Some Thoughts On…Hip-Hop and Fatherhood

The discovery of a good father can be as mystifying as the search for a good man.  As we steer our political consciousness from the drama of the whether or not anyone should be using the N-word, another issue that’s closer to home, cross-generational, cross-cultural, and is the core reason of many a broken home and community is the hurt and aftermath of the absentee dad.

Particularly in hip-hop, despite the astronomical levels of bravado and bull in a china shop proclivities, the recollections of life post a voluntarily departed father and thus being raised by a single mother are never too far from a rapper’s book of rhymes. Nearly all the greats have dedicated a line, or two, a verse, even a whole song to the plight of the single mothers as mostly famous addressed by Tupac Shakur’s “Dear Mama”.  Afeni Shakur and Violetta Wallace (mother of Biggie Smalls) remain hip-hop’s de facto figures of this reality, and as our rappers turned icons have gotten older and wiser, Jay-Z; Ludacris; Eminem; LL Cool J; and even new dad Kanye West; have all expressed an aspiration to be better than their fathers were.  The kind of dad that shows the example of what is love, support, and strength in an immediate setting (this has been opened to us to view as well through Snoop Dogg and T.I.’s family affair reality specials).  Most recently, the very familial tribulations of rapper 50 Cent and his two baby mothers have drawn him as somewhat of not just an absentee dad but a lackadaisical one, prompting The Root to title their article on his dirty laundry as “Money Doesn’t Make You a Father”.  Such a scathing title came days after Oprah had aired a special on her OWN Network on the issue of deadbeat dads.

Judgments aside, the 50 Cent drama is definitely sad to read, especially since it’s so personal and maybe just all too familiar: the animosity between the parents; the suggestions of physical harm and pervasive language; and children caught in the middle and acting out in return.  50 Cent has even threatened to remove his son from his will out of spite amongst abuse charges from the mother of his second born, and the breaking of this news was especially jarring because so many of his peers have otherwise expressed great excitement and worry over being inspiring to their offspring.  By being so vocal, possibly they are encouraging their male-dominated fanbases to follow suit, do the right thing and stay in the picture.  As a nation, we are nonplused by a man that can make the baby but won’t help raise it.  “Father’s Day” is known to many as “Single Mothers Day” because the percentage of absentee dads is so disparate to absentee moms, but nonetheless is a continuing American tragedy.

Fatherhood is almost pleasantly taboo in hip-hop.  For most rappers, a decent father figure is a borderline fable they only saw on network television like The Cosby Show and Who’s the Boss, and then there’s the distinctive agony of having to raise them as presentable relics of of who you are as Nas’ shared on his sentimental hit “Daughters” last year.  With an old school, ’80s beat-boxing wave, and lyrics that transpired as dreams and nightmares in autobiographical form, from Instagram concerns to as punishment for their reckless behavior as a teen, the payback is a “half-precious little girl”, Nas’ song was an appropriately delicate yet illustrated ode raising a little girl to a young woman.  He admits to not having always been the best, but that his intentions were never at all so far from his unconditional love for his first born.  It’s like how Eminem poured his soul over the track “Mockingbird”, for his daughter Hailie Jade and adopted daughter Alana.  He recalled the rough days of little money and little guidance towards how to be the only man they’ll need in their lives, but because his own father let him down, it was without hesitation his children would fall prey to another cowardly lion.

And then there was the alarming situation of Southern rapper Shawty Lo, who while takes cares of his kids, was the new image of that other stigma of black America:  the man with too many baby mamas.  As the Oxygen channel (oddly enough, owned by the Oprah’s HARPO) was set to air a reality series based on Lo and his eleven children by ten different women with its straight to the point title of All My Babies Mamas, the cord was yanked after an intense petition that claimed Lo and his gang were more humiliating to the black community than a marathon of Love & Hip-Hop: Atlanta and Basketball Wives.  So what we have here are two conundrums plaguing fatherhood as showcased in hip-hop circles: the never there father or the irresponsible baby maker.  In the public eye, these actualities have been lampooned to possibly lighten the not-so nice circumstance these decisions have brought, but for every bad father story we encounter is another good father not getting his fair shine.  Regarding hip-hop music, the genre maybe more than any other, has tried very hard to convey the act the turning the tables on a childhood scarred by the absence of a parent by doing whatever it’ll take to provide in spade for their own.  During the process, there will be tears; there will be mistakes; there can be forgiveness.  Being a millionaire with accolades is pleasing to the sounds of guaranteed university educations and never being without heat in the winter again, at the end of it all, all a child really wants is someone that cares, and all a parent really needs to understand is that already inherently, your children believe that you are capable.

–C. Shardae Jobson (@lavishrebellion)

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