Jewish World Review Sept. 16, 2003 / 19 Elul 5763

Clarence Page

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Consumer Reports

Hearing hip-hop's pathetic message


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | As marketing schemes go, the hip-hop star Nelly risks sending a lot of mixed signals with the name of the new energy drink he is marketing.

It's called "Pimp Juice."

I could be wrong, but Pimp Juice does not sound to me like something that you want to put in your mouth.

Either way, you won't get a chance to find out if the leaders of some black community organizations have their way.

In Los Angeles last week, Project Islamic HOPE, the National Alliance for Positive Action and the National Black Anti-Defamation League staged a press conference to urge the removal of the rapper's energy drink from store shelves.

In Chicago, the Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Catholic Church, threatened to boycott any store that carried the drink.

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In Durham, N.C., the Rev. Paul Scott, founder of Messianic Afrikan Nation, said, "As black men we should be building a nation of strong black leaders, not a nation of superenergized, drunk pimps."

The complaint: Pimp Juice glorifies the world's second oldest profession, which is the employment of women working in the world's first oldest profession.

Nelly and his spokesmen beg to differ. In launching the drink on Sept. 1, Nelly said it was named after his hit song "Pimp Juice" from his 2002 multiplatinum album, "Nellyville." "Pimp juice is anything that attracts the opposite sex," Nelly said. "Whatever you [are] using to win with right now, that's your juice--that's your pimp juice, so keep pimping."

Well, maybe.

Back in the prehistoric age before there was rap music or, for that matter, laptops or cell phones, my generation used such terms as "pimp walk," "pimp style" or simply "pimpin' " some sucker who didn't know any better. But we never had any confusion as to where the word came from.

Nor, it appears, do rappers, who too often refer to women by the disrespectful term "ho," as in Ludacris' lyric "I've got ho's/ In different area codes ...."

Queen Latifah, among other hip-hop icons, tried to nip such creeping misogyny (It means disrespect for women, children. Look it up.) in the bud. In her uplifting tune "U.N.I.T.Y.," she beseeches her sisters, "You gotta let him know .../ You ain't a bitch or a ho."

Now pimp glorification has come to center stage in rapperland. The video for popular rapper 50 Cent's mega-hit "PIMP" portrays him as a novice pimp before the grand pimp council, presided over by rapper Snoop Dogg with his real-life sequined "spiritual adviser," Bishop Don Magic Juan at his side.

I remember the colorful bishop (who also appeared onstage with Snoop and "some faux ho's" at the recent MTV Video Music Awards show) from my days as a police reporter in Chicago back in the 1970s. He used to be the West Side's pimp supreme until he embraced another one of the world's oldest professions, preaching. Juan's playful "pimp style" is amusing these days, but he's hardly the sort of role model self-respecting parents want for their kids or their community.

Nelly's Pimp Juice seems like the last straw to those who are upset about out-of-wedlock birth rates in black communities, rates that leveled off in the late 1990s at close to 70 percent of live black births. Worse, soaring child abandonment rates have left million of kids to grow up without the benefit of both parents.

And while out-of-wedlock births have leveled off among blacks, they have soared since the 1980s among whites to more than 25 percent, the rate that first caused alarm when it appeared among blacks in the mid-1960s.

It would be too easy, in my view, to blame the rise of irresponsible sex and the breakdown in parenthood on the media. But it also would be too easy to say that the industry doesn't have any impact at all. If the media can sell CDs and soft drinks, they can sell moral attitudes too.

There are many reasons why out-of-wedlock birth rates are rising. If pop culture is pumping out the message that pimpin' and irresponsible sex is cool, it is increasingly important that we bombard our young people with healthier messages too.

Just as my generation respected heroes like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman, Medgar Evers and Mary McCloud Bethune, we should help today's youngsters find role models who can help them lift their eyes out of the gutter and aim them toward the stars.

The chief youth consultant in our house, also known as my 14-year-old son, once told me that "Kids can tell the difference between satire and seriousness, Dad."

In other words, kids don't necessarily follow rap stars as role models. True, but it also helps for them to know they have other choices.

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Up

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