Monday, December 13, 2010

Final Paper

Lanisha Cole
Dr. Wexler
English 313
13 December 2010
Am I Black Enough for You?: Different Mentalities in the Hip Hop Community
The urban society has an abundance of different types of people. From Latinos
to Asians, urban culture is diverse beyond racial measurement. Many are seen as being apart of
this extraordinary cultural, class-based phenomenon but none argue that the originators of this
widely spread lifestyle was founded, targeted, and represented by the political and economic
aware African American men of the 1970’s. This over populated planet, known as Hip Hop,
has given many Blacks an unwanted identity. Hop culture, which started out as a way to share
view points about the poverty stricken African American community, has somehow evolved into
a beat knocking, pants sagging, booty shaking hypocrisy. According to Todd Boyd’s book, Am I
Black Enough for You? , the Black Hip Hop Community has split into three main categories;
The Race Man, The Nigga, and The New Black Aesthetic. Each of the three constructions of the
“Black” or Hip Hop man, are personalities that survive in the Hip Hop community. Although the
personalities are geared to survival, they also contribute to the misconceptions of the Black Hip
Hop community. Therefore the multiple personalities of the Black Community somehow
contribute to the negative preconceived notions of the outside world.

Todd Boyd’s Am I Black Enough for You?, categorization of the “Black” (Hip Hop) man
begins with the culturally assimilated Race Man of the early 80’s. His dapperness and ability to
see past the racial inequalities of this world has become a direct insult to the current Hip Hip
community. In the Hip Hop mainstream of today, the Nigga mentality dictates the mind set of Hip Hop participants. The loud, in-your-face thought process has captivated the public and is
responsible for the negative outlook on the Hip Hop community. On the other hand, the New
Black Aesthetic, which is a mixture between the two, has been accepted among society and is
responsible for the positive cultural mobility of the Black Community.

The well put together Race Man of the 1980’s is seen as a perfectly assimilated
individual. He appeals to mainstream America and exercises the values and morals that are
looked upon as being a good citizen. He is polite, dapper, well-dressed, determined, and fully
conformed into White America. The Race Man is also educated, a positive thinker, and unaware
of the racial inequalities around him. The Race Man’s mentality disconnects him from a sense of
reality and although he is rather intelligent, he is ignorant to his own culture. He is unable to
fully understand the unpolished thought process of the classes beneath him and can’t empathize
with the issues that affect the poverty stricken people who he views as unfortunate. Therefore,
the Race Man has the ability to fully assimilate into mainstream society, but can’t understand the
majority lifestyle of urban people.

The inability for the Race Man to culturally interact with the Hip Hop (Black) community
relates to the indirect pressure he feels to conform to the majority. He lacks the adaptation
mechanisms of change. In most cases, the Race Man is brought up in a middle class home and is
unexposed to the economic, racial, and political injustices around him. His mentality is passed on
from a previous generation and has become brainwashed into thinking that he isn’t apart of the
African American experience of Hip Hop culture. In Todd Boyd’s, Am I Black Enough For
You? , he says “…many of our society’s gatekeeper’s assume that “the first job of Afro-
American mass culture should be to uplift the race, or to salvage the denigrated image of blacks
in white American imagination.” (Boyd 19) The Race Man exercises this mentality to the fullest.
Instead of upholding the culture of African Americans, they are driven to prove white America’s,which is the majority, assumptions wrong, which in turn rids them of their personal culture. Race
Man’s indirect concern for the culture stripped him of his African American traditions and he is
now consumed with the background and conditions of white America.

