I recently read that Big Boi from Outkast, was performing at a concert, and while on stage, he called a member of the audience a derogatory and profane name. Surprisingly, this was the second incident in recent weeks that involved rap artists (and other entertainers) using profanity during concerts.
On July 4, 2013, the Roots hosted the Philly 4th of July Jam, a fee concert that was supposed to be an evening where families could enjoy a pre-fireworks concert, but some of the acts were criticized for using profanity during their performances. According to a July 5, 2014 article on philly.mag.com titled “4th of July Jam in Philly: Good Concert, Bad Language,” most of the entertainers dropped F-bombs and other expletives in front of an audience that included many children.
The philly.mag.com article indicated that the show’s emcee, Marlon Wayans, and performers Black Thought, Ed Sheeran, and Nikki Minaj used so much profanity that WPVI – TV, the television station that was broadcasting the event live, “didn’t just bleep out the profanities…they cut out the entire transmission…switching to a 6 ABC logo until it was safe to return.” According to a July 8, 2014 article in philly.com, Black Thought from the Roots took to his Twitter account and said, “I didn’t curse. Nor did I hear Minaj curse. She came close but omitted syllables etc.”
Black Thought’s account of him editing his lyrics was confirmed by Philadelphia Mayor, Michael Nutter in an internet article on CBSPhilly titled “Nutter Thinks TV Viewer Perception of the July 4th Concert Profanity Was Overblown.” In this article, Nutter said that when he compared the raw footage of the concert to the tape of the broadcast, there wasn’t as much profanity as it appeared. Nutter explained that since the concert was being broadcasted live, “6ABC took an abundance of caution,” as when they didn’t know if the artists would self adjust their lyrics, they bleeped them. This led viewers to believe that whenever artists were bleeped, profanity was being used, which wasn’t the case, especially since the Roots and Ed Sheeran “cleaned up their lyrics and never in fact needed to be bleeped.” Nutter apologized for the profanity used by Wayans and Minaj, and he mentioned that performers who violated the contract that stipulated following broadcast standards probably wouldn’t be invited back.
So, the jury is out on whether Nicki Minaj used profanity or if she “omitted syllables,” but it was obvious that Big Boi used profanity. While performing live at the BET Experience, Big Boi called Dr. Marc Lamont Hill a “disrespectful term usually used to describe a woman that rhymes with snitch.” The embarrassing part about this was that Dr. Hill was a member of the audience, and he was with his daughter. I was (and still am) confused about why Big Boi chose this particular name to call Dr. Hill, as the name has so many meanings, I don’t understand what he was trying to say about Dr. Hill.
In a well known NWA song, Ice Cube claimed that the word described “a funky, dirty, money-hungry, scandalous, stuck-up, hair piece contact wearing woman.” That definition was a bit harsh, so I looked in a dictionary to learn some others. The American Heritage dict-tion-ar-y provided several definitions for the word, and they included 1) a female dog 2) a mean, spiteful, or overbearing woman 3) to complain 4) something unpleasant or difficult 5) a man who is cowardly and won’t fight or “stand up for himself” 6) a man who’s emotional and expresses feelings such as fear, hurt, and jealously.
Since Dr. Hill isn’t a “female dog,” I couldn’t grasp the meaning behind Big Boi’s insult, so I felt “it had to be more to this.” I learned that there had been tension between the two, as a June 29, 2014 article in hiphopwired.com indicated that although in the past, Marc Lamont Hill has publicly mentioned how great Outkast is, recently, he’d been publicly saying that Andre 3000 is the better of the two rappers. In a segment on his show, HuffPost Live, Hill and a panel compared the dynamics between Big Boi and Andre 3000 to Chris Bosh and LeBron James, and he suggested that Andre 3000 was the better rapper by asking “Is Outkast’s Big Boi The Chris Bosh to Andre 3000′s LeBron James?” People, even those on the panel, felt that Hill was disrespecting Big Boi, despite Hill stating that although he feels that Andre 3000 is better lyrically, Big Boi is a great rapper who has “had some of the dopest verses in their best songs.”
Big Boi may have heard about (or even watched) the HuffPost Live show, so things appeared to “come to a head” when he performed at the BET Experience and Dr. Hill, who was at the show with his daughter, tweeted, “So Big Boi is doing his solo set now. This is where the homie @bomani_jones turns up… and I check my email.” Someone in Big Boi’s camp may have read the tweet and told Big Boi about it because a little while later, Dr. Hill tweeted, “Big Boi just called me a b***** on stage. Wow.” Big Boi, who may have already “felt some kinda way” about Dr. Hill’s recent comments may have taken his tweet as the “final straw,” so while on stage (and in front of Dr. Hill’s daughter), he called Dr. Hill “a funky, dirty, money-hungry, scandalous, stuck-up, hair piece contact wearing woman.” Dr. Hill responded by immediately trying to “squash” the situation by apologizing to Big Boi and mentioning that he meant no disrespect and that he was simply joking with a friend. Dr. Hill also acknowledged that he realized “how that tweet sounded,” and he “was wrong for that.” Check.
