used to hawk everything from pancakes to furniture, and even though she’s been slightly updated--Aunt Jemima--America’s favorite “Mammy” lives on today. So popular were some of the images from that era, that many of them became dolls and other toys, which today are collector’s items—collected even by Blacks themselves. Negative images of Africans to hawk commercial items even took strongholds in other nations, from Japan (recall the debacle circa 1990’s) and even our neighbor Mexico (remember the fiasco from earlier this year?).
And who could forget the early 1990s, when every rapper and his cousin lined up to rhyme and dance for a malt liquor commercial? After all, Ice Cube prophesied that "malt liquor make yo' jimmy thicker," and besides, "St. Ide's was givin' ends." If you don't understand, just think "If it's mo' fly, then you must buy." It's all from the same Negro Shuckin' & Jivin' manual that keeps getting updated.
The problem is that Black people in America have an image problem. And it won't get any better as long as we willingly participate in our own denigration.
Perhaps the most obvious piece of evidence will become apparent when some ignorant Negroes attack me for writing this. They don't see any problem and actually loved the Snoop commercial. They also think that Dave Chappelle is harmless and that “Nigga” is a term of endearment for public consumption.
They are bastard children of the unholy marriage between the negative Black image and Corporate America.
Darryl James is an award-winning author and is now a relationship coach, providing pragmatic advice for loving and living in today's world. James’ latest book, “Bridging The Black Gender Gap,” is the basis of his lectures and seminars. Previous installments of this column can now be viewed at www.bridgecolumn.com. James can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.