48. Oprah

“Cause many people think it/I just had the (‘fortitude’) to say it. And risk losing everything/I stand for the weak/Plus, I live for my freedom of speech.” ~ from Ludacris’ “MVP”

Dear Oprah:
cc: Tyler Perry, Ludacris

I have ridiculous aspirations. But everyone should, right? I want to win an Academy Award for Best Original or Adapted Screenplay.

Big, huh? But it’s not my ultimate goal. That would be making it to your couch … twice. You know what it does for a person when you co-sign, right? Black men win presidencies. Oprah, you know your power. It is limitless.

That said, I hope that you won’t ban me from your couch for what follows, and I hope you can understand my arguments. You need to invite Chris “Ludacris” Bridges back to your show for at least a segment or two — preferably on a live Friday so we know there are no cuts.

I know, he has a few horrible songs like “(Vajayjay) Poppin.” And I understand why you don’t want to promote that image on your show. But who of us hasn’t done ignorant mess during our 20s? No one over 19 can raise his/her hands. Bridges has evolved from that vile 20-something character you and Bill O’Reilly have come to dislike.

Notice the distance between Oprah and Chris Bridges.

Notice the distance between Oprah and Chris Bridges.

You can hear growth in Luda’s sound, it’s present in his character and visible in his other works. He’s been apart of two major award-winning films and has voiced a documentary. It’s clear that he’s using his voice for good and promote change. Ludacris deserves to sit where Tom Cruise jumped up and down like a 5-year-old on his parents’ bed.

Besides, it’s not like you don’t promote entertainment that sends a sometimes negative message to people to hopefully get them to see/hear the underlying positives. Tyler Perry is one of your best friends, and that’s how he’s built his brilliant empire.  His plays and movies have some good themes. But they are riddled with violence and turmoil. Madea is the ultimate contradiction — a gun-toting, loony grandma who mixes in good advice with humor and and her Mammy image.

I’m not first to tell you or Tyler that I’m not Madea’s biggest fan. The only movie Madea is in that I’ve seen is “Diary of A Mad Black Woman” — a good film. That was enough Madea to last me a lifetime, though. I’ve seen and supported most of Tyler’s other movies. But Madea perpetuates and regurgitates too many unwelcomed stereotypes of black people to the masses, just like bad rap (not hip hop) music, BET and VH1 do.

Maybe, that’s why Tyler seems as though he’s about to retire his female costume attire — just like Ludacris has moved beyond most of the ignorance he has put on wax. Don’t get me wrong. Ludacris deserved to be denounced for his song in support of President Obama concerning Hillary Clinton, John McCain and W. Again, we all make mistakes. But he’s still brilliant at what he does.

I recently queried my friends to see if they could potentially find a more analogous song than Stevie Wonder’s “As.” You know that one. You love Stevie. I got one response back from my friend Ash: “It might be a stretch, but Ludacris.”

I thought she was joking. Then I listened to his latest album — “Theater of The Mind” — again. It’s full of wit, astounding analogies and messages of hope. It features some of your favorite people: Jamie Foxx, Spike Lee and Chris Rock. They all understand Bridges reach and appeal.

I’ll take it a step further: Ludacris is the hope for what commercial hip hop should be. Not Lil Wayne (although his stupefying wordplay cannot be denied). A person with Chris’ voice and experiences deserves a one-on-one with you. Not a ban.

If you gave audience members a copy of his latest album, it would help disprove the myth that all hip hop music is bad. Seriously, the United States has a black president because of your co-sign. And you could ask Ludacris on national television what he wasn’t thinking when he made “(Vajayjay) Poppin,” and other foolishness he has put on wax. I know you’re wondering. I am, too.

Sincerely,

Damon

P.S. The Dave Matthews Band’s “Out of My Hands.”
P.S.S. Ludacris’ “Do The Right Thing” featuring Spike Lee & Common

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38 responses to “48. Oprah

  1. I am always torn by the issue of supporting an artist who has songs that are wonderful but also has songs that are extremely degrading to women. On one hand I love them and on the other I despise them. I don’t know that this will ever be reconciled for me.

    Tyler Perry is a whole other issue….I can’t stand him, his movies or his tv shows. I can’t knock his hustle but I refuse to watch anymore of his foolishness. I think he is an excellent playwriter but horrible at making movies. I could write a whole series of letters on my problems with him but I don’t write letters so maybe you will.

