Pittsburgh artist Wiz Khalifa has been making a lot of noise as of late. Most recently him and rhyme partner Currensy did song called Huey Newton which has ruffled the feathers of more than a few people who feel like the Black Panther Party co-founder who fought tirelessly for the liberation of Black people is being disrespected.
The song in question has nothing to do with Huey or the Panthers. It’s about smoking weed and kicking it. Hence it left many wondering why name check Huey? Was it to bring controversy or was it a reflection of one’s ignorance where freedom fighters and civil rights icons are seen as fair game for dismissal, ridicule and attacks?
When I heard the song, two things went through my mind. First was the controversy surrounding Outkast when they used the name of Rosa Parks, the mother of the Civil Rights Movement in the biggest hit single off the critically acclaimed Aquemini album.
Many felt it was a huge disrespect, including some of Park’s people who wound up suing Outkast for using her name without permission. According to her representatives, Ms Parks didn’t like the fact that the group used profanity in a song that in no way reflected what she had stood for.
Outkast felt they were being mis-understood. They claimed that they were paying tribute in an artistic sort of way. Parks’ name was used as a metaphor to lay claim that the group was putting others on notice that it was time to make way, ‘move to the back of the bus’ and make way for Outkast.
Many in the Civil Rights community wasn’t buying it. While many in the Hip Hop community questioned the motives behind a lawsuit. Was this really Rosa Park’s sentiments or her people trying to make a buck? The counter to that question and ultimately one of the basis for the lawsuit-was Outkast trying to make a buck off of Rosa Parks?
Eventually famed lawyer Johnnie Cochran got involved on behalf of Parks. The lawsuits were dismissed on freedom of speech grounds but Outkast wound up settling with Ms Parks. They shot her some money and agreed to do a few community benefits for her foundation.
The other thing that went through my mind were the recent name checks where iconic freedom fighters are publicly clowned.
We saw this two years ago when a young columnist from Ebony magazinenamed Jam Donaldson of Hot Ghetto Mess fame took shots at political prisoner and former Panther Mumia Abu Jamal. In her piece she stated;
“One day I’m like, ‘Free Mumia’ and other days I’m like, ‘That n***** probably did it.’ And I’m not afraid to admit it, and I’m not afraid to write about it.”
Donaldson’s remarks angered many of Mumia’s supporters who felt her flippant remarks in a respected publication like Ebony not only added but in some ways legitimized an already poisonous climate set by police department unions who had been on a mission to see Mumia put to death.
Donaldson noted that her remarks and take on things are a reflection of how many in her generation feel these days. They’re sarcastic and have no problem crossing what many in the past may have seen as sacred lines. In her case she saw nothing wrong with dissing a man who was fighting for his life on death row. A few years prior comedian Cedric the Entertainer saw nothing wrong with clowning Rosa Parks by calling her lazy in the movie Barbershop. Parks boycotted the NAACP image awards in which Cedric was appearing as a result.
Today an artist like Wiz Khalifa may see nothing wrong with naming a song after Huey Newton without reflecting his legacy. These are just names to people who now live in an increasingly disposable society.
Here’s a video to the song Huey Newton
Needless to say… the Huey Newton song got a quick rebuke from more than a few people including Minista Paul Scott of the Militant Mind Militia. Below is his video response where he goes in on Khalifa and Currensy
Lastly, weighing in on this is fellow Pittsburgh rapper Jasiri X who feels like situations like this can lead to teachable moments. He knows both Wiz and Paul Scott and feels that we should be building bridges and not causing further divisiveness.
I agree with Jasiri X and I like the video he did in response to the song. At the same time one thing that all of us need to keep in mind is the importance of empathy. We need to walk in each other’s shoes. We need to keep in mind that each generation has heroes and sheroes they hold dear and sadly there are outside forces that routinely malign those leaders and important figures in our community. Hopefully all of us young and old understand this and don’t add to the attacks or in Wiz’s case neglect.
In my generation the icons were Chuck D, KRS, X-Clan, Minister Farrakhan and others who we rallied around. A generation before that, it was the Malcolms, Martins, Shirely Chisolms and Hueys.
The generations after mine came to admire Tupac, Biggie, Diddy. and later Jay-Z.
For today’s generation those figures don’t hold the same emotional cache. They have their own heroes. Is it Lil Wayne? Souljah Boy? Rick Ross, Beyonce? The best way to find out is to ask the young folks around you and build. Who are the heroes and sheroes for today’s generation?
Remember we are in a date and time where ethnic studies is being cut from college campuses all around the country and history text books are being re-written as we speak. Freedom fighters like Thurgood Marshall and Cesar Chavez are being removed and replaced with Newt Gingrich and Jerry Falwell. Community leaders are less and less known while pundits seen on TV and entertainers and music moguls have become the new Civil Rights leaders Should we be surprised if a Wiz Khalifa doesn’t hold a Huey Newton close to his chest in 2010?
Here’s Jasiri X’s remarks:
I saw the controversy over the Wiz Khalifa and Currensy song called Huey Newton, including the video response by Paul Scott of the Militant Mind Militia, and being that I know both Wiz and Paul I thought I should weigh in.
I certainly understand why the conscious community would be upset with Wiz and Currensy considering the subject matter of the song, but I just wanted to offer some perspective. I grew up in a very conscious household, however in my early 20s, I dropped out of college and spent most of my days smoking weed, writing rhymes and hustling to support my habit. I figured I was gonna be an MC so I was gonna have as much fun as I could on the way to the top.
Eventually, that lifestyle got old and by the grace of God I regained my conscious mind and began trying to use my talents and gifts to uplift humanity. Wiz grew up around conscious people and he’s one of the most mature young men I’ve ever met. Where he is now…experiencing the tremendous highs of living his dream…does not mean he’s going to stop growing as a person.
I don’t know Currensy, but I did find it interesting that Huey Newton was born in his home state of Louisiana.
I don’t think Paul Scott was wrong in expressing how he felt and his frustration with the state of Hip-Hop. Knowing Paul, I know he spoke out of sincere love for his people and a desire to see us do better. But, I felt like instead of creating more division, I could use this as a teachable moment, so I grabbed the instrumental and did what I do. Paradise recorded the session at James Webb Studios, we added a interview Huey Newton did with William Buckley plus one of his speeches and pieced together the video we called “The Real Huey Newton”.