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Black Leadership Analysis

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Southern Hip-Hop

B.B. King and Big K.R.I.T. Explain Buddhist Rebirth

What is Rebirth?

The concept of rebirth is the Buddhist alternative to the belief in reincarnation or the afterlife. Here reincarnation is defined as a Hindu concept that a metaphysical part of a person is eternal (soul) and will reinhabit another physical body. The belief in an afterlife is common in the Abrahamic religions is the soul will be sent to a paradise because of good deeds or beliefs. Neither of these concepts is in Buddhism as explained by the religious scholar Ambedkar.

The Buddhist concept of rebirth has to do with the ever-changing nature of matter and ideas. When a person dies, his body breaks down into its original elements (earth, fire, wind, water) and re-enters the universe to reappear as another person eventually. The process is never-ending and is happening every time someone consumes food or loses skin cells. It is also occurring as a person interacts with the world. As a person does good deeds, it increases the chances of others copying. The same is true for unwholesome deeds. So Buddhist rebirth is a never-ending process with one aspect being the physical death of the body.

The story of B.B. King and Big K.R.I.T.

In 1956, a brand new musician Roy King was about to release an album. Riley’s nickname Blues Boy or B.B. King was featured prominently on the album cover, but one thing is missing, B.B.’s photo. Mr. King asked about the apparent mistake and the record executives said, there was no mistake. We believe that the record could have cross-over appeal if the customer didn’t realize you were black.

Fast forward to 1986, and a middle-aged fan of the seasoned Blues Boy buys his newest record. Before she got to the counter, she saw a poster of B.B. King’s show in Paris. She decided to get the poster also. She rushed to get back to her house to welcome her daughter and new grandson. The original poster was a welcomed addition and pleased both the new grandmother and mother.

The boy was named Justin Scott and he grew up in a house with much love and music. B.B. King had more than solidified himself as the greatest musician that Mississippi ever produced. His music was an inspiration for Justin. He also grew to love many of the Hip Hop artist of his own generation. In an attempt to fuse the two genres, a new style and flavor of hip-hop was created. Justin decided to start performing under the pseudonym King Remembered in Time, K.R.I.T. It was both an assertion of how great he was and a nod to his hero B.B. King.

B.B. King briefly spoke on Hip-Hop in a 1996 interview. He said he didn’t like the gratuitous cursing or pornographic references to sex. However, he also didn’t like vulgar movies or artwork. King also acknowledged his parents and elders hated the fact he played what would later be called the Blues for many of the same reasons. Ultimately, B.B. King was impressed by the rapper’s ability, and admitted most people could not rhyme every word. He accepted Hip-Hop as an art form and applauded its success.

After years of hard work Big K.R.I.T released a record and make XXL freshman class list in 2011. His album gets much critical acclaim because it is at the same time cerebral and down-home. It talks about southern freedom fighters of the civil rights era and strip clubs. A genuinely southern album welcoming yet challenging to the listener. Bloggers have a field day debating the double meanings to the rhymes and what he really meant.

For the sophomore album, he wanted to make a concept song. In the song, three dead men talk to the angel of death which appears to them as a praying man. One man was lynched, one jumped from a slave ship, and another died while running away from the plantation. He gets the DJ from his favorite strip club to help him produce the track. After it was finished the DJ Chucks suggests that B.B. King would be a great addition to the record. K.R.I.T laughs but after being prodded by chunky gets his lawyer to reach out to B.B. King.

Luckily, one of the grandchildren of B.B. King’s band members was a fan of K.R.I.T. When the name is mentioned, the grandchild happened to be in the room and played the mp3 for the legends. B.B. King liked the album and was happy to work with the young rapper.

K.R.I.T recounted the story for “Complex” magazine as being surreal. The legend came in the booth as an extremely humble character. They talked and B.B. King offered to play his guitar in addition to singing. There were three flawless takes of B.B. King sang and played over the track. K.R.I.T was amazed at the precision and passion of the 84-year-old.

After the session, K.R.I.T and King talked about the industry and life in general. B.B. King re-told the story of how he had to fight to get his photo on his album cover. The moral was to fight, but not let bitterness fill your heart. King said he has forgotten most of the bad things that happened to him because people are so kind to him now. It is water under the bridge, and his eyes are facing forward.

King then told K.R.I.T he was the continuation of the musical tradition of Mississippi. Hip-Hop is the new method of conveying raw emotion to a room full of people. It is another unapologetic reflection of truth.

No outsider can say Blues or Hip-Hop should or should not use certain methods of communication. The music is made for the people in the backwoods of Mississippi. These people afford the rest of the world the privilege of hearing their music.

B.B. King died three years after the recording. K.R.I.T told Vox is mission is to continue to spread King’s music and inform the younger generation. K.R.I.T will forever be in debt to King not only for his professionalism. King opened his warm and creative soul to the young rapper. K.R.I.T and all his fans will never be the same after.