    • @tam: this was one of the hardest letters to write because of the complexities of the situation. I really toiled about what to write to Oprah, and think this is an interesting dilemma because of the parties involved.

      on degrading song’s … have you heard DJ Unk’s “Don’t Hide It, Divide It?”

  2. I remember when he was a young Chris Luva-Luva on the radio. Good times, good times.

    Oh, but that stupefying word play of Lil Wayne gets me everytime. He’s been my homie since “Bling-Bling”, “Shine” and the “U-waaay Remix”.

    Its all entertainment, but the problem is when some {most} folks can’t separate the real from the fake. I know Lil Wayne has never been in a gang, he shot himself (no one else did it), and wasn’t a gangster. And I knew before Miss Katie did her interview. Him singing about “Bling Bling” does not make me want to go get a chain from what of the kiosks at the mall.

    I also know Madea is a hot ass mess and not to be imitated. Unfortunately, my aunt acts just like that– and it still qualifies as a hot ass mess (art imitating life, I guess).

    I’m all for growth as artists though. That’s why Outkast is the greatest of all time.

    • @gizzle: I’ve always loved Ludacris’ music. Even some of the ignorance like “Move Bia” (but never P Poppin).

      I tried to avoid Wayne, but his wordplay can’t be denied. It just can’t. I listen to every new Wayne verse I can just to see how he plays with words because I can learn something even if he’s not talking about a damn thing. (I totally forgot about Wayne going Chedda Bob/Plaxico Burress on himself… LOL LOL)

      … but that’s where the disagreement starts. It’s not just entertainment. It can’t be. That’s one of the major points of this blog. It’s entertainment, but there’s a focus, a mission to provide real life lessons amid some hilarity, honesty and crazy situations.

      I don’t think you can just make a song called “P Poppin” or “Don’t Hide It, Divide It” (DJ Unk) and roll with it as ENTERTAINMENT. To me, you defecate on your family name and on the ancestors who wouldn’t die on those slave ships when you come up with (poop) like that.

      Like I said in the entry, it perpetuates negative stereotypes so far that white and Asian kids in America are running around calling each other “ignorant negro” at will.

      Tyler Perry isn’t that much better because Madea, a 60-something gun-toting granny, provides an image nearly as bad as “P-Poppin.” We may know a person or two like that. But that doesn’t mean that we should be exploiting that the same way Maury exploits underprivileged, lower-class pregnant women for the almighty dollar.

      Growth is important, though. And I’m glad Ludacris, Tyler, Oprah, myself AND most of us have all had periods of it. Because we clearly need it.

      *off soapbox*

  3. thecomebackgirl

    I think you should send this letter in!!!! (yes more explamation marks!!!!)

    I’ll be back after my coffee for a re-read!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. This was a good letter. I think you should forward it on to her producers. Honestly. I can understand her sentiment to a degree but the way she singled Luda out on her show was beyond insulting and I’m sure he felt far from how a guest should feel. I think that she made those statements about how she doesn’t condone his music as a preventative measure to keep future negative letters from coming to her. It was her way of putting a disclaimer out there. But, it wasn’t necessary and like you said, she’s had crazy folks on her show numerous times, from KKK members to convicted child molesters to Tom Cruise to Superhead. Oprah owes Luda an apology and at least half an hour to discuss the differences between them…

  5. thecomebackgirl

    I dunno Im all over the place when it comes to rap and hip hop it, can at times be SOOO too faced (part. in regards to women), but it should also be allowed to atone and “do it over”.

    I kind of believe that hip hop should be brought to task. And thats what Oprah did the first time. Someimes when you sign up for something, a thought, a belief, you do become its spokesperson and its whipping boy.

    Freedom of Speech isn’t really free…we are all still accountable and responsible for what we say/said. And luda should be no different.

    • your last sentence is exactly why luda shouldn’t hold his breath, and just settle for tv-one w/michael baisden or the other cat (thinking ‘covenant w/black america’).

      • @nn: I don’t think he’s holding his breath. … Youtube and then listen to Luda’s “Last of a Dying Breed” …

        I think dude is straight on Oprah and Bill O’Reilly. lol.

      • thecomebackgirl

        Tavis Smiley!

        i think hip hop needs a national platform i wanna see it atone and get right in front of white america too.

  6. I think Ludacris already answered your plea on his last CD: “Everybody says ‘FUGG YOU LUDA!! / I guess that’s why everybody hates Chris.”

