Thursday, December 3, 2009

Best word for King James: Classless

On the floor in the middle of the locker room, a Cavs trainer pulled and bent and rubbed to loosen King James' muscles. While the trainer worked on his body, the King, a set of gold-colored headphones atop his head, sang.
Ignoring the crush of journalists in the room, the King -- aka LeBron James -- engrossed himself in the music. He was in no hurry to hold court.
So as the media waited, the King rapped aloud. He proved no candidate for "American Idol," but he never claimed his greatness extended beyond business and basketball. He's crafted an image like Mike's: of class and of sophisticated cool.
But isn't class a constant? Shouldn't class be something a star athlete guards jealously?
I wish I could use the word class to describe any part of the King's five-minute rendition Wednesday night of a profane rap song. I don't know whose work the King sang; I do know he picked the wrong venue to perform it.
Yes, the King was in his domain, and the locker room has always been the province of the players and not the media. You hang out in locker rooms long enough and you'll hear sexist, homophobic and rude comments flow like the waters in the Amazon. Vulgarity has no place there. It should not be the language of a sophisticated man.


Dusty Day said...

Give me a break. What an ignorant take on one's ability to freely express themselves. So he is rapping along with a song that happens to use what you call "vulgar" language. That means he has absolutely no class?

You state, "vulgarity, no matter the place, should not be the language of a sophisticated man" However, your idea of vulgarity is a much older fashioned view than you understand. If there were children around, then yeah, I could see your point. But this was HIS environment, at his place of work. To come out and say that he can't listen to music he wants before the game and get himself pumped up or focused on the work ahead of him is absolutely silly. Racial slurs are a different story, but they're clearly a part of the rap world for some artists. As long as he's the one saying them and not a white person, then I won't complain.

Language is a form of expression, and whether you want to realize it or not, "profane" language is rooted in our society. Don't judge a person's musical tastes as the one end-all be-all of whether a person has class or not. He's not getting arrested, he's not a part of any public scandals- he's just rapping along with a song that you probably wouldn't listen to anyways. It's probably a little ignorant to assume he would do this exact same thing walking into a meeting with high-end executives or at a charity event- LeBron isn't stupid. He understands image- i'm sure he has someone consulting him about that, too. Besides- he's not the one offending you. You're the one who is choosing to become offended at this.

I respect your opinion, but I definitely disagree with your entire take here. Maybe it is just generational though.

Anonymous said...

Give the man his privacy and don't put him on a perfection pedestal. This is a ridiculous column. He's singing/rapping a song, he didn't even what?? Music is about the beats and the melodies that calm you before a game. You obviously have never been an athlete. Words are just words, and it doesn't mean that he uses them or agrees with the lyrics. You are a writer so you listen to the words. James is a performer. And even if he does use those words? WHO CARES!? He's a basketball player, not a professor. Leave the man alone and quit trying to make him look bad. Ignorant.

Anonymous said...

No kidding, either provide specifics or stay the hell out of the locker room. You seriously sound like a very sensitive person to be offended by rap music...

Grow some balls...

Tom Callahan Jr.

Gianni said...

Sorry but I am at a loss for what you wanted to say with your column. Are you disappointed that LeBron used the N-word and the B-word? Are you disappointed that LeBron used both words in front of white men? Or are you worried that LeBron didn’t show “Caucasian sophistication” by rapping in his locker room before a game?

The last option troubles me in the sense that you suggest that LeBron should have been listening to Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninoff or some other Russian or European composer or ensure that your audience of financially powerful people would be at ease with him and find him classy.

Or that if LeBron was listening to rap that he shouldn’t have song it out loud because it shows a lack of class! I personally find the use of the N-Word stupid and self insulting but you shouldn’t have gone there.

You can’t tell a economic powerhouse in the making like LeBron that his cultural preferences should be subservient to those of the established mostly white elite! You should encourage young black superstars to be themselves!

As somebody who gets published in MSNBC you have a powerful voice yourself, use it in a positive way! Don’t use it to tell young black people that they have to behave in a “caucasianally” acceptable way or if they don’t they don’t show class!

dan said...

You were spot on with your description of what James did. What he did is classless. It is not acceptable for athlete or rapper.

But maybe he has gotten to the point that Andre Agassi reached in that he hates the sport. It has become a business to him and he hates it. He has these people, media people, hanging around who he doesn't know and they watch his every move and if they weren't watching him, they would be watching the next big player to come along. So he did an immature, classless thing to underscore the alienation he feels.

Athletics is an entertainment business and media people create the narrative for the consumption of the entertainment product. Characters have an arc and media people provide the plot points which propel the arc. You have just unveiled a character element that will now be explored as part of the continuing narrative.

James is one person who has the ability to influence a lot of people in positive ways, but he can also influence them in negative ways. I think you were saying that he is aborgating his responsibility, because of his position, to work harder to be a positive influence on young people. You are right.

Anonymous said...

What I admire about Lebron is he exists in a space where he does not have to "shuck and jive" for white folk. Can you do that sir? Can you say what you want without fear your employer will fire you? Lebron is own boss. Lebron is a corporation. He is a brand. For those of you who work a 9 to 5 with your fate tied decided by higher powers, of course you would feel this way.

Furthermore, as with most acculturated and assimilated minorities, you measure your intelligence and "class" by what the dominant culture thinks of you. It must be awesome to exist in a space where you don't have to care what anyone thinks and you are free to express yourself as you feel.

The other part of this is the hypocrisy of attitudes toward hip hop versus a violent movie. So for example, if Jack Nicholson releases a violent movie such as "departed" or Al Pacino in his numerous violent flicks, it is not viewed in the same light as Tupac or Young Jeezy. The actors don't get the brunt the way hip hop artists do. And if Lebron James was caught either before or after a game acting out a scene from one of these movies, he would not be called "classless", but instead he would be called a "lover of the arts" or into the "classics." This hypocrisy knows no bounds.

You, like many positionally elite African Americans have been conditioned to judge other African Americans by "what will white folk think?" This type thinking is a holdover from Jim Crow and slavery. This works for those of you who have been conditionally accepted into "master's house," but let master take away your 9 to 5 and your mentality changes. Think Skip Gates. Racial profiling never existed until he got arrested in his own house. It was only when he got racially profiled that we could all get upset.

For those of you who sit on these perches filled with your "class" and prestige doing the old Bill-Cosby-look-down-your-nose routine at us "classless" hip hoppers, there are kids like Lebron, T.I., Jeezy, Jay-Z, and others of the hip hop generation who had to make it without you. We are the forgotten kids that the civil rights generation left behind to be raised by the wolves. We are the modern day Jungle Book.

KWAPT said...

Excellent piece. Most of the commentors above missed the point. And when they post as anonymous (Greek for "no balls") that says alot in itself. Whether it's the girl on the back of the bus, or the rich athlete in the locker room, all the "Ni**** bi***" etc just has no place anymore.

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