Allen Iverson in his new rap song “40 Bars” asks the listener who is “man enough to hold a gun” and who is “man enough to squeeze it.”
Though basketball fans have taken offense, Iverson defends himself by saying that we–meaning the white media–don’t understand hip hop. Hip hop, he says, is about the realities of life–cut and dry–and if you can’t handle that, don’t listen to the CD.
I probably won’t listen to the CD, but Allen’s got me wondering what is the use of lyrics that challenge people to shoot each other. Granted, it’s doubtful that anyone will be inspired to kill because of an Allen Iverson gangsta rap CD. But isn’t he, as a basketball player and a role model to kids, sending the wrong message?
Out of Jay-Z or Biggie Smalls’ mouth, the same line simply wouldn’t carry as much weight. The image of Iverson the basketball player is tainted by Jewelz, Iverson’s rap alter-ego. After all, do you want to cheer for a guy who says, “If you come to me with faggot tendencies/ you’ll be sleeping where the maggot’s be”? Or one who thinks it’s cool to shoot someone and walk away with him “leaking” blood?
Iverson says he’s just describing life on the streets. Why anyone would want to hear about hard times from a guy who just inked a $70-plus million contract is beyond me. Further, his lyrics come at a time when rap is trying to make a turnaround.
Jay-Z’s big hit this summer, “Big Pimpin’,” and Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady” are both more fun romps than venomous diatribes. Sure they’re still about womanizing and all that “bling-bling”, but at least they’re not about offing one another.
New rap stars like Nellie and Jurassic 5 are trying to pass on that more positive, feel-good vibe, too. But The Answer just doesn’t get it. He’s convinced that his thug-life debut is gonna sell records because it’s shocking and controversial.
Maybe he’s right. I mean, I’m writing about his CD right now and it won’t come out until February. Still, even Eminem didn’t make it by bashing gays and women. All the controversy came after tons of kids bought his CD. Now Allen wants us to buy something because it trashes homosexuals and women and promotes violence. Sorry, Number Three, but it doesn’t work that way.
Regardless, I don’t think violence and controversy are at stake here, because people who don’t like basketball don’t care what Al has to say.
What’s at stake here are the fans, the kids who relate to Allen because he’s small, because he has a big smile and a big heart, and because he’s an amazing basketball player. I’m one of those fans, and it’ll take me a while to embrace Allen again. It’ll take me a while to see past the destructive lyrics and call Iverson one of my idols.
For the most part, I’m not against Iverson’s new CD because it’s gangsta rap or because it’s about violence. I’m opposed to it because of who Allen Iverson is–a basketball player who brings joy to Philadelphia.
But I don’t think I’ll have to hold these lyrics against him for long: After all, he’s a basketball player, his CD is going to be bad.