juicy-j-stop-it-video

There’s a large chunk of intellectuals, the men and women whose work in higher education has transitioned them into perceived positions of power who have used their power to push a self-aggrandized agenda. When those intellectuals want to use their “research” to send certain individuals to realms of public damnation, they also open themselves to criticism themselves.

I’m not completely wrong in feeling that a ton of scholars thumb their nose at hip-hop or rap in general because it seems passé and the right thing to do since lobbing such cultural criticisms at music’s other dominant genres in rock, pop and country get a pass. Hip-Hop is a target and in the case of Dr. Boyce Watkins — any rapper that may possibly be worthy of click-bait is a target too.

On Monday, Watkins lampooned Juicy J for awarding a $50,000 scholarship to 19-year old single mother Zaire Holmes, a biology major who convinced Juicy via a YouTube video. The scholarship initially gained headlines because Juicy either on purpose or inadvertently stated that the scholarship would be awarded to the best twerker. Now of course, had it been Juicy J saying he’s awarding a scholarship, the news probably wouldn’t have moved the needle. Throw the hot button word “twerk” in there and now you see how this became a big damn deal.

She, like the Juice Man understood the concept of reading comprehension when the rules stated you didn’t have to twerk to win. Watkins already has probably earned the ire of half of Memphis for using Lord Infamous’ death & mugshot as a platform to say how drugs provided a link to young deaths even though there has been zero information linking drugs to Infamous’ tragic heart attack in December of last year. In other words, just because Lord Infamous appeared on Three 6 Mafia’s “Sippin On Some Sizzurp” — he deserves to be profiled and be made face of a situation without any direct link to what actually cause his own death.

Dr. Boyce Watkins

Dr. Boyce Watkins

Watkins wrote, “I’ll admit that, as a father, I was taken aback to see my fellow scholar Melissa Harris Perry encouraging a young woman to twerk her way through school. As part of a segment on MSNBC, Perry congratulated University of Texas student Kimani Parker on applying for the “Twerking Scholarship” that was offered by the rapper Juicy J.

During the interesting conversation, the highly intelligent Parker explains how a trip overseas helped her to understand the cultural context of twerking, which led her to feel a little bit better about being an exotic dancer. Kimari had been, perhaps unfairly, subjected to the ridicule and shame that might come for any person who shows their body for money.

I’ll have to confess that I’m not sure how my mother would have felt if I’d paid for college by shaking my penιs for women instead of studying all night and working three jobs. Perhaps I could have argued that I was empowering myself, and that the “Wiener-wobble contest” I won allowed me to pursue my PhD in Finance. This argument might not have worked, because at the end of the day, my mother would have reminded me that, even as a man, I should be earning with my big head and not my other one.

But that’s just my family.”

Now, granted Watkins fell for the okie-doke just in the same vein that Melissa Harris-Perry kind of did when the story first broke and didn’t dare actually watch the video where Juicy explained the “rules”. So as opposed to just ending the entire argument by simply saying, “I didn’t read the rules either but I still feel like our daughters and women shouldn’t twerk for money” it instead turned into “I wouldn’t want THAT man delivering scholarships because what he’s about”. Yes, Jordan Houston is from Memphis, has had friends who have probably died on the streets and used his position as a rapper to do some good for the community. There’s very little for you to tell me that Juicy J hasn’t made some of the more deplorable music for young women to admire and listen to. Call a spade a spade here. It’s not as if some of the other rappers and entertainers who’ve delivered scholarships to people have cleaner track records but man, Juicy J isn’t good enough to give your daughter scholarship money.

I get Watkins trying to shoot down the commercialization of hip-hop and how corporate America and corporate radio are basically taking music as a marketing tool for materialism and self-destruction. That, I completely get and applaud him for. I’m not going to call him out of touch for claiming the likes of T.I. and Kendrick Lamar among others are just as good as the rappers that may have come a generation before them in Tupac & The Notorious B.I.G. (although I’m lost on lumping Lil Wayne into that discussion) and how the brand of Jay Z has officially turned him off. Here’s the thing though, Watkins failed when he attempted to cite Juicy’s “B*tch By My Side” in his argument with The Smoking Section’s David D. as another song in Juicy’s immense catalog about women. Here, the Juice Man is referring to his “b*tch” as his gun, the same way that The Notorious B.I.G. picked up the same metaphor on “Me & My B*tch” back in ’94.

Rap Genius would have helped out there, Doctor.

The point of this Dr. Watkins is to simply point out that one redeeming act from Juicy J does not erase a career that he’s built upon describing his community and life in Memphis and now beyond that he’s a star. It didn’t do anything to redeem the ugly lyrics and pasts of other rappers who have given out scholarships via foundations and charities. There are much better ways to get your point across as opposed to standing on a soap box demonizing and driving yourself into parody.

We spotlight rappers who’ve actually done good in the community, how rap as an artform has transcended a few areas in life. How else can you explain the likes of 9th Wonder (Duke), Bun B (Rice), Swizz Beatz (NYU), Guru (USC) among others being asked to teach at prestigious universities across the country? Or Nas having a fellowship at Harvard University? Or Dr. Dre donating a million to USC?

Or is “B*tches Ain’t Sh*t” going to keep him from being able to help finance someone’s college dreams too?