Thug Life Revisited/ Thug Life Reimagined

ThugLifeRevisitedReimagined

Thug Life Revisited

As I sat alone in a darkened theater with the anticipation of a child being strapped into a seat waiting for a monster size roller coaster to take off, I eagerly waited for the movie “The Hate U Give” to begin. I watched the previews for the film and I followed via social media the intentional education centered campaign to promote the movie and celebrate the book that inspired the movie. I was ready to be emotional in my silence and to be stimulated to action through tears that would water the seeds of love that the Lord has planted inside of me for the plight of teenagers and my community. I hadn’t read the book or knew much of anything about the Author Angie Davis before seeing the movie, so I was in for a treat when a dominant theme presented itself in the movie that drew me on a very professional and personal level.

This theme is the ideology that was coined “Thug Life” by Tupac Shakur. The phrase’s popularity and enduring quality in some sense shined brighter than what Tupac was communicating through these two words, eight letters and a reality that continues to exist more than 20 years after his death in 1996. Thug Life according to Tupac stands for The Hate U Give Little Infants F&@k Everybody. This theme is at the center of the film and the book and it stirs up the embodiment of Tupac Shakur in a way that transcends Tupac the artist to Tupac the social commentary philosopher and fore teller for what the plight of our community will be because of “Thug Life.”

Now to everyone who is put off by the breakdown of the word “Life” let’s not allow a profane word to derail our thinking from examining the premise that Tupac was communicating. If we focus on the way, we treat our children as a litmus test for examining our values and beliefs as a society then we can look at Thug Life and see more than enough validity to have a conversation. I will even venture to look at the warning expressed around the mistreatment of children in the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 18:6 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” Jesus was speaking about misleading a child of God but in an earlier verse He states that to fully believe in Him we must come to Him like a child. Think of a child’s innocence, imagination, and intrigue in the natural, this how Christ wants us to come and belief in Him. The use of “child” as descriptive state of being and relationship is one that I am standing on when drawing a connection to the warning in the scriptures to the warning given by Tupac.

Thug Life Reimagined

“The Hate U Give” examines hatred coming from various directions and this is key because it is not just an us versus them whereas we are the sole recipients of hate and don’t have the capacity to give hate ourselves. When I finished watching the movie and meditating on what I watched and what I believe I began to reimagine Thug Life to identify where forms of hatred comes from that are impacting our children and youth. The reimagining of Thug Life is not one where I plan on reciting sources, data points and headlines to prove its validity. I simply want you to take a moment and think about where we stand as a society when it comes to how a growing number of our black and brown children in lower economic communities are impacted by the various institutions and people that operate within the ecosystems of their lives to the point where their ability to be their full selves are stifled.

Thug Life: The Hate U Give Limiting Insights From Education

If we think about the inequities as far as resources made available to schools based on zip codes and funding allocation formulas coupled with the perceptions of black and brown children embodied by and acted upon by predominately white educators and administrators; is it a stretch to view this as a form of hatred?  When our black and brown children don’t see reflections of themselves in the wide array of fields of study that are available to them to pursue and when their knowledge and brilliance is often undervalued; is a stretch to view this as form of hatred?  When education is presented as the key to unlock the doors of opportunity, but the locks and the doors are changing faster than a new key of education can be created in the hood; is it a stretch to view this as a form of hatred?

Thug Life: The Hate U Give Limiting Insights From Entertainment

If we think about the honesty and vulnerability that is embedded in the God given ability to create that then gets bastardized in its capitalistic packing and purpose to shape the ideals and identities of a targeted community under the moniker of entertainment; is it a stretch to view this is as a form of hatred?  When the marketplace dictates that there can only be a very limited number of women voices in Hip-Hop that are successful at a given moment, thus creating an unhealthy form of competition; is it a stretch to view this as a form of hatred?   When contrived creative expressions over saturates the developing minds of our youth to the point where it is difficult for them to see themselves through a non-entertainment lens; is it a stretch to view this as a form of hatred?

