This is part of a weekly series called “Pop Opinions” where The Lantern offers its take on the week’s pop culture news.
“First Take” controversy
Most people with half a brain keep their distance from ESPN2 each day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but apparently a few people tune to see if any of the ludicrous things talking heads Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith say turn around and bite them. So of course someone was watching “First Take” Friday, when the conversation turned to domestic violence.
Discussing Baltimore Raven Ray Rice’s two game suspension from the NFL for beating his then-fiancée, now-wife, unconscious back in February, Smith gave us his…interesting take.
“It’s not about him, then. It’s about you,” Smith said, referring to Rice’s wife. “Let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions, because if I come, or somebody else come, whether it’s law enforcement officials, your brother or the fellas that you know, if we come after somebody has put their hands on you, it doesn’t negate the fact that they already put their hands on you. So let’s try to make sure that we can do our part in making sure that that doesn’t happen. We also have to make sure that we learn as much as we can about elements of provocation.”
Smith’s comments understandably caused outrage, from people including his ESPN co-worker, Michelle Beadle, who tweeted, “So I was just forced to watch this morning’s First Take. A) I’ll never feel clean again B) I’m now aware that I can provoke my own beating.”
Smith has since apologized for his comments.
In the years since it began its “Embrace Debate” format, “First Take” has almost single handedly destroyed the journalistic respect ESPN once enjoyed—everything not only on that show, but almost all of the network’s shows has been reduced to two “analysts” arguing over some inane topic. It has turned the whole station disingenuous and many of its viewers into cynics.
Skip Bayless is a persona—Skip Bayless, the once respected columnist, probably does not hate LeBron James or love Tim Tebow as much as Skip Bayless, the obnoxious, arrogant, and, frankly, stupid co-host of “First Take” does.
So what are we to believe? Obviously, ESPN wants us to buy that these two are expressing their own opinions…but if that is the case, then Smith is a despicable man who wants women to be more careful around their significant other as not to “provoke” a beating.
It puts the viewer in a difficult situation, leaving it up to the us to draw the line between rating bait and transparency. Perhaps the best course of action is to have mercy on us all, and take these two blowhards off the air.
Questlove on Iggy Azalea
Every once in a while, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of The Roots reminds us that not only is he one of the best drummers in the world; he is also one of its knowledgeable music fans.
In an interview with Time magazine, he shared his thoughts on Iggy Azalea, whose success in hip-hop has not been deterred by the fact that as a white Australian, she has faced criticism and accusations of being a “culture vulture.”
“You know, we as black people have to come to grips that hip-hop is a contagious culture. If you love something, you gotta set it free,” Questlove said. “I will say that ‘Fancy,’ above any song that I’ve ever heard or dealt with, is a game-changer in that fact that we’re truly going to have to come to grips with the fact that hip-hop has spread its wings.
“I’m not going to lie to you, I’m torn between the opinions on the Internet, but I’mma let Iggy be Iggy,” he said. “It’s not even politically correct dribble. The song is effective. I’m in the middle of the approximation of the enunciation, I’ll say. Part of me hopes she grows out of that and says it with her regular dialect — I think that would be cooler. But, yeah, ‘Fancy’ is the song of the summer.”
Gentrification of hip-hop, and outrage over it, is not a new phenomenon in the music community. Even a great like Eminem had to hop through his share of hoops to find success; it took a while for him to prove that he was not another white rapper making a money grab on a genre that was understandably skeptical after the embarrassment that was Vanilla Ice.
Along with gentrification, Azalea has also benefited from the fading popularity of street rap, in part due to street rappers no longer making songs that have a place on the radio. That is now left to people like Iggy and Nicki Minaj to make songs that stick on the charts and in your head. Street rap has become punk rock—Chief Keef and his drill music peers don’t aim to be on the radio at a time when “Fancy” is at number one.
Hip hop is free now, and there is no longer stigma associated with a white kid picking up a mic. Some of the most popular rappers that play to the “pop rap” or “frat rap” crowds are white, and while they don’t command the respect that rappers like Kendrick Lamar or Black Thought do, they also go home with a pretty penny in their pocket.
Which is more important, respect or a fat wallet? Don’t ask Iggy. I don’t think she wants you to know her answer.