It’s the day after MTV’s 30th Video Music Awards and I have to admit, I’m feeling like I’ve been robbed blind by a backstabbing friend I let in my Brooklyn living room.
It’s not what you think. If a look at Twitter after pop “lioness” Katy Perry performed what was plugged as her biggest hit to close out the show (in an area under the Brooklyn Bridge where I spend most of my Sundays) is any indication, you all hated the VMAs. But me – not so much.
I can forgive the lackluster show of music and artists in exchange for a performance by Yeezus where he’s not code-switching to seem less threatening to America.
And what it lacked in the surprises from our favorite music artists, exclusive interviews, dance routines and rare appearances we expected and anticipated in the ’90s and early aughts, it made up for in Rihanna’s epic bitchy-resting-nonplussed-face, the 110-second N’Sync reunion, a reaction emitted from one of Will Smith’s offspring that confirmed Aubrey Drake Graham is a 16-year-old’s deity and the desperate calls that confirmed once cutesy Disney stars always use the VMAs to beg for their adulthood and cash out on the appropriation of black women and bisexuality.
Those moments were priceless.
As was the moment where a transplant with a two-decade-long love affair with dilapidated brownstones, bodegas, stoop ball, pizza, various unique neighborhoods and Biggie, realized her Brooklyn home was finally being recognized for all its authenticity and greatness.
But, sadly, that priceless moment never happened. In fact, the opposite revelation came with a hefty price. Along with my hefty Brooklyn rent.
I don’t know, nor can I afford, the VMAs Brooklyn.
I might have expected more from MTV since they brought their once-epic global show to NYC’s backyard, which has also long-served as a hub for hip-hop with an attitude that just can’t be duplicated. And rightfully so. When the promo video is less about the musical acts and more about the trendy logistics, I’m not sleeping ’till Brooklyn. But it never came.
I wanted to see the Brooklyn Spike Lee remembers. Not Billy Ray Cyrus’ daughter twerking on Alan Thicke’s son.
The nostalgia of quarter waters and double dutch, of a young Christopher Wallace in a one-bedroom apartment in Bedstuy or Jay Z walking in and out of 560 State Street may have been a little overpowering for a lot of us waiting patiently for someone to acknowledge that we were hospitable enough to lend Hollywood our home.
And even in moments that were probably formulated to pacify us – Lil Kim’s brief appearance or the constant refrain “Where Brooklyn At,” being screamed at Brooklynites and Brooklyn lovers in the audience – I still can’t tell you where Brooklyn was.
Certainly not in Justin Timberlake’s 20-minute-mini concert, though we were hoping Hov would jump out and bless his city.
It wasn’t in Macklemore or Ryan Lewis’ award-winning domination (especially in a hip-hop category) or Miley Cyrus’ overuse of the newest suburban hobby, twerking, or any of the white appropriation of black culture (or mockery) that was displayed on stage.
It wasn’t in Kendrick Lamar’s brief appearance with 2 Chainz and the rest of Miley’s demonic teddy bears – and he’s apparently supposed to be the new King of New York.
I didn’t see it during the non-existent tribute to our beloved Brooklyn-born Aaliyah, who died on that day 12 years prior.
And I sure as hell am not going to see it next week when the average $3,000 rent in Brooklyn spikes again and forces me into a two-bedroom, five roommate situation in the Lower East Side which is probably more affordable. And no need to worry about the food desert that surrounds the Bushwick area where I spend a lot of my time. With the over-saturation of Fort Greene and previously poor but now wealthy areas like Cobble Hill, I’m sure to see the gentrification overflow flood the block with shops that sell just quinoa, cronuts and ramen burgers.
(BK was, to be fair, in KAWS re-imagination of the familiar MTV Moon Man statue).
It seems, amid my fierce protection of this area, I can’t see the positivity that can come with putting Brooklyn on the global map the way MTV claimed to last night. All I am witnessing around me is the dilution of what made Brooklyn so special in the first place. The diversity, the grittiness, the realness, the hip-hop, the culture and yes…the affordability.
And to be fair, that’s not all MTV’s fault. Last night was a confirmation of what I’ve been so afraid to admit to myself in the past year.
We’re losing the Brooklyn we knew.
And in a new world where suburbanization of poverty is very real (rent in the city has jumped nearly 10 percent since last summer), Brooklyn stands with hundreds of other urban areas facing the same problem. The exodus of the rich, the white washing of its normal diversity, the ridiculous price of shoebox apartments that line blocks that haven’t changed for decades…until now.
The legitimacy of Brooklyn is being threatened. The people, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, all…are being cheated. And when MTV pounced on the new “it” place that we can probably blame on Lena Dunham, it became their responsibility to represent it with historical truthfulness.
Instead, what we all will remember about the VMAs in Brooklyn is Miley Cyrus playing up her ratchet booty shaking (aka the sexualization of black women) without taking real responsibility for the burden or damage she’s causing.
And Brooklyn’s own Jay Z predicted that.