Author’s Note: I do NOT cook food to accommodate your schedule or attention span. You only have to digest this once while the radio programs your meals through processed repetition. The main ingredients of this dish du jour are valuables vs. values. Bon appétit.
I was introduced to the news about the Barney’s incident by The Breakfast Club, a syndicated morning show trio broadcasting from New York City. It spawned the question for the listeners, which was worse; the incident itself or the fact that Trayon Christian, a 19 year old college student, would spend $350 on a belt?
Before I proceed, you need to know a little about these radio personalities and how I see them. Angela Yee is everyone’s familiar acquaintance. She’s the pretty girl you can take to a Wu-Tang Concert. Correction, she would take you because she started her career working for them. She’s well-educated without the air of elitism because she’s holistically hood. At some point in an argument, she’s the type to say “good luck with that.”
Charlemagne Tha God is the .Gif image for the truth hurts. Like Young Buck in G-Unit, he’s a transplant from the South that can hang with the best city slickers. He honed his craft and confidence as the male cohort under the wing of Wendy Williams, when her reign as the blind-item gossip queen caused magnetic radio silence. His brutal and sometimes flawed logic makes him polarizing but hard to totally disagree with. At some point in an argument, he’s the type…just listen to any “Donkey of the Day” where he shows very little mercy.
DJ Envy is at the helm by default due to his ranking credentials. I shouldn’t throw shade, but he’s more a DJ at-large for his knack to land a good job with high exposure than he is the proclaimed “people’s choice.” He went to Hampton University, has a family and a strong work ethic. He’s from Queens and practices the Nas mantra (that Brooklyn took) “I’m out for Presidents to represent me.” At some point in an argument, he’s the type to end it by comparing bank statements.
The purpose of mentioning their background and character traits sheds light on how the discussion was moderated which is also key to understanding a psyche that plagues our not so emancipated minds. The media covered the incidents as news but if you listened to the show it was more like therapy. Angela focused on the institutional issue of discrimination at Barney’s by mentioning a similar incident that happened to Wiz Khalifa. Charlemagne diagnosed every symptom to why Trayon would pay so much for a belt and Envy altruistically offer to buy Trayon a belt as a reward of him working hard to save for what he wanted.
The listeners did what listeners do and commented with anger, sympathy and laughter. It became a provocative discussion on – worth. The next day it was reported that something similar happened to 21 year old Kayla Phillips. This time it was a purse that cost twenty-five muthaf-ing hun-ned ($2500). Wtf? She’s a nursing student who either makes dollars or makes no sense. Tbt, buying that kind of item with a temporary bank card is suspicious.
Question, what if Barney’s releases a report showing 90% of the fraud/shoplifters they catch are African-Americans? “Catch” would now be the key word because they are conditioned to not think of white criminals as suspicious, hence they pursue the store invaders a la Jorge Zimmerman.
Then over the weekend, an even more embarrassing and legitimate claim was made by actor Rob Brown (Treme, Finding Forrester) about a prior experience at Macy’s. Why was this worst of the three incidents? Because Mr. Brown is a 29 year old grown man who was buying a gift for his mother (and himself) when plainclothes cops on Mall detail “paraded” him through Macy’s in handcuffs like America’s Most Wanted had sponsored a float. At least Barney’s has a hands free “no arrest on the premises” operation. Peep the slick false truth of Barney’s initial statement, “It is clear that no employee of Barneys New York was involved in the pursuit of any action with the individual other than the sale.” Wink twice if that’s the perp.
Now some will call out the racial profiling with picket signs, others will defend one’s right to splurge, Barney’s might hire a black Santa this Christmas, but then what? What do we do about our sickness? All races might suffer from materialism but for blacks, it’s tantamount to high blood pressure. I don’t want to sound self-righteous, but too many of us (myself included) are sicker than your average when it comes to conspicuous consumption, especially when we mismanage our priorities. You can’t say YOLO to everything.