My only child is a 15 year old daughter, and my greatest joy is spending “Daddy Daughter Time” with her. I imagine that Dr. Hill feels the same way about the time he spends with his daughter, so I can imagine how he felt when Big Boi insulted him. Truthfully, I can’t imagine how he felt that night. I just can’t. Big Boi was “so outta pocket!” Yes, Dr. Hill did get “fly” with the tweet during his performance, but the only other thing he did was express his opinion that Andre 3000 was more lyrical than Big Boi. “I get” Big Boi being angry, but his response made him look like “a man who was emotional and who expressed feelings of hurt” and while “in his feelings,” acted like “a spiteful and overbearing woman.”
As a therapist, I try not to judge the behavior of others, so even though I disagreed with Big Boi’s response, I’m not judging. I just wished that he had responded differently, as he could have tweeted something like “Marc Lamont Hill’s interviews are boring compared to Carson Daily’s or Elliot Wilson’s” or “Hill isn’t as insightful as hip hop intellectuals Michael Eric Dyson or Tricia Rose.” Like I said, I understand Big Boi’s anger, but I can’t cosign him “takin it there in front of the man’s daughter.”
In fairness to Big Boi, he may not have even known that Dr. Hill was with his daughter, as he probably didn’t even see Dr. Hill but knew from the tweet that he was “in the audience somewhere.” This is one (of several) issues I had with how this incident played out on social media, as if you read some social media sites, it looked like Big Boi spotted Dr. Hill and his daughter in the audience, came off stage, got in Dr. Hill’s face, and called him “a man who is cowardly and won’t fight.” Some of these sites also made Dr. Hill’s attempts to “squash” the situation look like he was backing down because he was “a man who won’t stand up for himself.” There were comments on some of the sites that made it look like Dr. Hill was afraid to respond, when in actuality, like he tweeted, he was simply “being an adult and not being afraid of anyone.” Check. Dr. Hill’s response was appropriate, but all the people feeling that he “backed down” raised some questions for me. The first was “How was Dr. Hill supposed to respond?” The second was “Could Big Boi be the Solange to Marc Lamont Hill’s Jay-Z?”
I respect the fact that even though Dr. Hill may have felt that the situation that night was “unpleasant and difficult,” he didn’t “complain,” and he responded to it intelligently. Check. What else was he to do? He has (or had) some “high profile” jobs, as he taught at Columbia University and worked at Black Enterprise, BET, CNN, and Huffington Post Live. I doubt that his employers would approve of his involvement in a “social media beef,” so he responded in a passive, professional, and politically correct manner (like Jay Z did on the elevator). Check. Social media made it appear that Dr. Hill’s use of anger management and conflict resolution made him “soft” or afraid. This was irresponsible because if more people used these skills, the level of violence in cities like Philly and Chicago would decrease.
Another issue I had with social media’s handling of this incident was how it appeared to reinforce “street codes” that justified Big Boi’s retaliation. I also took exception to how they portrayed Dr. Hill, as in an article on bossip.com he was called a “cornball Brotha.” This comment seemed to reinforce values among African Americans that males who are intellectual are “corny, nerdy, or square.” These values lead to African American men avoiding academic pursuits and gravitating toward being “thug, hood, or celebrated for being shot or having been incarcerated. I also noticed that none of these sites referred to Dr. Hill as “Dr.,” a title he earned when earning his PhD from The University of Pennsylvania.
A few days ago (and after the Big Boi incident), it was reported that Dr. Hill is leaving his position at Columbia University, and this Fall, he’ll be joining the faculty at Morehouse College where he will serve as Distinguished Professor of African American Studies. I wonder if he was going through the interviewing process while he was going through the shenanigans with Big Boi” If he was, it’s makes sense how he “saw the big picture” and realized how counter productive it would be to move to a city and be “beefein” with a legendary rap artist who’s home town is the city you’re moving to. Good move Dr. Hill, and checkmate.
Ronald Crawford is a mental health professional, and he’s the founder of Honesty Hurts Publishing and Counseling, a consulting firm that through book publishing and clinical intervention teaches life skills. He is also the author of Who’s the Best Rapper? Biggie, Jay-Z and Nas, a book that uses an analysis of rap lyrics and hip hop culture to teach basic counseling and social skills. Connect with him on facebook or by emailing him at [email protected] (books can be purchased by using this email address or by going to www.amazon.com ).