How the story illustrates rebirth

The story of K.R.I.T and King shows how music is being reborn constantly. King added to the American lexicon of music soul-stirring music. These seeds germinated in another Mississippi native building his own art form. Not only has the artistry been passed down to the new generation, but the mentality of resilience. It is the continuation of blackness. The term blackness doesn’t denote a skin color, it represents an experience that transcends the individual. One can view it being born in America or being imported from Africa, but it can’t be denied that it is unique and beyond mental constructs.

Rebirth is the realization that what most conceive as the individual is really a continuum of experience much bigger than one can conceptualize. The concept of the individual is an artificial construct used to aid in understanding. What exists is a never-ending flux of energy and thought that emerges as what we call individuals.

The song ” Praying Man” is a living example of rebirth. It connects the ancestors with the older generation and the newer generation. In the song, all the generations exist in one, and the lines of demarcation become blurred. We realize the ancestors are one with us and we are one with the ancestors. Even though the artists are not Buddhist, they exemplify the principles. The idea of rebirth is not unique to Buddhism or Asia, it is a concept that people witness every day in their own life.

For more on music and Buddhism

To hear the song “Praying Man” click HERE

To learn more about Buddhism click HERE

References

  1. Big K.R.I.T explains how the collaboration with B.B. King came together 11-12-14 http://www.hiohopdx.com
  2. Big K.R.I.T on B.B. King: “He did not have to be Humble” 5-15-15 http://www.rollingstone.com
  3. We Tried to get Big K.R.I.T to dis another MC 3-30-12 http://www.vice.com
  4. B.B. King: Sweet Sixteen http://www.paste.com
  5. All Day and Night: Memories from Beale St 1990 Documentary Directed by Gordon and Guida

When I First Felt Proud To Be Southern

I was born in Murfreesboro, TN. Of course, those that follow my blog know that I am black and being black in the south in the 1980’s and 90’s was difficult. Not as challenging as times before yet still difficult. Here are a few examples of how conversations on Southern Pride went.

I remember my sister in second grade met a girl named “Dixie.” There was some project in which the class had to find the original meaning of their name or where their parents got the name. Everyone does their spiel, and then Dixie has her turn. She says she was given her name because her parents loved the South. The South was a great place, and she descended from a family that owned a large plantation. One of the other black kids said that her fore-parents probably owned slaves and wasn’t she ashamed of that. Dixie proceeds to say that black people are cursed in the Bible. Ham is the ancient ancestor of black people, and he laughed at Noah for being drunk. G-d cursed Ham and made him a slave to the other brothers. The teacher did not stop her or correct her and moved on as nothing happened. My sister came home crying and asked me if the Bible said that. She knew I could confirm or deny the story because I helped out and studied hard in Sunday School. I told her people don’t know which brother they descend from and that the story was just a justification for slavery.

My other memory of discussion of Southern Pride discussion happened to me when my family visited relatives in Ohio. They lived in inner-city Cleveland. They took me out to meet their friends. Their friends asked me where I was from because I talked funny. I said Tennessee. They all start laughing. One of them said “Tennessee, shit y’all scary. Y’all got the Klan and stuff down there, marching in the streets and everything. If they did that here, we would kick their ass. They don’t try that here.”

This teenager apparently did not understand that the KKK had been born in nearby Pulaski, TN. It has never been proven, but alleged, that many Middle Tennessee police departments had been infiltrated by Klansmen. He doesn’t understand that many of the most politically influential people in the city are allegedly Klansmen. So if you take matters into your own hands, the full weight of the law will come down on you. Now at fourteen, I could not articulate all of this, so I nervously laughed and changed the subject.

Similar events continued to happen to me throughout childhood. So whenever someone, usually a white person, talked about Southern Pride I assumed they were getting ready to say something racist. Also, when I would say I am from Tennessee to black people from other areas, I would be afraid that they would think I was soft. I would routinely avoid conversations about the South with anyone.

That was until Master P founded NO LIMIT RECORDS. Master P got a few thousand dollars from a life insurance policy when his father passed away. He bought record equipment with the money and used the business skill he acquired in college to launch a label. He found the best rappers in New Orleans and ended up taking the country by storm. He began getting popular when I was a freshman in high school. I now own a box set of NO LIMIT’s Greatest Hits. All of the songs bring back so many memories.

As an adult, I can see what attracted me to Southern Hip-Hop. Being a six foot and 250 pounds, I often had to reassure people I was not dangerous. A large white kid is not looked at in the same way as a large black kid. When you meet people, you can see the fear in them. I am also naturally loud, so that added to the unwanted perception of intimidation. So I always had to go out of my way to seem cheerful and happy. People often compliment me on my happy demeanor, but it is a defense mechanism to some extent.

