And I'm allergic to dogs. But they are terribly cute, loyal and deserve to be treated humanely. That's why I'm not losing much sleep over the mess Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick has gotten himself into, stemming from his admitted participation in an organized dog-fighting ring. He will have plenty of time to consider the consequences of "keeping it real."
But just like shock jock Don Imus earlier this year, I knew it wouldn't be long before someone attempted to link the dog-fighting underworld to Hip Hop music and culture. Among others, it was Cincinnati-based conservative talk show host Bill Cunningham who suggested that the fascination with dog-fighting was a part of Hip Hop, along with the sagging jeans and gold grills.
Mr. Cunningham failed to mention that the origins of organized dog-fighting span as far back as the Roman Empire. The "sport" -- if it can be referred to as such -- continued to flourish throughout the 16th century in England.
Now, the last time I checked, Hip Hop didn't begin to develop until the mid-'70s in the Bronx, N.Y. -- many, many miles away from Rome and nearly a 1,000 years later
But enough about Vick and his dog-fighting ring. The media blitz surrounding the case has eclipsed another high-profile celebrity who's been in my crosshairs for several years now: the peeing R&B sensation R. Kelly.
For those of you who might have forgotten, the native Chicagoan was indicted in 2002 on 21 counts of sex with a minor (later reduced to child pornography charges) stemming from a videotape of him allegedly peeing on his 14-year-old victim.
Ardent fans have tried to suggest that the act was consensual -- a suggestion so ridiculous it was lampooned in episodes of Chappelle's Show and The Boondocks.
Funny stuff, but this is a serious matter. Kelly -- in his mid-30s at the time the alleged peeing took place -- should have known better. Yet five years later, Kelly has yet to face a jury of his peers.
No pun intended.
Even more puzzling is that fact that Kelly has released some seven albums since the peeing took place. His albums often feature collaborations with some of today's most popular, mainstream Hip Hop artists including Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, Young Jeezy, TI and Rick Ross. Clearly, videotaping oneself peeing on underage girls isn't quite the social stigma it used to be. (Note to socially and politically conscious Hip Hop artists: Forget staged shootings, awards show fights and car-jackings. If you really want to sell albums, pee more.)
A good friend who resides in Chicago told me that publicly criticizing Kelly is tantamount to treason due to his near-mythological status in the city. It's clear that we have collectively placed more value on the perception of talent than on decency and responsible behavior. We'll see if the pee finally hits the fans during his next scheduled court date in September.
So at what crossroads do dogs, pee and Hip Hop intersect?
The latest word on Vick following his recent public apology is that the NFL has suspended him indefinitely but the Atlanta Falcons have not removed him from the team roster. Much of this has to do with complicated contractual language that requires Vick remain a member of the team in order for them to recoup some of his $22 million signing bonus. However, the conventional wisdom in sports talk circles is that this loophole could also allow Vick to play at some later date once the controversy surrounding his dog-fighting case blows over.
Ultimately, Vick could rescue his career, the league could continue to cash in on his undeniable talent and the ATL gets to keep a football hero. Everybody wins.
Then there's R. Kelly (aka Master Pee). The fact that Sony BMG (parent company to Jive Records) continues to support a criminal urinator speaks volumes about the company's commitment to dollars over sense.
The record labels continue to rake in the dough, Kelly continues his reign as the king of R&B and his fans continue to enjoy the mellifluous sounds of their favorite soulful crooner. Once again, everybody wins.
Yet, despite the actions of a dog-fighting quarterback and a peeing R&B superstar, most cynics will consistently point to Hip Hop as the source of the moral, ethical and academic decay of our youths. Frankly, it's sometimes difficult to prove otherwise.
During a trip to the Windy City I came across the CD of a local battle rhymer named Jitu the Jugganot. Jitu's scathing indictment of gangsta/thug-type rappers and his straightforward manner of weaving black history into his rhymes reminded me of how powerful this medium can be. Perhaps Bill Cunningham could take a listen and learn a few things about the culture he's so quick to criticize.
Without those who promote messages of empowerment, intelligence and respect, Hip Hop will continue to be scapegoated for all that's wrong with young, urban America. Trying to convince non-believers otherwise is a lot like, well, peeing in the wind. ©