Steffans’ distance from culture a front

In my final column before the break, I would like to share something that has been heavy on my mind since I attended the Nov. 27 University Lecture Series on hip-hop’s impact on American culture.

It was nice to meet some of the folks who spoke on the panel. Everybody had a relatively decent idea of how the hip-hop community could better represent itself, even though most of the questions asked were met with rambling and sometimes off-topic rebuttals.

Having said that, the problem I saw with the event was the questionable sincerity of some of the panelists. So the question is: Are these people who no longer participate in the negative aspects of hip-hop and thus would like to see things change? Or are these just people who sit on stage and complain about hip-hop’s problems while still contributing to its negativity?

Speaking on behalf of the former group were Chuck D, Byron Hurt and Bridget Gray. While some of the language used by Chuck D might have bordered on offensive, he made sense for the most part – at least when he was able to stay on topic. Gray and Hurt made excellent points as well. Hurt did a good job of trying to rationalize the use of ‘n—-r’ as the title of Nas’ album.

Rapper Da Brat was also on the panel and I felt she was the most honest of everyone there. She didn’t leave her realm of expertise. She talked about women getting more involved in the business side of music production, a side currently dominated by men. She stuck to what she knew, and she was good about not putting her foot in her mouth. While she admitted that some of her language was not appropriate for children, she didn’t act as though she was above the audience she was addressing.

And then there was Karrine Steffans, the person with the least credibility.

She began by saying that black women need to pick each other up, a notion which I didn’t have too much of a problem with. But, I did have a problem when she said that people need to stop “riding the fence” in terms of knowing what they support, while affirming her support for rap music’s portrayal of women.

Steffans supports Lil’ Wayne’s music on her Web site, even though he degrades women as much as any other rapper. Had she been promoting Master P, who now makes profanity-free music, her stance might make sense. As it stands, she’s contradicting herself.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who felt this way, because throughout the night, whenever Steffans tried to make a point, people were snickering and whispering. It got so bad a couple of times that she needed to stop talking until the crowd quieted.

She acted as if her lifestyle was above that of college students. Here is a woman who is only 29 years old, and who seems to listen to Lil’ Wayne’s music just like me and many other college students, yet acted as though she were heads and shoulders above the kind of entertainment that college students enjoy. I remember her saying at the lecture, “ya’ll go to the club and do whatever it is ya’ll do these days.”

That’s the kind of talk I hear from my parents – both of whom are in their 60s and don’t know anyone by the name Lil’ Wayne.

I encourage you to go to YouTube and listen to Steffans’ radio interviews with Jaime Foxx and Wendy Williams. You can determine if this is someone who would have any clue about what college kids do in the club.

Steffans had no problem chiming in with her chattering comments all night. However, I thought it was interesting that when I asked how a parent who releases adult material, such as rapper Nelly, would expose or explain that material to their child – a question with significant ramifications for hip-hop’s negative image – she didn’t even reach for her microphone.

Ryan Watson is a graduate student studying mass communications.