Press Pause: Black Entertainers in Press-Some Do and Some Don’t

Imagine waking up tomorrow morning and your face and likeness are plastered on every billboard, bus stop and magazine stand. Fans flock to your autographs and quick snapshots from their camera phones. Girls throw themselves at your feet to satisfy your every sexual desire. And reporters and photographers are lined up by the dozens for high-fashion photo shoots and digital voice recorders in hand waiting to dictate your every syllable. The average citizen wouldn’t BE able to withstand the pressures of the overnight celebrity status many of our favorite entertainers face on a daily basis.

Picture the long, late-night studio hours, cramped tour buses traveling for miles across interstate highways and a cholesterol-filled diet of Waffle House scattered, smothered and covered hash browns and scrambled eggs that would clog the arteries of an earthworm. Suffering from fatigue, homesickness and hundreds of thousands of strangers pulling you in every direction, most of us could only visualize a life full of such pandemonium. But this is the complex life of your favorite rapper, singer and DJ.

The fact of the matter is that many of these entertainers are thrown into the deep waters of this busy lifestyle without a life preserver and expected to backstroke through these murky, uncertain waters of fame. No longer are they rapping, singing, DJing or performing for their boys on the block or their local 30-mile radius. The world is eagerly hanging on to their every word and action. And with the technological advances of and powered by the World Wide Web, their mistakes, blunders and slip ups are instantly streamed onto fans’ iPhones, laptops and Blackberry devices to millions of judgmental eyes.


The Hip Hop world scoffed when Atlanta rapper Wacka Flocka Flame seemed to choke up on national television when video show hosts Rocsi and Terrence J asked him about voting during the upcoming election on BET’s 106 & Park show. We collectively shook our heads when rapper T.I. got caught with enough automatic weapons to overthrow a small country and after serving less than a year in jail violated his probation to go right back in jail. And we all wonder why Gucci Mane cannot seem to stay out of jail long enough to reach his full musical expectations.


But how can we expect a young kid coming straight out of the concrete jungles of Anyhood, USA to handle all of these pressures of newfound stardom without proper guidance and training? Many of these entertainers do not fully understand that their private lives are things of the past. Everything they do is public and their every move is dissected, analyzed and judged in the court of public opinion.


No longer can R&B queen Beyonce dash out of the house on a bad hair day with a baseball cap covertly covering her eyes. Jay-Z cannot walk his Brooklyn breeding blocks without swarms of fans, lovers and haters violating his space. And every time a rich and famous entertainer harasses an ex-lover on voicemail, is hauled off to jail for traffic fines or gets into a physical altercation with an enemy like he is back on the block, we form our own opinions- BE them fair or unjust.


Perhaps all of the blame is not on the entertainers at all. Maybe part of the problem rests with the record companies themselves. Artists are no longer groomed for the press. Media training- where artists are taught how to speak to the press- is seemingly a thing of the past. Instead, artists are scooped up from their respective backyards and placed squarely on front street without warning.


Back in Motown’s heyday of a star-studded roster of Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross, Hittsville, USA CEO BErry Gordy prepared his artists for the issues that arise from fame. Motown had a charm school that taught their artists how to talk, dress and even eat in a formal setting. You never heard of the Temptations doing something that would bring shame upon the laBEl. The only artist to ever get out of line was David Ruffin with his cocaine addiction and when his erratic, drug-induced BEhavior BEcame a negative reflection too big for the group to BEar, he was quickly ejected from the group.


Much of those same tactics should BE used today. With label CEOs enjoying more power than ever BEfore, artists employing further creative control of their music and Hip Hop BEcoming more influential than any other genre in recent history, artists should BE more prepared for the dramas of life to follow. And laBEl CEOs need to BE held more accountable for the actions of their artists.


Fans needn’t BE penalized for the limitless attention they give their BEloved artists. Media needn’t BE disciplined for reporting the news. Whether these entertainers desire to BE role models or not, the fact of the matter is that the adoring public does look up to them and their actions should reflect the power that they possess.

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