The Race Man is ‘the other’ in the spectrum of culture. He can’t stand on his own and
lacks the ability to identify himself without the two cultures he’s torn between. Simone de
Beauvior’s article “Woman as Other” introduces the theory that women are the other to men.
This is also apparent to the Race Man. He is the “other” when held to the other subcategories of
Hip Hop culture. Beauvior states that woman “is defined and differentiated with reference to
man and not she with reference to her; she is incidental, the inessential as opposed to the
essential. He is the Subject, he is the Absolute-she is the Other” (Beauvior 3). Like woman, the
Race Man is defined by the culture he’s trying not to be apart of (Hip Hop) as well as the culture
he is striving to gain expectance from. Both cultures are the subject and he is just the other. Not
able to stand without either because his existence revolves around avoiding one and infiltrating
another. Each culture represents the absolute, while he is just a construction without any
substance. The Race Man is seen as an Uncle Tom, perpetrator in the African American Hip Hop
mainstream, yet the Nigga mentality is easily excepted but highly damaging to the way Hip Hop
is viewed.
The Nigga mentality is one of nonconformity and rebellion. He is consumed with the
wants of materialistic items and is driven by greed and selfishness. The Nigga is seen as vulgar,
uneducated, and violent. He is sexually explicit, misogynistic, and unwilling to compromise. The
Nigga is aware of racial injustices, but doesn’t show concern or interest in fixing them. He also
views fame and fast money as his ultimate goal. The Nigga is the most negative mentality in the
Hip Hop community, but has been catapulted into being adapted by mainstream Hip Hop.
In Hip Hop, the Nigga mentality contributes to society’s negative thoughts behind Hip
Hop. Because the Niggas are extremely concerned with being set apart from white America,
they use a specific persona to show how much they disagree and don’t care with the thoughts and
stereotypes that have been bestowed upon them. In all the efforts of trying to go against the
mainstream, the Nigga has become the mainstream. Boyd writes, “The nigga is not interested in
anything having to do with mainstream, though his cultural products are clearly an integral part
of mainstream popular culture.” (Boyd 33) The effect of the Nigga trying to rebel against
mainstream American has somewhat backfired. The Nigga mentality has become the norm
despite the race of the person. This mentality has hurt the Hip Hop community more then helps
it. Although it encourages independence from mainstream cultural, it doesn’t support a positive
African American culture.

