April 7, 2011
Crazy things happen when you don’t have cable. I was just flipping through the few basic channels that my TV receives when I caught a rhythm, so of course I stopped flipping and listened. It was a local station that plays videos from all over the African diaspora late at night. And the image on my screen was that of slender, brown-skinned gentleman, with curly hair that goes by the name of K’naan.
The beat that he rhymed and sang over was pretty catchy and his lyrics were somewhat profound, but what really caught my attention was the name of his album. It was called The Dusty Foot Philosopher. It’s such an incredibly humble image reminiscent of the barefoot servant. When I read it on the screen it made me wonder what happened to our humility here in the United States. What kind of inner-confidence does K’naan–a Somali born Canadian MC– possess that all of my favorite American born hip-hop artist have lost? Because, honestly, I can’t see the most righteous American rapper giving his album such a bold title and expecting it to sell. Why is that? I mean shouldn’t we expect our artist to be humbletruthsayers and not extravagant egomaniacs? Or maybe it can never be that simple.
On a personal level I am extremely ambivalent towards materialism. I am opposed to ostentatious displays of wealth through jewelry and fancy cars but at the same time I just spent $117 dollars on some tennis shoes that I don’t need yesterday. That’s pretty far removed from being either a barefoot servant or a dustyfoot philosopher. Or sometimes I’ll go through a phase where I’m deep in my craft of creative writing and I’ll wear old worn out jeans everyday and refuse to shave or cut my hair, but then I’ll take my daughter to the mall and let her get whatever she wants. Is that not the same thing? Is that not evidence of me being just as blinded by capitalism as the man who raps about his Bently or the woman who sings about her designer handbag? It seems like I have the same mentality as they do it’s just that they have more money to burn.
But once again the truth is never that simple. I would be remissed for not giving myself credit for at least trying to be a more humble person. In the end, however, I do wonder whether or not that will be enough. I don’t know but then again that’s not for me to decide.