Respond/React: The Timeline Of Hip Hop's Responses To Donald Sterling
Hip Hop responded loudly to Donald Sterling's racist remarks released by TMZ. With the benefit of perspective and exclusive quotes from Skyzoo and Skeme, we look back on a week of reaction.
In a 1988 interview with Spin magazine, Chuck D once stated, “Rap is black America’s TV station.” The quote speaks to the crux of Hip Hop: emcees using music to explain what was going on in their neighborhoods to people around the world. While artists like Kendrick Lamar and Lupe Fiasco are superb representations of Chuck D’s claim, the influx of the 24-hour media cycle provided by outlets like HipHopDX and social media enable artists to not only tell you what’s going on in their neighborhoods through their music, but they have the ability to express their opinion about any issue—small or large. On April 25th, the Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling gave several artists something to talk about.
April 26: Snoop Dogg & Meek Mill Weigh In Via Social Media
most of these old racists are the ones really in power!! Jayz is no different than the younger rappers he spoke about the same stuff we did— Meek Mill (@MeekMill) April 26, 2014
Sterling’s comments weren’t directly related to Hip Hop. But the common threads are obvious, and as such, there were quick responses from Snoop Dogg on Instagram, and Meek Mill on Twitter.
April 28: Homeboy Sandman Writes “Black People Are Cowards”
However, it was a post by rapper Homeboy Sandman on Gawker April 28 that got the majority of the attention across the board. In the article, Sandman ironically concludes that he sides with Sterling:
“I have come to the decision that I agree wholeheartedly with the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, and I too do not want Black people invited to my events,” the rapper says in his article. “It’s not for the same reasons that the Clippers’ owner doesn’t want black people invited to his events.
“I don’t want Black people at my events anymore, because Black people are cowards,” he says. "In all the history I’ve ever studied, in all the fiction I’ve ever read, I am hard pressed to find an example of cowardice to rival the modern day Black American, and nobody wants to be surrounded by cowards right? What if lions break out of the zoo and start trying to eat everyone? What if aliens attack? What if the police department decides that they want to grab their batons and blow off some steam? Are cowards really the type of people that you want to be surrounded by? Not me.
“That’s why I don’t want Black people at my events anymore,” he continues. “Athletes that could refuse to perform until a killer is arrested, even until a killer is convicted, who instead opt for taking a picture where they all have their hoods on and then carrying on with business as usual: I don’t want to be surrounded be these clowns. If you’re Black, or White, and you go back to work after finding out that your boss is grossed out at the idea of being in the same vicinity with any Black person except for the cutie he’s sugar daddy to, I’m pretty sure you’re not who I want in my corner during crunch time. Real crunch time. Life crunch time.”
In the article, Homeboy Sandman says that Blacks must stand up in times of need by using social media to rally each other, boycotting companies, magazines, television networks and other entities that he says purposely promote negative images of Black people.
“So make a decision between cowardice and courage, and if you choose courage, step it up,” he says. “Step it up in any of the myriad of ways that are available to us. I’ve named a few. Name a few more. Leave a few suggestions in the comments section. Call up your friends. Tweet. Facebook.
“Then start doing them,” he continues, “If you can’t convince anyone to do them with you, do them on your own. Start right away because we’re running out of time. I hear some states are fining people for sagging their pants. I’d never sag my pants, but if we begin to allow people to be penalized simply for attributes that we’ve allowed to be associated with being Black, we’re going to find the water getting even hotter very soon. We’ve been cowards for a very long time. We have a lot of catching up to do. Let’s start right now.”
April 29: Commissioner Adam Silver Bans Donald Sterling For Life
On April 29th, the NBA responded. League commissioner Adam Silver imposed a $2.5 million dollar fine and banned the 80-year-old Sterling for life. He added that he would urge the other NBA owners to enact a clause in the NBA owners constitution, which would force Sterling to sell the Clippers.
Some artists like Freddie Gibbs applauded the decision.
This is about to be a defining moment for Adam Silver.— Freddie Gibbs (@FreddieGibbs) April 29, 2014
Banned for LIFE— Freddie Gibbs (@FreddieGibbs) April 29, 2014
Thank you Adam Silver— Freddie Gibbs (@FreddieGibbs) April 29, 2014
Others, such as Killer Mike, weren’t exactly thrilled.
If u think banning an 80 yr old man for life is in some way a WIN for blacks people, 1. don't speak on my behalf 2. kill ya self.— Killer Mike (@KillerMikeGTO) April 29, 2014
On April 30, Lord Jamar (apparently the man with the answers to all of Hip-Hop’s questions) gave his opinion about the situation when approached by Vlad TV. (Side note: for those who claim they don’t care about his opinions, stop paying attention to them, and maybe people will stop asking him for them).
“I feel like that’s a dude that got caught saying what a lot of people think and practice but we’re not privy to the behind the scenes conversations,” Lord Jamar said of Sterling’s remarks. “Dude is definitely a racist. Dude definitely has the mentality of a slave master. But if we sit here and act like he’s the lone gunman in all of this then we’re only fooling ourselves. He stated himself that this is part of a culture he’s dealing with. This is a culture. This isn’t something that he just made up. This is something that exists within the stratosphere and class that he moves around in. So the fact that he was caught saying it is unfortunate for him, but to me it’s a blessing in disguise because it now puts Black people in a certain position. Now that this man has been caught as being openly racist towards Black people—and I told ya’ll that we was guests in the house of NBA prior to this and ya’ll was talking to me like I was ridiculous—now here we have a White man telling you that you’re a guest in the house no matter how much money you’re making.”