    He knows he’ll get no love. LOL

  7. First off, that whole Luda “growth” thing is a joke to me. Its all about diversity in your music. P Poppin is a fabulous song…for the strip club, which is where it is meant to be heard.

    Secondly, when I watch the P Poppin video I see a bunch of WOMEN in the video. There are no chains or shackels anywhere in sight which leads me to believe they did this on their own accord and were not forced into it. we are all grown, lets act like it.

    Lastly, half of the women talking bout misogony and degrading lyrics are the same ones giving it up FOR FREE to some cat they met at the night spot the week before. At least the chicks in the videos and on stage are getting paid! Stop hatin

    • @dash: Listen to the album. You have it now, right? lol. There’s growth. There’s no ignorance. … you’re right P Poppin is meant for the strip club. … I ain’t even touching the rant on women in the videos, but it’s noted.

      We’ll save that for a real conversation. But you have nothing to say about Tyler Perry? Nothing?

    • I agree with you. I actually like the ‘P Poppin’ song and it’s not intended to be listened to everywhere. It’s rather explicit but in the right setting I’ll get hyped up and start shaking my money maker to the beat. To me, music is entertainment just like movies are. You don’t see all movies laced with topics of flowers and butterflies. There’s guns and grit and violence in movies as there are in songs. What becomes a problem is when it’s overdone and there’s no meaning to the misogyny and exploitation. There’s a problem when the violence and the drugs and sex are what make the artist. An artist should be able to dip their genres in different environments such as the strip club, the park, the beach, different area codes, runaway children, the casino, the nasty girls, the club, and the streets. That’s all a part of life and people should have the freedom to express it as art. I’m sure Oprah won’t be banning Denzel Washington for playing Frank Lucas any time soon.

      • IDK, I think it’s more than just entertainment and where it’s played. … This stuff gets in the hands of kids … whose fault is that? the parents.

        But still, society has a responsibility to care for the children when the parents don’t. That’s why we have DYFS, etc. That includes not putting trash out in a commercial arena. But it is the parents’ fault.

        • But the bottom line to all your points is what?: ‘it’s the parents’ fault’…..when we were coming up there was misogynistic music and violent movies, now is no different. I understand the ideology that it takes a village to raise our children but it’s not an artist’s responsibility to raise our kids. When I stumbled upon my dad’s porno mags, my mom picked me up (because I was very young) and told me that stuff wasn’t for me to look at. When I was in the room and my parents wanted to watch Eddie Murphy’s ‘Raw’, they told me to go to my room and close the door and play. When I first heard NWA’s ‘F the Police’ my mom told me that that was adult music and that I didn’t need to listen to or pay any attention to it. When I first saw ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ my dad told me to cover my eyes on the part where they were in the strip club and not pay attention to the cursing. You can’t keep stuff away from kids, but you can teach them about what it is and let them know that it’s for adults….my point is that yes, there should be some integrity in these artists to not go overboard on the obscenity, but it should also be ok for them to decide that they want to make something that’s only for adult eyes and ears… That’s why movies have ratings and cd covers have labels that there is explicit content inside….I’m just sayin’…

          And, as for Tyler Perry….dude, for real he’s going to probably be offered his own network soon because he’s filthy rich and he’s a cash cow for the black community. His network would consist of: more buffoonery, more cooning, more stereotypes, and just a dash of gay programming….mark my words….

          • I’ve only read the first few sentences, and I’ll finish in a sec. But I must say this: If you can’t write or create art without the crutch that is the curse/obscene word, you need to try harder. I’m purposely trying to avoid using those words on here … reading again …

            • Well I guess if it were all left up to you St. Vic Damon, we could just do away with all ratings agencies and censorship because everything would be already clean and there would be no need for these people. That would be a boring life and it’s pretty much getting rid of the 1st amendment. My solution is for everyone to know their lane and stay in it…..

              • first off, I’m far from a Saint. I live in a glass house. You know that. lol. … I’m not saying get rid of misogynistic music or movies or commercials … I’m saying the world is entirely too saturated with it now.

                Kids don’t have a chance to not see it. IT’S EVERY WHERE. lol.

