When Beyonce (Destiny's Child) sings that she needs a soldier it’s absolutely certain (but no fault of her own) that she is not envisioning the type of soldier that epitomizes revolutionary struggle or progressive change and action. In fact what many now carelessly refer to as “gangsta”, “G”, or “thug”, are largely distorted bastardizations of the divine warriorhood concept. These cartoonish gangster depictions are falsifications that bear slight resemblance to the genuine warrior or gangster articles, in fact and in principle.
Slavery robbed us of our warrior traditions and in turn the institution of protectionism by which men collectively organized themselves to defend and provide for their communities. The collective protectorate unit is a macrocosm of the masculine, head of the household or head of the family structure from which many of us in America have departed from. The gangster spirit is a modern incarnation of this ancient, undying, warrior spirit, which has not been given room for proper development, or validation for its cause of existence. It is by divine cause that certain men are naturally endowed with warrior qualities & abilities to protect their sovereignty and inalienable rights. Willie Lynch not only robbed the black man of the traditional role as father, protector and provider but it also has failed to provide a substitute role for the black male to channel his warrior energy, positively. While beyond the scope of this discussion, the capitalists have exploited these circumstances and created the prison industrial complex to nullify, manage, corrupt and profit from the misuse of the warrior spirit in service of white supremacy and domination.
The type of soldier that Beyonce propagates is really a toy soldier without a warrior consciousness.* The term soldier is by itself a misnomer used by the toy soldiers to project themselves as being more serious and disciplined than they really are. It’s used to amplify their own sense of self worth & perceived power. Soldier Boy, Soldier Slim, the No Limit Soldiers, the Boot Camp Click**, the G-Unit, etc… are not capable of presenting a line of defense against racist oppression much less defending the simplest moral gangster principles. For instance, 50 cent claims to be a vindicated gangster, yet every time he’s asked to comment on a political issue (of sorts) he advances a token, house nigga, jiggaboo assortment of responses that resonates with the imperialist agenda. I’m not a Hip Hop conspiracy nut but 50 cent possesses the obvious characteristics of a CIA operative, Cointelpro agent. Every week he finds a new rival to promote community conflict and black on black dissension. Even his most recent rival (of sorts) Kanye West is contrastingly simple, non threatening, (and depicts himself on his albums as a teddy bear with a chic-esque backpack) yet has stood tall and confronted real power in the spirit of genuine fearless gangster attitude while 50 cent is muscled up and ready to only fight his own brothers.
Toy soldiers are equipped with standard (socially imposed) uniforms of big jeans, big shiny belts, big loud /colorful hoodies (or oversized white t-shirt dresses), big construction boots, and oversized fitted baseball hats stuffed with colorful bandanas . Some even wear bullet proof vests. Toy soldiers ideally aspire to drive big imposing trucks/“V’s” (or Dodge Magnum station wagons which are quickly becoming ‘hip hops’ official car). In an actual war scenario these toy soldiers would not be able to effectively mobilize or execute any plan of action much less defend an attack because they’d be tripping over their big saggy pants (or busy pulling them up) and unlaced boots, and t-shirts.*** The community would not be able to depend on them because these cartoon thugs would have a hard time even defending themselves. The racist vigilantes would catch them and hang them by their own “chain hang low”. They’d be out of breath from all the weed smoke and Hennessy. Their shiny belts, and loud hoodies with all the glitter would be too colorful to camouflage them.
The current form of BET/MTV type thug glamorization is a delusional theatrical existence in which material props are used to exert the fantasy or illusion of power. These rugged material externalizations or props are part of a false defense mechanism used to psychologically balance the lack of genuine power. Everything has a militant aesthetic and is subconsciously BIG to amplify their own sense of importance (or projected sense of power).**** This aesthetic reveals a deep inherent inferiority complex, and the limitation of power (or weakness) inherited through slavery in what I call “post slavery defeatism syndrome”. The soldier aesthetic essentially seeks to compensate for the historical frustration and lack of power in the ability to bring forth meaningful structural changes in the socio political dynamics of global white supremacy resulting in a puffer fish psychology. It is merely a bluff game aimed at the white power structure and a defense mechanism to ward off or intimidate other fake gangsters. The inability to effectively project power outward towards the white power structure often results in a frustrated need to focus these energies inwards towards the only accessible, weaker, manipulative subjects within the community/nation including women, weaker men, seniors, nerds, etc...) but most importantly the self. The powerlessness of the toy soldier leads to self/community corruption as he seek to exploit & secure access to the limited, internal, petty- resources within the community. Simply stated Black men have not been shown how to create genuine power so we fake it (by exaggerating and exploiting the limited power resources available to us). In the process the gangster seeks to emulate the assumed characteristics of those percieved to be genuinely powerful.
BET/MTV, “urban radio”, Don Diva, (corporate hip hop in general) are largely responsible for propagating the distorted, narrow gangster script by which aspiring black men are naively programmed and socialized to assume the role of the glamorized, fake gangster. The mass media has used it’s power of influence to redefine and give the impression that the gangster is some kinda pimp cup holding, loud, ostentatious, morally decadent social parasite. We are led to believe that the ultimate success of toy gangsters is measured by the accumulation of insubstantial material goods (like warehousing hundreds of custom sneakers in a gigantic closet), breeding and walking around with vicious pit-bulls, a wealth of women and plenty of marijuana to smoke. He has been programmed to avoid and reject the acquisition of any and all worthwhile external resources. He has not been taught the value of securing real, valuable resources like oil, titanium, silicon, etc.. to create real wealth. A point fully understood by the M.E.N.D. (Movement for the emancipation of the Niger Delta) of Nigeria. The BET gangster only values the acquisition of precious metals like platinum and gold in the form of gaudy, useless, jewelry (ironically stolen from Africa and sold back to us for exorbitant prices by JEW-lers). Diamonds are in reality rocks that powerful men have systemically programmed people to accept as valuable.
