Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Dumbing it down in L'Stylz Magazine

When L'Stylz Magazine publisher Chekata Tinsley and its editor-in-chief, Afrykah WubSauda, approached me about writing a column for their hair magazine, I hesitated.

If you haven't noticed, I'm not the most commercial friendly writer in town.

Tinsley and WubSauda, however, are anything but shallow merchants. Their partnership at L'Stylz has combined Tinsley's entrepreneurship with WubSauda's activism to create one of Louisville's most promising publications.

Flip past the glitter and you'll find a quarterly magazine that has a tidy layout, crisp photography and burgeoning features on African-American topics. Sure there are a few hackneyed editorials, but overall it's a breath of fresh air in the smog of African-American journalism in Louisville.

It already rivals The Louisville Defender, which has tumbled clumsily from a once proud newspaper to a clerical photo gallery.

Besides Dr. Ricky L. Jones' monthly LEO column, Betty Baye's weekly C-J column, and Javacia Harris' blogs at Velocity, there are few options for readers seeking black folk in print. Even less who own and operate their own publication.

Anyway, I decided there's always a need -- even if just to be obnoxious -- to invade pop culture forums. So for their Derby issue L'Stylz collaborated with the conductor of the ol' SOULution to unleash the "Dumb it Down" column.

Excerpts below:

"...dumb it down.

We hear it so often that it has become social gospel. It's a position that believes nuanced conversation, opaque ideas, and complex words are beyond comprehension for the masses. As a writer I've encountered several editors from various sorts of publications who insist readers shrink from thorny words.

Therefore, writers must boil all prose down to a linguistic penury that befits kindergarteners. Others advocate this position thinking you're afraid, and for the sake of sparing your ego the embarrassing task of learning something new in your journey from womb to tomb, we shall dumb it down.

Both positions, I believe, are the true measure of an elitist. One insists you are too stupid to learn, the other posits you are a coward. Here are the scholarly morsels, dumbass..."

Of course I addressed hip-hop:

"...I find it troubling that hip-hop has partnered with anti-intellectualism when there's richness in the pulpits of many influential bases of the culture. Among many enthusiasts, the willingness to trade lyrical excellence and content for monetary reward is shameful.

As Jay-Z rhymed in "Moment of Clarity", so succinctly, "I dumb down for my audience, and double my dollars."

At the grassroots level many hip-hop representatives eclipse their more enlightened backgrounds to present audiences with a crasser version. In my hometown of Louisville, KY, for example, DJ E-Feezy (Eric Sanders), who deejays the most popular hip-hop show on WGZB-B96.5, from 7 p.m. to midnight five nights a week, has an unfettered pulpit of influence. Yet one night while discussing the presidential campaign Sanders said, "I don't like to talk politics on my show."

That's odd, considering Sanders graduated from college with an undergraduate political science degree. It was good enough to study Plato, Rousseau, Locke and Mann, for four years but forbidden to disclose to a mass audience. Maybe it won't sell, but to say hip-hop audiences can't understand complexity is contrary to hip-the work of its iconic figures and founders, who increased the English language's ability to deliver political, cultural and social messages cryptically. If anyone has ever listened to a Wu-Tang record, can they honestly argue the hip-hop audience was bred upon simplified lyrics and ideas?"

To order a copy, contact L'Stylz here.

1 comment:

javacia said...

Congrats on the column, Phillip, and thanks for the shout out. I can never find this magazine around town. Do you know where I can pick it up?