                • You’re right, it is everywhere and with that being said, it’s time for parents to step their game up and be able to openly talk to their kids about this stuff that up in their face everyday. Alot of parents nowadays are weak and always trying to be friends with their kids. I don’t know if it’s due to the rate of young dumb folks having babies or the result of drug use during pregnancy, but it’s time for parents to fall back into their primary role as the ‘legal guardian’….and GUARD their kids from this mess throughout their growing up. You’d be surprised by how much stuff I was exposed to as a kid as opposed to the kids who were sheltered. And honestly, they’re the ones who couldn’t wait to break away and sin sin sin in these streets. But, my parents talked to me about s3x, drugs, violence, etc. and let me know that I could talk freely with them about anything; Nothing was taboo and that’s the key…. All kids are curious and all kids will not be able to have mommy and daddy around 24-7 but now we have to turn the tv off, shut the computer down, and TALK to our kids about stuff and when they are curious about it let them know they can express their feelings to us in the household as opposed to taking their curiosity to the streets and getting in harms way… I’m just sayin’….I see you in your glass house!

                  • Wildcat-Squared said the same thing a week or so ago … and it makes sense. You have to expose your kids to something … but in the right manner.

                    But who does that? *crickets* 😦

    • thecomebackgirl

      “Lastly, half of the women talking bout misogony and degrading lyrics are the same ones giving it up FOR FREE to some cat they met at the night spot the week before”

      me myself..im partial to a cookie and a stamp!!! or at least a oreo and a sticky note??? but free..nope, not gonna be able to do it.

  8. Nope. Nothing on T Perry. I’m not a fan, but I am also not a hater so I can’t knock him. If someone gave me millions to make barely average movies I would most definitely take the money. (I believe I just gave him a backhanded compliment, but whatever)

  9. I’m anguished over this as a late 30 something black woman. I was there when rap/hip-hop hit the scene and it trickled from NYC to upstate NY. I was doing the ‘cowboy’ and the ‘cabbage patch’ in my Tale Lords jeans and Zodiacs right along with everyone else. Then I watched with dismay as it transformed a struggling, poverty-ridden yet vibrantly enduring culture into an even worse struggling, poverty-ridden culture that glamorized uninhibited sex, violence and criminal behavior. And this somehow got warped into being ‘normal’ black culture that ultimately became the litmus test of blackness.

    There’s alot of hip-hop artists that are jaw-droppingly talented (LilWayne) but the image they have presented of blackness, especially black women is messed-up. As a black woman, I have to combat the Mammy, Sapphire and Jezabel stererotype and if I’m lucky maybe someone will see me as a woman, just like any other woman. Not some ball-busting Mammy, ghettofabulous, neck swirling Sapphire or a Supahead Jezabel or combination of the three.

    I’m hearing alot of people wanting to blame the parents and yes, blame ultimately falls squarely at their feet. But now, there’s at least 2 generations of people who have been corrupted by this. Living the thug life a la the 90’s is a 24/7 way of living for far too many of black people here in America. How do you combat that? Write these people off? Hope and pray that they die off or come to their senses because Obama is the president? For every Luda and Soljaboy that decides to have a ‘Come to Jesus’ moment and repent, there’s 3 other fools willing to dance a jig for a fistful of dollars from commerical music. How do you combat that?

    PS: Has Nelly or Luda ever apologized to black women for the images they projected in their music or videos? Nelly comes to mind because he had the temerity to go to Spelman College and ask for bone marrow transplant donors for his sister – right after TipDrill. From what I understand, that didn’t go over too well.

    • great comment. I won’t lie. The first time I saw Tip Drill I laughed hysterically because people were actually dumb enough to do that and subject themselves to the moniker “tip drill…” Plus, it’s a catch song.

      Nelly said it was supposed to show at 2 a.m. on UnCut only. Thing is, kids are up at that time. And even more, IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT KIDS. THE ADULTS ARE JUST AS IMPRESSIONABLE AS KIDS, IF NOT MORE.

      If you feed people manure, they will throw it back up all over America. Period.

  10. I actually like Ludacris for the most part but I don’t like rap in general. Have you not heard his latest cd? Its pretty harsh and filled with vulgar, ridiculous lyrics.

    • April: I respectfully disagree with your opinion on his new album. The lyrics are harsh, but that’s a part of rap. There’s actually a lot of wisdom that can be taken from “Theater of The Mind.”

  11. as your editor

    As a St. Louis native, I have to try do defend Nelly. Let me start off by saying that I do NOT condone or appreciate the Tip Drill video. It grosses me out. But, I also know that one video (or any of the other videos or songs you might consider lude and crude) is not the sum total of his character. He’s been very active in the community since Country Grammar came out. And while the bone marrow drive was to save his sister (who ended up succumbing to cancer), it also got the word out about using bone marrow to save a person’s life.

