Pharaohs, tribal conquers, valiant warriors: it’s no secret that black men are the descendants of Royalty. Like their royal predecessors, African American men of today are identified and ranked by power, wealth, women, attitude and social superiority. The topics aforementioned will be tackled in this innovative comparison of our roots to the present in effort to prove that the actions of today’s Hip Hop culture are only the reincarnation of what has been indoctrinated in black men for centuries.
Besides the fact that capitalism overtook America after its industrialization, African men and therefore even more so African American men (who bring up the lower levels of the economic ranks) are driven to obtain wealth. It’s a known fact; unfortunately, that some African kings and tribal leaders masked by greed sold their own people into slavery for a taste of “white men’s fire” or gun power. Since that time African American men are on a constant quest for money and power in a corporate white male dominated society. A king’s success was measured by his wealth. More often than not a king is not remembered by the laws he made (unless they were outrageous) but rather by the wealth he had accumulated. Solomon, a biblical and historical black king, was known for his wisdom and his wealth. According to the bible there was none wealthier. This parallels with the reign of the black man now; it’s a constant struggle for self-preservation and survival. Lower income neighborhoods are full of African American men living the “ghetto-fabulous lifestyle” with rims and Timberlands and everything in between to keep up with the joneses and give the appearance of the “glamorous lifestyle” regardless of how poverty stricken they may be.
The idea of living the “glamorous lifestyle” by any means necessary or at the very least faking it until you attain the means plays a serious role in the “materialism” you find in the black community at large. Royalty often dressed impressively with brighter colors and finer textures than the common people. Name brands and the latest style are more than likely sported by some of the most poverty stricken people in black communities. A brother is defined by his ‘gear”.
The Hip Hop moguls today is “selling out” and exploiting their own people, African Americans, for wealth, prestigious and power.
A king’s reputation and authority as a ruler made or broke him in the presence of his subjects. Respect was given either voluntarily or out of fear based on his authoritative power. A black man’s concern with his “rep” or how he “runs da streetz” and maintains his “respect” parallels with that of a king’s determination to keep his place as the head of the hierarchy. As in African tradition, there is a “crew” or board of advisors that the “king” confides in with important decision. Shaka Zulu was known for his exemplary fighting against colonization. Past African kings prepared themselves for warfare against European imperialism. Likewise, the black man is constantly preparing himself for war: though his enemy is not as clearly defined as it once was. Now his enemy is dejure racism and corporate glass ceilings, inferior public school education and the psychological complexes that leave him searching for an alternative to the “fast” life. Nevertheless, he surrounds himself with “souljahs” preparing for war.
The conquest of many for one man has been the defining factor of success among kings. A harem of concubines and many wives is attributed to wealth. The traditional monarchy subjugates women and defines them as trophies, eye candy, and the vessel through which heirs are born. Is there really much difference between that and the way the present day Hip Hop culture society objectifies women? The pimp/hoe mentality breeds young men to believe that monogamy is not “in their blood”. The selling and breeding of black men during slavery has had a-as the Temptations coined-”rolling stone” effect.
“I got hoes in different area codes,” the lyrics of one song brags. This is an overt message to the competition of a man’s sexual prowess and worth. Is that any different than a king and his hundreds of concubines?
The only way that a monarchy retains its power is by winning the admiration, envy, fear and respect of its society. Media obsession & fascination with black men and the hip hop industry keeps them forever in the headlines. They are both hated and revered. Revered for their resilience and self-confidence and hated for their ability to be outspoken and their “interpreted” intimidating stature.
It’s these and other social paradoxes that creates the beautiful dichotomy we see in Tupac’s poetry: the rose that grew from concrete. It’s the quest to ascertain the royalty they were born to be and the monster labeling has imprisoned them to become. It’s why their pride won’t allow them to bow under the weight of dismal statistics and financial short comings. It’s why every black boy born in the ghetto dreams of wealth. It’s the cloth from which they were cut and are determined to their the fabric back together.