Back in the day when Roc-A-Fella Records was a thing that was becoming not a thing, there was beef! Harlem rapper Cam’ron and fellow label-mate, label co-owner, and preeminent God MC Jay-Z were verbal jousting. The rift grew amidst rumors of a full-on breakup of the label and damning allegations. The now besmirched and once pristine legacy of the record label inevitably led to the break up of the “Roc la Famiglia.” One of the insults levied against Jay by Cam was the fact that he wore open-toed sandals or “chancletas,” Spanish for flip-flops. I remember the aftermath of Cam’s diss towards Jay and amongst my peers the snickers and mocking of Jay’s choice to wear sandals. Cam for a brief time made it uncool to wear sandals or flip-flops. Fast forward to today and designer flip-flops are trendy, fashionable, and cool.
This brings me to the point of this post which is, why do we allow others to dictate what we consider to be cool or entertaining? Why do we wait for permission from others to give the go-ahead on our individual taste levels?
I for the most part NEVER looked towards others for permission to like something or exercise my values on what I deem trendy or cool. I observed how flip-flops were effectively outlawed save for the Adidas and other major sports apparel brands flip flops. I heard the laughs echo through hallways from cats enamored with the spectacle that had become Roc-A-Fella Records. I bore witness to impassioned debates about the fate of the label and sides taken. Team Dame. Team Jay. Team Dip Set. Team Kanye. Team State Property. With the divisions in place, the fans were forced to choose who they would lend their unmitigated support to and even hedged bets on the fates of anyone on the label not named Jay-Z. Is it the power of influence or the weakness of minds?
We are all aware of how fleeting our likes and dislikes can be. Hell, even our taste buds change roughly every 7 years, but how much of what we approve of and adore stems from our own free will versus a thought that was imputed in us to influence our respective taste levels? Are couture chancletas trendy amongst Black folks, Black hip-hop heads in particular, because they have Italian last names or is this the weakness of minds? I find it problematic if you weren’t into Black men in hip-hop wearing sandals in 2006 solely based on Cam’ron saying it wasn’t cool and now in 2017 you see nothing wrong with it. Looking towards individuals to give you permission to express your ideas, your love, or your tastes is the willful deletion of all that makes you an individual worthy of distinction. It’s ok to be influenced by others because as Nas once said, “there’s nothing new under the sun,” but what we should be mindful of is the subtle complexities that obfuscate the line between what we autonomously decide we like and what we are told we like or should like.