Thug Life: The Hate U Give Limiting Insights From Enforcement

If we think about how the instincts of enforcement often begin with aggression when engaging black and brown youth regardless of the setting where they interact with these youth; is it a stretch to view this as a form of hatred?  When fear can override training in the hood and allowances are given selectively to people in select communities; is it a stretch to view this as a form of hatred?  When the system treats drug use as a crime in one community in one era and treats drug use as a health issue in a different community today; is it a stretch to view this as a form of hatred?

Thug Life: The Hate U Give Limiting Insights From Environments

If we think about the differing landscapes and amenities within varying communities that can often be differentiated by race/ethnicity and income; is it a stretch to view this as a form of hatred?  When we think about the continuing water crisis in Flint Michigan that has seemingly slid to obscurity based on its place in the news cycle; is it a stretch to view this as a form of hatred?  If we compare the access to healthy food eateries, supermarkets, specialty stores and restaurants by zip codes within various cities; is it a stretch to view this as a form of hatred?

As Tupac stated, The Hate U Give Little Infants F@#k Everybody

Peace!

Timothy Jones @tdj6899

 

5 Thoughts about Black Thought

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While traveling back from New York yesterday on the train I was passing time by going through my social media and came across some posts with a free style from Black Thought #FREESTYLE087. I have headphones on so I click on the link with a usual expectation of a great rhyme because it’s Black Thought.  Before I clicked on the link my anticipation was heightened because the video was longer than 10 minutes and it was with Flex so this means that the whole time is the rhyme without any interview.  So, picture me sitting on the train in the quiet car not knowing that I am about to listen to a lyrical keynote and sermon that inspire me to want to have a Pentecostal pedagogy moment.  Here are five take-a-ways from this excellent exhibition of artistry, knowledge and lyricism.

  1. The Beat: The beat selected for the freestyle is “Burn” by Mobb Deep. Mobb Deep is known for coming with some of the hardest beats that just make your face twist and make even the most docile individual feel that they go hard (at least for the length of the song).  This to some may seem like a diversion from the Black Thought that many people know but I think it was masterfully and purposely done.  We also lost Prodigy this year and what a way to show homage to a fallen Hip-Hop brother.
  2. The Cadence of the Rhyme: Black Thought’s cadence as he delivers his rhyme sits in the pocket of the track like a sampled instrument. The ability to remain constant with the flow and slightly breathe to place emphasis on a word or phrase to let you know that you just heard a punch line is nothing short of amazing.  I would love to hear this freestyle acapella to fully appreciate the rhythm of the cadence.
  3. The Repetition Factor: This freestyle rhyme is so dense in many places that it is virtually impossible to hear and appreciate everything in one listen. On one listen you may just be amazed by the fact that Black Thought has the lung capacity to flow for the length of 2.5 songs without his voice breaking from a lack of breath.  In the initial listen, you will hear some punch lines that make your face scrunch up and then you go back to listen more intently to absorb the black thoughts of Black Thought.
  4. The Educational Value: When you begin to dissect this rhyme, you hear everything from Slang, Spirituality, Substance Abuse, Science to Shakespeare. Imagine the conversation starters that are embedded in this rhyme that can benefit us as a community if we simply sat down together and listed to the rhyme and began to converse.  The beauty of this work of art is what you hear that moves you is dependent on where you are emotionally, mentally and spiritually as you listen.  We can listen together and hear different things and both of us be right in our hearing because the life and power of the words resonate differently based on the condition of the soil of our hearts and minds.
  5. The Bars that raise the Bar: An estimated 240 + bars dropped by Black Thought (https://songbpm.com/mobb-deep-burn?q=mobb%20deep%20-%20burn 96 BPM translates to a 4/4 bar every 2.5 seconds which is 24 bars every minute so in 10 minutes you would have an estimated 240 bars) has raised the bar of what it means to freestyle and the ability to infuse knowledge in a way that is comprehensive, creative and palatable to the average listener. Jay-Z made a song called “Lyrical Exercise” where he expresses the art of rhyming using physical exercise metaphors.  If we extend this metaphor then lyrically we physically witnessed the fitness of one of the best in the business.

Timothy Jones is an educator, writer, Hip-Hop pundit and the Chief Visionary Officer of HipHopEd follow me on Twitter @tdj6899