    The drive didn’t go over well, but I think that there’s a time and a place for voicing your concerns. The man was trying to save his sister, and maybe a few other people in the process. Their gripes with him could have been brought up another time or separate from the event.

    As D.Scott would say ***off soap box***

    • I know this is random but the Nelly thing reads a lot like the movie John Q. It was sorta messed up, too, for the women of Spelman to dig at him like that in that moment.

  12. Ok, some follow up on the Spelman thing with Nelly…bro-man did not apologize for Tipdrill or for demeaning black women. Talking to an alumni that was there protesting, she said that it would be akin to R. Kelly coming out to speak against the sexualization of black girls. Good cause, bad messenger.

  13. The more success that Oprah and Tyler accrues, the more scrutiny that they will have to endure.

    Why are african americans so insecure and sensitive?

    I had a debate with a guy who said he doesn’t like oprah because she doesn’t like black people. I am so tired of black people claiming to be so strong, and then crying racism; “george bush doesn’t care about black people”

    NO! black people don’t care about black people!

    You letter is void, your argument is void. Because there is NO way that you can use Tyler Perry’s Madea movies as a comparative subject again Ludicris’ ignorant rap music. (Talk about perpetuating sterotypes)

    If Oprah doesn’t like Luda’s misogynistic rap lyrics, SHE DOESN’T HAVE TO BE CONVINCED THAT HE IS A BETTER PERSON THAN HIS MUSIC SUGGESTS! (she JUST doesn’t like him!) Just as you may not like hard rock music.

    I don’t know why it’s becoming every black man’s persuit to have Luda on Oprah’s show. He is identified as a rapper who uses excessive profanity and sexual overtures. period!

    If you are so concerned about the negative sterotypes that Tyler perry portrays in his movies, than YOU BE THE CHANGE. YOU BE THE EXAMPLE of a man who is successful, non-sterotypical, and a leader in his community.

    tyler uses a range of black characters, from physicians, attorneys, social workers, business owners, etc. And all I hear black folk cry about it a prostitute and a loud grandmother. He uses these chracters to create the plot (or problem) of the story

    • @Kimmie: I really do appreciate your comment and your viewpoint. … I respectfully disagree with most of it.

      I don’t see what’s insecure or sensitive about what I wrote. I simply said this: people do dumb things in their 20s. Oprah did. Tyler did. Luda did.

      I then said: Negative characters in movies are no better than negative words or depictions in movies, and that Oprah should “consider” having Ludacris back to discuss both the positive and negatives of his career thus far.

      I would implore you to read No. 44 and through this entire blog. You learn that we, the writers and readers of this blog, aren’t your stereotypical Americans (no we’re not all black people).

      And this blog/project is not about black people. It’s about America as a whole, and what’s wrong with it. And that you’d be asinine enough to actually say that “black people don’t care about black people” tells me something about you: You don’t know black people too well.

      I just pray that you read the backlog of this blog, and continue reading what’s to come so that you can see this for what it truly is: a meeting of the minds.

      Thanks again,
      Damon

      P.S. Please be sure to read No. 4. Exclamation Mark Misuse. (Yes, that’s passive aggression. lol).

    • I actually like Oprah…

      I would like to say something more about the Tyler Perry issue though since I was one of the main people that said I don’t like his movies (which I don’t). Yes, he has used a range of black characters such as lawyers, business owners, etc. However, in the few movies of his that I actually watched this is what I saw:
      Successful black male lawyer – dumped his wife that supported him through law school for a younger, lighter-skinned woman (so he’s a bastard)
      Successful black female professional – cheated on her husband (blue collar worker) with a married white man (so she’s a bitch/whore)
      Successful black male professional – is a controlling abusive man

      The pattern in the majority (perhaps not all) of his movies is that the successful, professional black people are evil and have some sort of major issue. The blue collar worker is always some sort of savor in these movies. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with being a blue collar worker but there ALSO isn’t anything wrong with being a very sucessful white collar worker. His movies make it seem like it is.

      I love and care about black people and I try my best to be a role model for the young men and women in my community and in my family. That being said, I’m still going to complain about and call out the public figures that I see adding to our negative sterotypes (Tyler Perry is a big one of them).

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