Every girl I know who knows Angela says she’s always had the hautest shoe collection but you rarely hear her boast. Charlemagne is on radio and TV collecting checks but doesn’t hesitate to brag about his miser ways. Envy was one of the first DJ’s to push a Bentley but as of late he talks much more about investing in those who live in his house and less on the what is in his garage.
Unfortunately, The Breakfast Club are just 4 hour shift paramedics in an infested culture. They can’t help us but so much. In fact, their bosses make them treat us with heavy rotation of our own disease. Fresh-dressed while the Feds are watching only taunts them to build a stronger case that will have you in the same outfit for years (good song though). The majority of rappers can’t spit a verse without worshiping multiple Gay designers. Then they have the nerve to use the phrase “No-Homo.” I find it interesting that I haven’t heard it said much since the respected master of America’s most coveted plantation hit Roy Hibbert with a 75K fine – pause.
Is there evolution after the Bling dynasty of MTV caribs? Damn, these sub-par rappers with these hot beats. The brainwash of our jungle music is backfiring. Does it matter that Trayon just wanted the belt he saw Juelz Santana wearing? Yes, it shows the powers of perception and influence.
When I wrote “Lorde Help Us (And Kanye)” I wasn’t putting him down, I was trying to remind him from whence he came. He’s a chosen child of the golden era of Hip-Hop where knowledge of self was a central theme among of wide spectrum of rappers. Now it’s just knowledge of selfishness. It’s no coincidence all these white artists boosted to the top by making music that is counter our culture, or should I say counter the values we project. Why is it that Emimem has been around all this time and I probably couldn’t even tell you what kind of cars he likes? If you think his staying power is just about his pigment, think how Kendrick managed to succeed in such a strong fashion without an over emphasis on, fashion.
When Arizona wouldn’t recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday, Public Enemy did this. What are these rappers going to do? C’mon Cole. What would Hova do? Exactly, what he did. What should Hova do? Keep doing business with Barney’s, but use it as leverage for a direct jobs program among other things. We give Jay-Z too much credit for going to Cuba for cigars and not enough credit to Common for going there to see Assata. Unlearn the one dimensional definition of winning and practice more balanced critical thinking. There are different champions to crown, hence multiple paths to self-empowerment. I hate to break it to you, but Jay-Z owes no one but Live Nation. Those of us who are original Jay-Hova witnesses, have watched him turn the storefront temple of our familiar into a mega-church with stadium seats. I’m proud and he deserves it, but I must think practically about the corporate organ fund and helipad on the roof as it relates to my relationship with God.
Charlemagne smells what the Roc is cooking and actually gave the “Donkey of the Day” to all those pressuring Jay-Z not to do business with Barney’s. I beg to differ because every action causes a reaction and sometimes an inspiration. Let the movement shape itself. The more awareness, the more reflection. This is the problem with Charlemagne and most black folk (kinda the point Miquel was trying to make via twitter). We stifle our own progress in so many ways. There would be no President Obama if he relied on black people as the foundation of his campaign. In 2006, Charlemagne probably would’ve given him the “Donkey” for even thinking he could be President. That’s why he shouldn’t discourage Donald Glover (who was a guest that day) from being a rapper because then he is just reinforcing a one dimensional idea of what a rapper should be. Today’s millennial fan base doesn’t relate to being kept in a box. As long as someone isn’t wack, let’em live. Childish Gambino might end up being the favorite of the next great rapper or next Black President.
Still, Charlemagne makes a good point about our collective bark with little bite. Hilfiger, Ralph, Timberland, there’s a long list of disrespect we let slide. What happens now? The peanut gallery of Black twitter might as well be called the porch trolls because I doubt they have the power to mobilize like the Occupy movement. Prove me wrong or prove me right and let that insult be the only thing you take away from this article. I’m not on twitter so I don’t give a fuck. At this point, everybody involved deserves a big “Hee-Haw.”
