Thursday, April 17, 2008

Alicia Keys keeps it gangsta?

When the news of Alicia Keys' politically charged interview in Blender magazine broke earlier this week I jumped on the blogger bandwagon and shared it with my listeners at FLAVA Radio. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Alicia Keys, who is best known for her incredible musical talent, was using her position to call attention to what activists and authors have been saying for years, that the conditions in our poor urban communities have been largely ignored creating a fertile breeding ground for the kinds of music that we hear on Hip Hop radio stations all across the country. Immediately the press, fans and haters jumped on Alicia calling her an irresponsible conspiracy theorist. The pressure got so heavy that Alicia was forced to release a statement clarifying her position and in some ways distancing herself from the article (which Blender insists is an accurate account of the conversation between Keys and the author).
My first reaction was to stand up and give Alicia credit for coming forward and speaking her truth, notice I said "her truth". Sure it was a risky move but sometimes you've got to take risks to get thing done and since Alicia is in the trenches, so to speak, who better to shed light on the way the entertainment industry, media and our government get their spoon on night after night (pardon the crude analogy - but f'real that's how it is). After talking to a respected co-worker about the issue, I realized that although she should be commended for being brave enough to risk the inevitable backlash, she must always remember to "know thy audience" before constructing "thy comments". The nation is at a crossroads, Obama and Hillary are proving that the American people are ready for change - a shift in the way we do business, but change is scary and there's still a lot of guilt bubbling under the surface of this "new and improved American consciousness", especially among the white male population who make up the largest percentage of Blender's readership. This is why those who are in the know, need to be careful with how they present certain ideas and opinions. They should practice what I call the "Obamafication*" of the truth. Tell it like it is, but put it in the context of the larger society rather than the Us vs. Them approach that Al and his crew have mastered. I know this won't be the last we hear from Alicia Keys on the issue of race, culture and politics. Call me crazy, but I have a feeling her next album will be less"baby baby don't leave me and more "What's Going On" - I can't wait!

*Obamafication - to state the obvious in a way that makes those who have chosen to ignore the obvious feel less stupid about doing so- Obama's A More Perfect Union speech is an excellent example of this technique.

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