Referencing the Clippers’ players recent protest of turning their practice jerseys inside out, Lord Jamar called the protest “a lame response.” The Brand Nubian rapper also voiced support for the article written by Homeboy Sandman.
Epilogue: Longtime Clippers’ Fan Skeme Weighs In
Part of the downside of the 24 hour news and social media cycle is occasionally people are prompted to speak too soon. Homeboy Sandman may have been too anxious to make a statement by jumping out and calling black people “cowards” for their lack of protest. On April 29, NBPA Vice President Roger Mason Jr. made the following statement to ESPN:
“I heard from our players, and all of our players felt like boycotting the games tonight. We’re talking about all NBA players. We’re talking about the playoff games tonight.” Per ESPNLA’s Arash Markazi, Mason said he spoke to player representatives from every team and they were on board with the decision to boycott Tuesday’s games if they weren’t satisfied with the commissioner’s decision. Lord Jamar’s comments may have fallen prey to the 24-hour media cycle as well.
Which leaves us with two of what I consider the better responses, both of which came exclusively to HipHopDX. While Brooklyn emcee Skyzoo told HipHopDX he hoped that Chris Paul would respond to Sterling’s racist comments with an “Ali moment.” He went on to declare, “Once Adam Silver dropped the hammer he kind of got out of it. Which is cool because everything happened the way it was supposed to. They were on the road for that game so you can't react a certain way. But he didn’t drop that hammer for the home game, I wanted to see Chris Paul do something at the home game.”
Possibly closer to the situation than anyone else in the world of Hip-Hop is Inglewood emcee and long time Clipper fan, Skeme. When asked about Sterling’s comments, Skeme claimed he wasn’t surprised.
“On an honest level, I was rocking with Baron Davis when he was a Clipper, [and] still to this day Deandre Jordan is a homeboy of mine,” Skeme explained. “I had a lot of friends that was running with him at the time—Ryan Gomes, Randy Foye, different dudes that was on the squad—and everybody had the same notion of dude [Donald Sterling]. This ain’t a new thing. When I first heard it though, it was like ‘Yup…they finally caught him.’ It wasn’t like, ‘This is a shocker.’ It was like, ‘They finally caught the boy in the act.’ That was my sentiment. I was sitting in the studio, and we were recording the other night, and they were like, ‘We’re gonna get an interview from a player about it, and you’ll hear it from him.’ I was like, ‘Man, that’s gonna be Baron, I’ll bet $300 on that,’ and it was BD talking, sure enough. It was a whole weird thing between the two of them in the first place. I feel more so for the players. This is new to the people getting air of it through the media, but these people have been having to work for this man for umpteen amount of years, and they still gotta smile in his face and act like it’s alright to be who you is.”
When asked if he felt the players should boycott, Skeme’s opinion seemed to be in-line with that of the players:
“Nah, I’m real weird about that kind of stuff I guess,” Skeme added. “I feel like boycotting it and making it like, ‘We not gonna play the game.’ You giving negativity too much energy. I said on Twitter the other day when you start doing things like that, the silent stand is always best for me. You win and you let things go accordingly. I feel like that’s the best way to do it. Boycotting it and being like, ‘Man, I’m not gonna show up to the game,’ that don’t really affect Donald Sterling money. That affects the fans that paid they money to come out and see you, and the ones that [are] still rooting for you at home. They not mad at Donald Sterling either, they want to see they team. You’re almost in a catch-22 against the muthafuckas that’s watching you and want to judge you on your character. [People] want to say, ‘You supposed to boycott the game,’ and, ‘You’re supposed to bigger than basketball.’ It’s not about being bigger than basketball. It was more about being bigger than racism. I don’t feel like that would have been the right move at all. I feel like waiting it out [and] seeing what the NBA was gonna do was the smartest move. That’s the right way to go about it. Now, if things had gone different than what Adam Silver had said and what he ended up doing about it, I think that would have been the time where if they were gonna be on some old “sweep it under the rug,” that would have been when you boycott.”
In regards to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s response, Skeme says it’s a start.
“It’s a step, and it’s a strong step,” Skeme said. “You haven’t heard of that in the history of basketball; an owner being banned from the sport for life, then going and having people bid for the team. I’m waiting to see what the other owners are gonna say about it anyway.” As a fan, Skeme says the situation is even worse. “As far as him owning the team, I feel it would leave a black eye on the Clippers if he’s allowed to stay,” Skeme continued. “I’m actually a fan, so it kind of sucks we finally getting some kind of recognition, some kind of team together and now this happens. I was down back in the Micheal Olowokandi days when we wasn’t really worth a dime. To be in a contending spot where you top five in the West and then some shit like this happen, it’s fucked up. It’s even worse dudes is busting they ass every day just to get to that point.”
Bruce Smith is a freelance writer from East Long Beach, California. He’s an addict for sneakers, sports enthusiast, professional gamer in his own mind, and hosts his own online radio show, “Reality is Real Radio.” Follow him on Twitter at @Brillyance.