This is the infamous (at least in my mind) question that rapper/entertainer Killa Cam’ron posed to Bill O’Reilly on The O’Reilly Factor, which aired on Fox News on November 12, 2003. I knew the interview was going to be a debacle when O’Reilly introduced the Dipset representative by proclaiming “we decided to get Grammy-nominee Cam’ron, who raps about pimping and
(explicit)‘s — among other things”. Alongside Cam was rap producer/mogul (at that time) Dame Dash as well. The two “hip-hop representatives” debated the Principal of John Reynolds Elementary School in Philadelphia, Salome Thomas-El, who holds the position that music is extremely harmful to his inner-city students.
I listened to this interview from three different perspectives; that of a School Psychologist, a black male that is part of the “hip-hop culture”, and from the perspective of attempting to be as objective to both arguments as possible. From the objective perspective, if I had to select a winner of this debate, it would clearly be the viewers who had eight minutes of pure entertainment if nothing else. Both sides brought up realistic and valid points, however the forum for this discussion did more damage to both sides than it did good. I mean, how much good can really come from a debate if O’Reilly is moderating??
From the standpoint of a School Psychologist, Cam’ron would actually prove the “winner” of this lackluster debate for one valid reason that he brought up, which was parent involvement. I believe what Killa was attempting to articulate is that parent involvement is one of the most important factors in predicting outcomes for students. In particular, research for African American students have found that parental involvement is a significant indicator of success for black students. This means that students that have parents that are actively involved (not just attending school functions, but help with homework, provide assistance to child, and are readily available) are at a greater advantage of being academically successful. In essence, Cam’ron was on point in that it should be the responsibility of parents to ensure that their children are teaching their children right from wrong. However, I also believe that as an influential figure in the media that has a voice to the world, there should be a level of artistic responsibility, in which entertainers alike, should be held accountable because they do have influence (positive or negative).
From the perspective of a black male that grew up in the hip-hop culture, I think it is irresponsible that educators, activist, scholars and whoever else, place so much power into the hands of entertainers, because they are just that… ENTERTAINERS!! The word entertain means to amuse, to provide joy, laughter, and fun. Authentic hip-hop heads are able to differentiate between the various types of music (i.e., conscious rappers, afro-centric rappers, gangsta rap, etc.,). It is important for people to understand that not all rappers pride themselves on being revolutionary thought leaders, while some rappers such as Dead Prez, take the stance of spreading social awareness. For example, Waka Flocka Flames has mentioned that he is not a lyrical rapper, he is perfectly content with having a good beat and getting the crowd going. Likewise, Soulja Boy is a teenager that is simply enjoying life as a young rich millionare, and does not proclaim to be the next W.E. B. Dubois. Likewise, as a consumer of rap music, at times I do not want to hear music that necessarily always has a meaning to it, sometimes I like to listen to music to motivate me as I workout, at times I listen to music because the beat takes me on a melodic ride with the highs and lows, yet at other times, music can be at its purest form, pleasing to hear.
Hip-hop music can be a myriad of things; entertainment, form of social protest, or even poetry. Here at Fligher Education, I take the stance that hip-hop and education no longer need to be viewed as two separate entities. For the purpose of progressing as a community it is essential that we can bridge the gap between the hip-hop community and the field of education. There is absolutely no reason why we must always be so divisive, when ultimately we all share common goals, which is to better the lives of ourselves and our families. At the most basic level, if the field of education and hip-hop came together, we would see a movement that could literally change American society as we know it. Yet, negative debates such as the one hosted by Fox News and Bill O’Reilly only widen the divise between the two. The time is now to fuse hip-hop and education into one force!