Honoring `street cred' is no credit to Morgan

October 25, 2006|By GREGORY KANE

Officials at Morgan State University are rightly miffed that rapper Lil' Wayne, in an act of random dimwittedness, flung money into a crowd of concert attendees last week, causing enough jostling and scrambling to leave three women injured.

According to news reports, Morgan officials are even considering filing criminal charges against the rapper. Fine. I wish them luck in their efforts.

Now what about that matter of Busta Rhymes performing at the same concert? Do Morgan officials have an explanation for that one?

Busta Rhymes, whose mommy had the good judgment to name him Trevor Smith, didn't fling money into the crowd. He didn't do anything. Rhymes has been the target of some well-deserved criticism the past eight months for what he hasn't done.

In February, Rhymes was on a set for a video shoot when an altercation broke out. Shots were fired. When the smoke cleared, 29-year-old Israel Ramirez, Rhymes' bodyguard, lay dead. Ramirez was the father of three small children.

Ramirez's killing is unsolved. One of the reasons it remains unsolved is that, for more than eight months, Rhymes has refused to talk to police and tell them what he saw. In short, Rhymes dummied up to prove his "street creds" and show that he adheres to the "Stop Snitching" code that's a key part of gangsta life.

Our city state's attorney, Patricia C. Jessamy, says the "Stop Snitching" code has led to witness intimidation and driven up the city's homicide rate. A bunch of criminal types who call this town "Bodymore, Murderland" - and they should know - appeared in an underground DVD titled Stop Snitching. Most of those appearing in the DVD are young black men. So are most of the 200-plus homicide victims in this town. Who knows how many of them were killed because of a link to this "Stop Snitching" madness?

So what is a rapper who clings tenaciously to this nonsense doing appearing in this city at a publicly funded, historically black university?

Dummying up about the Ramirez slaying isn't the only reason folks at Morgan should have been leery about Rhymes. There's the matter of those assault charges Rhymes faces in New York City. He allegedly beat and kicked a 19-year-old Bronx man back in August who said he accidentally spit on the rapper's Maybach, a car that's in the Rolls-Royce price range.

Clearly, character is not a factor in which performers get invited to perform at college and university homecoming concerts these days, if in truth it ever has been. But silly me keeps thinking that somebody at Morgan should have checked these things and then sort of uninvited Rhymes to perform at the school.

Hey, the ladies at Spelman College in Atlanta did that a few years back. Hip-hop singer Nelly was scheduled to make an appearance at the historically black women's college when he ran into his "Tip Drill" problem.

"Tip Drill" is a raunchy video featuring scantily clad, rump-shaking black women engaging in simulated sex acts. The young ladies at Spelman were not amused at Nelly's attempt at what he claimed was harmless "adult entertainment." They didn't buy Nelly's pitiful defense of "Tip Drill," either.

"My daughter doesn't watch it," Nelly claimed. "Neither should yours." This character really believes that perpetuating degrading sexual stereotypes of black women is just hunky dory as long as the kiddies don't see it. Hats off to the ladies at Spelman for telling Nelly to hit the road.

It was an issue of character for the Spelman women. What was it for those in charge of organizing Morgan's homecoming concert? Cornell Dews, who was the subject of this column recently for his attempts to sell "Stop Lying" T-shirts to replace "Stop Snitching" ones, had his own hunches about why Rhymes appeared at Morgan.

"There's probably a couple of reasons he was selected," Dews wrote me in an e-mail. "First, he has a fairly new album out. Secondly, for a headlining act, and the troubles that presently surround him, he probably charged less than many other big names in the rap industry. And last, but not least, in our community, `not telling' or `not ratting' is an applaudable act. ... With this allure and appeal to garner and sustain `street credibility' in our community Bussa Bus's [Rhymes'] actions are actually applaudable" to many.

Clinton Coleman, a spokesman for Morgan, said officials at the school had no part in selecting the performers.

"This was a Student Government Association event, sponsored every homecoming by the SGA" Coleman said in a written statement e-mailed to The Sun. Coleman said both rappers were SGA choices. The money to pay them came out of the SGA's budget. The SGA recommends the acts to the Student Affairs Office.

"The office then reviews the selection and looks around to try and ascertain the experience other schools have had with that particular act. That was done in the past, and was done this year as well."

That response leaves at least one nagging question. We can pretty much assume that no Morgan official believes in the "Stop Snitching" credo. But is anybody in Morgan's Student Government Association at all bothered that Busta Rhymes allegedly witnessed a homicide and refuses to talk to police?

greg.kane@baltsun.com

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