The Nigga mentality has only increased the amount of negative stereotypes and
confirmed the previous stereotypes of Black, and Hip Hop culture. Ferdinand de Saussure’s
article “Course in General Linguistics” explains the theory of Semiotics. Culture (sign) is created
by a signifier (visual) and signified (conception). When a person sees something (signifier) they
remember their experience (signified) which allows them to recognize what they are seeing
(culture). In the case of the Nigga, if society is mostly familiar with this mentality as a signifier
then they’ll associate each and every Black person as a Nigga. If their experience is of
encounters with the Nigga mentality, that’s what they will identify as the norm. The Nigga
mentality is the most dangerous to the uplifting of the Hip Hop (Black) community. Saussure
also relates signifier and signified as a binary relationship. There has to be an opposite for each
to exist. For example if there’s a big then a small must exist. In the case of the Nigga the binary
would be the Race Man. Although the Nigga is seen as an outlet from the oppressive society in
which Blacks live, the New Black Aesthetics’ ability to combine the education of the Race Man
and the rebellion of the Nigga opens new doors for the Hip Hop community.
The New Black Aesthetic is a direct mixture between the Race Man and the Nigga. Very
well educated and race conscious, the NBA dapper and polite, but can be an improvised youth.
The NBA is non-conforming, determined, and mentally strong. He is concerned about positive representation of Blacks and the Hip Hop community. The New Black Aesthetic fits into
mainstream and into the Hip Hop community, yet he doesn’t define himself by the community at
which he fits. He appeals to both the Race Man and the Nigga, yet they are distinctively
The NBA and Race Man have many similarities. They are both well-educated, polite,
dapper, and well-dressed. The Race Man, as well as the NBA can be looked upon as role models
among all economic and social classes. Both are exposed to mainstream America in the colleges
they attend, which gives them the insight to assimilate, understand, and appeal to the White
community. Boyd states, “… defines a cultural “mulatto” as one who is “educated by a multi
racial mix of cultures” and can “navigate easily in the white world”.” (Boyd 25) The NBA and
Race Man are educated and introducing to different types of people, which gives them the ability
to adapt to the world around them. Unfortunately the differences between the NBA and Race
Man outweighs the similarities. Unlike the Race Man, the NBA acknowledges the racial tensions
and injustices being done around him. He tries to educate others and uses his college education
and street savvy to do so. Contrasting to the Race Man, who somewhat ignores his connection to
Black and Hip Hop culture, the NBA accepts both cultures as being his own. Looking down the
spectrum of Hip Hop mentalities is the Nigga. Although he is rough around the edges, the Nigga
possesses some likeness to the New Black Aesthetic.
The Nigga, as well as the NBA, believe in independence from mainstream. They are both
in touch with the “realness” of the culture and see themselves as its representative, but shy away
from being role models. They both appeal to mainstream America and use their street knowledge
to reach their ultimate goals, yet the goals may be completely different. Boyd states, “Malcolm
X’s life in the gangster underworld prior to joining…Islam, indicates that Black gangsters have
always made an easy transition to a position in the political vanguard.” (Boyd 75) In many cases,
the Nigga is change into the NBA like Malcolm X. The NBA and the Nigga have closer
similarities then any of the Hip Hop mentalities, yet they are extremely different.
The NBA strives to uplift his race and culture, yet the Nigga doesn’t care about either.
His only concern is to uplift his self and reach his own personal goals. While the NBA is college
educated, and views education in high esteem, the Nigga doesn’t care and isn’t educated, book
wise, but deems “street knowledge” as being credible. Also the NBA sees no class barriers, yet
the Nigga is defined by which class he is apart of. “…the defining characteristic of the day Nigga
is class, opposed to what used to be exclusively race.” (Boyd 31) The Nigga sees class as the
most important component that separates himself from everyone else, yet the NBA is allowed to
cross class walls, although they are rarely apart if the lower class. Although all the mentalities of
Hip Hop have many differences, they are all directly affected by racism.
Racism has a negative effect on the people who are oppressed. It makes people violent,
irritable, and hatful towards the things around them. In many cases, racism can have a damaging
outcome, not only on individuals but on the community and culture as a whole. Racism is the
direct cause of self hatred or hatred towards ones race and it is evident that it directly influences
all mentalities of the Hip Hop culture.
The Hip Hop culture exercises a lot of self hatred. Within each mentality, there are signs
that racism has been a key component to certain characteristics that each possess. The Race
Man’s unwillingness to acknowledge the racial problems around him and his constant
disconnection from his culture indicates shame. He is constantly trying to fit in with what is seen
as the norm or mainstream and, in trying to do so, becomes unattached from cultural reality. He
begins to adapt mainstream traditions as his own, unknowingly neglecting the culture in which
he is racially apart. The NBA, though culturally and racially conscious, is constantly driven to
educate others about the culture he is one with. Although the NBA is able to cross over
respectively between classes, races, and cultures, he lacks the ability to acknowledge anything
other then the social standing of his culture. Above all, the Nigga exhibits the most self hatred.
Consumed with the want and need to separate himself from mainstream America, he prides
himself on being selfish, violent, vulgar, and untidy. When talking about the film “Boyz in the
Hood”, Boyd writes, “…the self-hating police officer who has been ideologically seduced to
believe that his own personal interest are synonymous with those of the white establishment that
ultimately oppresses him on the same basis of race.” (Boyd 99) The constant pressure of race
forces the oppressed people to except the shortcomings and instead of fighting back against the
wrongdoers, they began to believe what they say and in turn begin to confirm the stereotypes.
Confirming a stereotype, directly or indirectly, is the epitome of self-hatred. The Hip Hop culture
has somewhat introduced new negative stereotypes and let racism influence their thought process
about themselves and the way they view the people around them.
The mentalities of Hip Hop culture define the direction in which Hip Hop goes. The Race
Man, with his well sophisticated persona, has become the direct opposite of what the culture
views as the norm. The NBA is seen as the mediator between the two and has the ability to
“cross over” between the Hip Hop mentalities and the White mainstream mentalities. The Nigga
who has evolved from the Race Man and NBA, lacks any positive direction what-so-ever yet he
is the ruler of the Hip Hop world.

Beauvior, Simone de. “Woman as Other”. 1949
Boyd, Todd. Am I Black Enough for You? Bloomington, Indiana: 1997
Saussure, Ferdinand de. “Course in General Linguistics.”

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