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Saturday night trendwatching

By show of hands, who else was flabbergasted to learn, via MTV’s Cribs, that so many black people keep a copy of the film Scarface in their homes? In fact, many will even go so far as to keep a copy of Scarface in a separate shrine apart from the rest of their DVD collection, as if it was a precious heirloom or some shit.

Here’s the thing: Scarface is an awful, awful film. Only one critic gave it a positive review upon its release in 1983. I saw it as a teenager in the late ’90’s and could hardly make it through it. I ended up seeing it again a few years ago, after learning that so many rappers were obsessed with it, but, alas, I’m still at a loss for what you ‘bags see in it.

According to the world renown comments section here at XXL, Scarface is a great film because it’s “real.” Which strikes me as a silly and invented reason to like a film, but what do I know. Since its MTV Cribs-assisted resurgence in popularity, Scarface has sold gozillions of dollars worth of deluxe edition DVDs, video games, clothing and what have you.

In fact, as it turns out, there’s a whole underground economy of god-awful pop culture foisted upon black people who don’t know any better. Examples include the likes of ghetto lit novels by Zane and Sister Souljah, films in which black men dress up like older black women, VH1’s Celeb Reality series with Flava Flav, minstrel show rap and so on and so forth.

I don’t bring this up because I begrudge poor black people their right to partake in entertainment that’s suited to their own level of cognitive ability. In fact, I can only encourage any pastime that doesn’t involve smoking crack and/or breaking into Bol’s car. But it does become an issue once it begins to infringe on my ability to enjoy black popular culture that’s not retarded.

For example, there have been stories in the New York Times in the past year or so in which black authors complain that quality black literature is being pushed aside at book stores in favor of ghetto lit, and black playwrights complain that the kind of black theater put forth by Tyler Perry is so much more popular than the works of the great black playwright August Wilson.

Granted, I’m sure most of you d-bags could give a rat’s ass about either theater or literature, but I think it’s obvious these same trends that have been affecting other forms of black popular culture are beginning to affect hip-hop. Is it any wonder, for example, that so much of today’s best-selling rap music is popular primarily among poor black people in the rural south?

This is especially bothersome to me because you would never see this happen in the majority popular culture. Where as white people can have both a band like the Arcade Fire and a band like Nickelback, it seems like the corporations that run popular culture are much more reticent to support anything other than lowest common denominator when it comes to our shit.


This post is dedicated to the memory of the late, great Brad Delp, the lead singer of Boston who, though he wasn’t black per se, did have a huge afro.

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