Man, a playa takes a couple of days off from Internet shenanigans and I return to see that Eric Benet has become the Thanos of hip-hop and R&B.
If you missed this week’s social media war, Eric Benet found ways to get both the rap and R&B communities riled up, first by claiming that irresponsible rappers are contributing to white supremacy
And then by saying that R&B executives don’t care about black people *Kanye voice*
Before we break things down, a point of transparency, so you Instagram Inspector Gadgets won’t get on my case: As many of you know, this site has been a big Eric Benet supporter over the years, and he’s shown us plenty of love too. I went on record to say that his most recent album wasn’t just one of the best projects of 2016, it’s one of the best of his career. In an era where R&B artists don’t get their due, Benet deserves to be much more than a Jay Z punchline.
However, if I gotta be one thing, I gotta be real, even when it comes to one of my homies.
If you follow Eric on social media, he’s NEVER been one to hold back, whether speaking about politics, the state of the music industry, or black empowerment in general. And in terms of Eric’s controversial IG post, I really think he was trying to enlighten, not drag when he posted this meme:
Eric’s sole comment: Inconvenient truth to some of the rich and famous.
Of course, half the rap world immediately got in its feelings, hurling insults and wack jokes instead of trying to engage in meaningful debate.
Because Twitter is the land of children.
But here’s the truth – this meme isn’t wrong, it’s just extremely short-sighted.
Fat Joe said in response to Benet that rap is merely entertainment and shouldn’t be taken seriously. While there is some truth there, it’s also a cop-out. You’ve gotta remember rap’s roots – when hip-hop transitioned from the party jams of the late 70s to more political and social commentary of the mid 80s, rap became the CNN of the streets, reporting life that was often ignored by mainstream media at the time. And yes, while that has ebbed and flowed over the years with the evolution of the genre, rap has always has roots in reality. It’s the pulse of our culture.
And when our culture is depicted as violent and hedonistic, it does us no favors.
But here’s where that meme doesn’t go far enough – that culture of violence and sex and whatever else is a product of the adverse conditions that communities of color have been forced to endure for generations.
People don’t kill and sell drugs because it’s FUN. It’s a symptom of destitution. And the music is a depiction of that struggle.
And if your reaction to that statement is “well, why don’t rappers talk about addressing those symptoms instead of celebrating them?” then I’ve got four words for you:
STOP LISTENING TO TRASH.
Maybe if you’d quit rocking Lil Melted Starburst or Young Hot Garbage or anyone else who appeals to the lowest common denominators, you’ll know that hip-hop is way bigger than the cartoon characters who play to stereotypes.
I mean, J. Cole just released an entire album dedicated to raising these very conversations. Do y’all listen to music or just skim through it?
One of the biggest struggles with being black in America is CONSTANTLY being under the microscope. We have to overperform, we have to outdo, we have to tuck away all flaws and insecurities, we MUST be perfect in every facet or our shortcomings will be used against us. Any imperfections in our community will be twisted to give fuel to white supremacists.
Did y’all forget already? This is America. Don’t catch you slippin’ up.
It’s unfair but it’s America. And that doesn’t mean we should, ahem, whitewash our story solely because of it.
We’re flawed because of the adverse conditions our people were put in. And hip-hop tells our story, flaws and all. Should we take more responsibility in telling those stories accurately? No question.
However, the hip-hop I support is way bigger than the stereotypical, and frankly, outdated nuggets in that meme. I listen to nearly every new rap release that drops every week, and while we must move beyond glorification of drug culture in 2018, most of the gangsta posturing promoted in Benet’s post is essentially nonexistent in modern rap. In some ways, that meme feels like it was written by some old lady who hasn’t heard a rap album since Straight Outta Compton.
I’ve said it a billion times – if you want better from your artists, the power is the hands of the consumers.
Who is at fault for the state of R&B?
And THAT finally brings me to Eric’s second point of contention: He stopped by Van Lathan’s ‘The Red Pill’ podcast this week to vent the frustrations of many black R&B artists – that labels will push white R&B acts like Adele and Sam Smith while letting black R&B artists languish.
It’s a topic I’ve written about before – in fact, you can read my defense of Adele right here. Yes, I defended Adele, get over it.
Listen, I get the frustration from fans and artists alike. It drives me insane that Benet can release an album as good as his 2016 release, yet it languishes in limbo two weeks after hitting shelves.
But Adele and Sam Smith ‘n dem are not the enemy. Place the blame with record executives who try to get ALL black artists (regardless of genre) to drink from the udder of the hip-hop cash cow because it’s the easiest way to cash in. Why risk being creative when they can just throw a trap beat on every single release and y’all mindlessly sway back and forth like Walking Dead zombies?
However, R&B is turning around. Daniel Caesar. H.E.R. Bruno Mars. Queen Naija. Oh and there’s this little song from a woman named Ella Mai that you may have heard A TRILLION TIMES this summer that’s a full-fledged R&B track. Not one robotic rap verse to be found on it (unless you’re talking about the terrible remixes AND WE WON’T.)
What’s causing this revolution? R&B is finally being introduced to audiences sick of the same soulless trap sounds. Good music will always thrive – if y’all actually give it a chance and listen to it.
These record executives don’t care if music is good or bad, they just push whatever is making the most money at the moment. If you want R&B back, the power is in YOUR hands to support quality.
So nah, whether we’re talking rap or R&B, Eric Benet isn’t a bitter, out of touch veteran. I might not agree with his delivery, but his motives are pure.
He loves this music as much as you do.