Why do Chris Brown's supporters keep harping on the fact that Brown is young? Does being 19 really explain the vicious beat down that Chris apparently gave his girlfriend and fellow pop star Rihanna on the night before the Grammys? Actor/producer Mekhi Phifer, who executive produced and played a bit part alongside Chris in the family film "This Christmas," links Brown's alleged violence to the extreme emotions and impulsiveness of youth. Speaking exclusively with E! Online's Marc Malkin, Phifer said, "While I don't condone what happened that night, you know, what Chris did to her, I remember being young, 19, and at that age it seemed like everything was so over-the-top, and everyone's so passionate about things at that age."
There's no doubt that teenagers and young adults are frequently intense and emotionally "over-the-top," especially in romantic relationships. But despite this fact, plenty of young men do not commit the kind of crime Chris Brown has been charged with. Youthful energy is a poor rationale for a man grabbing a woman around the neck and repeatedly striking her with his fists until, as the police detective's statement said, she almost blacked out and her "mouth filled with blood." When a man carries out a brutal act of violence like this, something deeper than immaturity is at work. Cruelty of this type bespeaks arrogance, disdain for women and a twisted definition of manhood that is devoid of honor.
When Chris Brown (allegedly) beat his girlfriend until she was bleeding and almost unconscious in the front seat of that Lamborghini, he didn't behave like a young man. He didn't behave like a man at all. He behaved like a low-down pimp: domineering, misogynistic and savage.
Age is neither an excuse nor an explanation for this. We'd do better to examine Chris Brown's values and cultural reference points. It can hardly be coincidental that dating violence among teens and 20-somethings is on the rise at a time when youth are taking many of their social cues from gangsta rap with its routine degradation of women and its glamorization of gang-bangers, dope dealers, mobsters and pimps.
But it wasn't always that way...
QUEENS OF THE "GOOD LIFE"
Queens. That's how the fellas described women rappers like Medusa, Jyant and Eve during the fabled "Good Life" open mic nights in South Central Los Angeles back in the day. With her stirring new documentary "This Is The Life," filmmaker Ava DuVernay recaptures the spirit of joy, creativity and togetherness that defined L.A.'s underground rap scene in the late '80s and early '90s when the artistic epicenter was the Good Life Health Food Centre, located in the heart of the 'hood at the corner of Crenshaw and Exposition.
"This Is The Life" rewinds to a golden time when hip hop was all about innovation, personal expression, pride and fun. Those were the great old days before corporate interests -- eager to cash in on middle class white kids' lust for black street stereotypes - made gangsta the dominant genre in rap. Women at the Good Life open mics were not degraded as bitches and hoes. They were not cookie cutter "vixens" who dressed like streetwalkers and danced like strippers in an effort to get the lowest form of attention from men. They were beautiful, individual, intelligent, conscious and, above all, artistic. When they chose to express their sexuality on the mic - dropping rhyme poetry like "Power of the P" - these sisters actually enhanced their regal stature through the power, self-esteem and beauty of their words.
And the brothers vibed with all of that. When you see "This Is The Life," check out the admiration with which male emcees like Chali2Na, Abstract Rude and Ganjah K describe the sisters. Dig Medusa reminiscing about how she and her fellow women emcees were celebrated as artistic equals at the Good Life - even by the fellas who wanted to get with them!
The subtitle to "This Is The Life" is "How the West Was One." That oneness is a beautiful memory that reminds us of our true nature and our unlimited potential.
"This Is The Life" is out on DVD via Forward Movement Films. Visit goodlifelove.ning.com for all the info.
Thanks for listening. I'm Cameron Turner and that's my two cents.
THINK! IT AIN'T ILLEGAL...YET!