Did you know when there was a one-man attack on a Jewish School in France last year that the Jewish communities made NYPD provide security at every major Jewish institution here in New York on the same day? Meanwhile, there have been an alarming number of unarmed black men who got murdered by police and they weren’t even committing a crime. Most of the cops didn’t even get docked pay. I don’t like comparing the bond of religion with race but recognize the engrained set of values and how Jews force respect. To white people this may sound exaggerated, but there’s not much difference between cuff and question and kill and question when doing anything while black. At this point it’s beyond profiling and more like target practice.
On a personal note, when a popular soul food spot in Harlem called Pan Pan started to close, a new one opened on the same block. I was one of their first customers. The food was disgusting and it was run by Koreans. They quickly hired the right chefs and soon had multiple locations throughout the capital of Black America. Though the Seoul proprietors of the establishment were planted in the community long before gentrification and are obviously good-hearted people, they no longer existed to me. Regardless of all the black people they employ, I made a personal boycott that the owners shouldn’t take personally. You know why? I’ll tell you, because if a black person tried to open a Chinese restaurant in China town…do I even have to finish that Chappelle-esque scenario?
As for boycotting Barney’s, it’s a definite start and a nice act of solidarity, but I’m afraid our material mindset will only make other stores that much richer. Since segregation and Apartied is over, it’s harder to boycott all things racist because there’s no clear demand. It’s hard to divest from a capitalistic structure in which we were once property and a tradable commodity. However, it’s easy not to give these companies so much free advertising. Rick Ross won’t lose any fans if he changes the name of his company from Maybach Music. As per my aforementioned suggestion for Shawn Carter’s partnership with Barney’s, maybe when these artists/athletes get ad campaigns, they can structure some kind of brand marketing job program for HBCU college grads. In the meantime, elected officials need to make all stores implement a “Question & Verify” policy before they throw on the handcuffs. That’s just a sample of what solutions taste like.
Let me conclude by speaking directly to Mr. Trayon Christian. Your lawsuit is not a personal lottery but rather a class action. For many of us, your 20’s is all about the consumption of clothes, cars, alcohol, sex and debt. But job insecurity is the new norm, so your generation has to re-assess your value system and not get trapped by distractions. For starters, stop waiting on 2-day lines for the new iPhones. More specific to you Trayon, let me say that jewelry, shoes, watches, cologne and a sock in your pants might aid in animal attraction, but at your age, a belt that expensive is useless.
I’m proud of your discipline to save, so now’s the time to think about what a legal victory means to you. Don’t try to keep up with these rappers, because a lot of them are going broke from stunting hard. Oh, I forgot you’re being raised in an overload of stripper anthems and free porn. Please de-program yourself from giving them all of (y-our) money on your 21st birthday. There will be a stripper you think you love but I highly doubt she’ll really love you for you. Chances are you’ll be a notch on her belt that leads to a future meeting with Mona Scott. I don’t want to generalize but I suggest you keep in mind one of The Breakfast Club’s credos – #HoesBeWinning.
So listen to Angela, listen to Charlemagne, listen to Envy, then change the channel and broaden what you listen to because they’re still pawns to the programming. Get inspirational jewels from the Santana that plays the guitar. Read the book “Brainwashed” by Tom Burrell. Start shopping at outlets and designer discount stores. Practice Judaism. Buy property. Open a Chinese-Soul fusion restaurant. Get a job at Barney’s. Whatever you do, when it comes to your wants vs. your needs, don’t let that belt be the albatross around your neck.
Author’s Post Script: If you’re reading this you either scrolled down or ate it all. Hope you enjoyed the tasty tangents that supported the subject matter. Click the hyperlinks for more good food. #bBetter
T. Better Baldwin is a creative mercenary and ethical lobbyist who was born, raised and resides in New York City.
PHOTO CREDIT: Power 105.1