Another stereotype I was trying to fight was the perception of hypersexuality. Being a black man people assume you are hypersexual and you could be sexually aggressive toward women. Many were particularly afraid that I could be aggressive toward white women. This fear is never verbally expressed, but you see white men treat you more aggressively if they see their daughter laugh at your joke. It is always an unspoken thing, but a man can tell if another man feels threatened. The fear of losing a woman to a black man is the source of racism for many white men. Again this is something rarely talked about, but most people know it is true.

So as a teenager with raging hormones trying to downplay his masculinity, it makes perfect sense that I needed to live vicariously through hyper-masculine rappers. One of the ways I could express my masculinity was through blasting Master P out of my 1983 Honda Accord. I could not yell my real sexual intentions out in the middle of town, but Mystikal could. These rappers said what I could not say. As an adult, I thank them for this.

I especially liked that Master P found a way to build a business and make money outside of the corporate system. Stories of black people getting used by labels plague the history of black music. Now we had our own, SOUTHERN, label with someone that shares the profit with the artist. Most NO LIMIT artist still live comfortably off the money they made in the 1990’s. Not many labels can say that about their artist.

The one act that I admired most from Master P, the act that showed me how an independent black-controlled organization could be helpful, was Master P signing Snoop Dogg. After the assassination of Tupac, Snoop feared for his life while on Death Row Records. Master P was able to buy him out of the Death Row contract and set him up in a new contract in which Snoop could keep more money from the sale of an album. Snoop’s first album on NO LIMIT Records was entitled “The Last Meal” because no one would be able to eat off his work again.

Master P is one of my biggest inspirations from my current blog site. He showed me the importance of independence and having full control over a narrative. I hope to be able to provide black people a place to speak their mind on issues involving Integral and Race Theory. So much of our movements in mainstream society are over-analyzed, and in turn, black people have to be constantly aware of other’s perception. The over-analyzing by outsiders causes black people to communicate in a stifled manner.

But getting back to Southern Pride, Southern Hip-Hop gave me Southern Pride. For the first time, I had a movement that involved me that started in the South. My parents and grandparents had the Civil Rights Movement; I had Southern Hip-Hop. I was proud of it because it was un-apologetically black. Even though I understood that the Civil Rights Movement was far more important and politically significant, I also saw its adherence to nonviolence as a realization of limited power not a display of discipline. The rappers fully asserted their sovereignty and did not care about how it came off to the outside world. Even though I knew I had to be able to portray a particular image to be able to achieve my goals, it was empowering to me to see someone else not have to do that.

Now when I told another black person that was not from the South where I was from, the conversation went to the music they liked from there. We could talk about something that my people created that was benefiting the world.

The most surprising development was my new reaction when white people started talking about Southern Pride. I no longer got triggered immediately. I now could understand how a person could find something to love about the South that eclipses all the bad. Now that doesn’t mean some white people did not use Southern Pride as a dog whistle for racism; it just means I did not assume that they were racist immediately. By holding judgment, I was able to move more easily and have pleasant conversations. Having nice conversations is better than isolating myself.

Southern Hip Hop and Hip Hop is a big piece of my identity, that is why I defend the culture against all critics. Many see Hip Hop, especially 90’s Hip Hop, as violent and misogynistic. Some of that criticism is true. However, there is so much more to Hip Hop. It gave me an identity. So when Hip Hop is attacked, I feel personally attacked. I understand that I am bigger than a genre of music, but that does not change my emotions.

That is why when Confederate monument supporters express their wish to keep statues, I can understand their perspective. As I will point out many of the positive aspects of Hip-Hop, they will talk about nostalgia for the South. Now many of the Confederate monument supporters are simply racist and using southern nostalgia as a dog whistle. However, some are not. I think a proper dialogue could create compromises amicable on both sides. I am not equating misogyny and slavery; I am just explaining how I came to understand the perspective.

White people that are ok with the statues coming down should dialogue with one that wants to keep the statues up. By dialogue, that does not mean you attempt to shame them into changing their position. There should be a mutual effort to understand. Especially, if a person considers themselves part of the Integral community, they should be able to create a healthy dialogue. As an Integralist a person should have the ability to talk to someone, not in the community and get them to think deeply about their motivations. If someone can realize why they have such an attachment, they can then understand they are bigger than a statue. The dialogue will not work for everyone. However, it could work on a few. As Integralist we have to make an effort.

If a person considers themselves part of the Integral community, then they can’t simply read books and argue philosophy on social media. There has to be a practical application of the method that involves people both inside and outside of the community. Being the second-tier means a person will risk social rejection to facilitate societal advancement. If an Integralist sees a person struggling with the removal of Confederate monuments, they will attempt to ease this suffering with compassion. If we as a community are not willing to do this, then we are no different the average American.

Bottom line is most Americans of all races, want these statues removed. They are coming down as fast as humanly possible. The question is how many violent episodes will happen during the time of removal. At this point in American progress, we should be able to make changes and improvements without violence. There was no need for Charlottesville to happen, and Integralist could stop the next Charlottesville. We got to get off the computer and get into the community and make a difference.

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