Morever, gangster status has been trivialized as a triumphant battle against the system which ironically leads the gangster to celebrate everything that is wrong about the system in his success. Fake gangsters (primarily rappers) have promoted the overly simplified, idealistic notion of personal/individualistic materialistic advancement, characterized by a redemptive sequence of life events by which the gangster triumphs/conquers perilous, inherited, darwin-esque, hardships & circumstances through a relentless, ruthless, uncompromised, drive to be at the top. The gangster’s degree of credibility rests solely in relaying the extreme contrasts of his or her inherited poverty and humble beginnings with the long, hard earned accumulation of cash & expensive possessions amidst dire odds & challenging circumstances of constant struggle. This aspect of struggle has been true to the real life experience and absolution of the gangster creed but it has been overly used, abused and in turn clichéd by most. The popularized depiction of this gangster validation is an over simplification of the struggle that associates gangster success with the notion of climbing out of the barrel then singing, dancing and hopping around the barrel as if the struggle has been realized. These fake gangsters are somehow empowered by the notion of parading their newly gained petty riches in front of the crabs still stuck in the barrel. How can showing off your new car, chain, clothes, etc... to the people who'm you share a common root of hardship be interpreted as progressive?***** It is in this regard that the basic value structure of the street gangster is almost synonymous to the elitist black bourgeoisie class. If gangsters are so intimately familiar with the hardships of ghetto life (which they often use as a badge of honor and validation) its a wonder that they don't use their resources and influence to propogate a message that seeks to destroy the corruptive ghetto structure, rather than making it worse.
Many mid century black gangsters stand in direct contrast to today’s toy gangsters. Paul Lee’s recent article on Bumpy Johnson is a brilliant expose that sheds light on the complex paradoxical relationship of Bumpy Johnson’s so called criminality and his commitment to the black struggle. Bumpy was undeniably flashy, well dressed and well groomed to the standards of Marcus Garvey (presented in his book ‘Message to the People’). Men like Bumpy became the economic backbone of the black community by extending credit to jumpstart black businesses at a time when mainstream American banks shunned the practice of loaning money to the black community. Bumpy was genuinely tough and fearless in contrast to today’s toy gangster’s who kill innocent victims but never challenge or even resist the police. Bumpy unequivally threatened the mob, the police, and anyone else whom he perceived to threaten or challenge his interests. When he said “Move b*tch get out the way” he wasn’t addressing the black woman he was addressing the white police. On the subject of his self appointed role of protecting the likes of Malcolm X & Paul Robeson, Bumpy stated the following.
“Remember the Peekskill riots, back in 1950 [Sept. 4, 1949 - PL], when all these crackers had Paul Robeson surrounded and wanted to do him in? I heard that on the radio. So I got some of my boys together, between 70 and a hundred, and I called the chief of the state police and said, "Listen, this is Bumpy Johnson. We're coming through to get Paul out, and if anybody tries to stop us, police or civilians, there's gonna be a hell of a lot of bloodshed."
"‘Then my boys and me, we piled into a fleet of cars and we drove. We drove all the way to Peekskill. The police got out of our way; they had been warned. We had every kind of gun imaginable. And we drove right through them screaming civilian crackers, too, and they damn sure got out of the way, too. And we brought old Paul out. Brought him out in a convoy. Because Paul is Black, he's my brother, and I wasn't gonna let no crackers set hand on him.'"
While many aspect of Bumpy’s criminality were undeniably, damaging to the black community much of this same criminality was ironically inadvertently beneficial. I would be remiss to endorse the totality of Bumpy’s criminality without acknowledging the inherent contradictions. However, while controversial and far from perfect, Bumpy does honor the ancient, true warrior code in many respects. Provided decent circumstances, equal opportunities and a good healthy environment to live and grow in soldiers like Bumpy Johnson could have been legitimate army generals or business leaders, which (in a sense) he was. Men like Bumpy Johnson are around today, but they are incarcerated, and/or politically & socially uninformed to be effective in the advancement of racial politics.
The potential warrior/gangster is limited by his own imaginative concept of power. Black gangsters need to creatively refocus and follow the example of independent thinkers like the Black Panther Party who effectively mobilized and politicized notorious black gangsters like George Jackson, and Bunchy Carter who became giants in their own right. Black gangsters have the power to establish independent schools, hospitals, armies, police, and eventually powerful Nations. The bar of achievement must be raised or broadened beyond costume materialism and consumerism.
Beyonce needs to come to terms with the frailty of her toy soldier within the scheme of world politics. Navasha on the other hand understands the potential, dormant power that lies within reach of the Misguided Warriors.
*Some are toy dolls but this is not the time nor the place for that discussion
***Saggy pants have been in style since 1988. The style has run it’s full course.
**** This is also why some talk loud, curse, etc...
*****It is in this aspect that MOP's 'Ante Up' anthem takes on enormous significance.
One God, One Aim, One Destiny