I watched the BET Hip Hop Awards the other night.
Mostly, I didn’t know what was going on. (Comes with being a white grrl.) I mean, I could discern snatches of lyrics in the cyphers but no where near the whole dialogue. My point of comparison was the Oscars: tons of awards interspersed with periodic pre-scripted performances and the occasional live number.
So it was intriguing to me that the program seemed to include only three awards.
They opened with the big one, Kendrick Lamar winning Lyricist of the Year. He had a line in the West Coast cypher acknowledging the passing of the intergenerational torch from Snoop Dogg, who at least I’ve heard of before.
Many other awards were given, but most of them were not spotlighted in the same way. That says something about community – doesn’t it? It seemed to me that the point of the broadcast performance was to be together, to throw down and feel connected with each other by participating in a common culture. This is a different motivation than white-styled shows that insist on singling out individuals and – although the award winners always shout out to the peeps who helped ’em make it, you don’t usually get let in on the range of collaborators and competitors who drove them to up the game.
The main point of the 2012 BET Hip Hop Awards, as far as I could tell, was to give tribute to Chris Lightly.
Hip Hop inspires me as a courageous form of protest by facing the ugly realities of the modernized social world head-on. Suicide is up across the US, driven by the uneven economy and its concentrated adverse effects on particular populations. Why some people become vulnerable, under what conditions, is more than a philosophical question. I’m glad I was able to be a tiny part of the audience celebrating the life of a hip hop icon.
Which brings me back to the title of this blog entry. I’m speculating that another difference between white-styled award shows and black-styled award shows is in the orientation to time, particularly what it means to use time well. At the BET Awards, the program inspired communion around a current event and the shared mode of entertainment. Perhaps there is evidence of a similar kind of sensitivity in white-styled award shows, but I haven’t seen it – at least, not at this scale.
Thanks, Hip Hop, for insisting that we’re all in this together.Btw, October 11 (yesterday) is National Coming Out Day. Hold your head high, Frank Ocean!