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‘COSNARATI’ – Bill Cosby project sends message of self-worth

January 3, 2010 by  
Filed under Conversation

When culture critics consider modern hip-hop, one of the more common critiques is that the forces behind it are too often missing when the time comes to uplift inner-city communities plagued by the social ills detailed in their music.
By lending their considerable skills to “Bill Cosby Presents: The Cosnarati” — a hip-hop album conceived as an alternative to popular music that the legendary entertainer believes all-too frequently celebrates those ills — musicians William “Spaceman” Paterson, Jace the Great, Brother Hahz and Supa Nova Slom are working to provide young hip-hop devotees with an affirming message of self-worth and personal responsibility.
“Cosnarati means ‘Cosby’s narratives,’” explained Supa Nova Slom. “Dr. Cosby gave us some narratives he wrote, and we were able to develop them into positive and inspiring rap lyrics to uplift people.”
Having already toured several schools near their home base, the Nov. 24 release has provided Cosby and his emcees with a much wider platform for their message. According to Paterson, a co-producer on the project, “What many people have done in the past years is allow the pop culture to redefine what is right and what is wrong. Basically, some of the things our children are doing behavior-wise, we try to address through our music. When suddenly up is down and down is up, and people are glorifying things that we know are wrong, we have to correct it.”
Added Cosby: “I don’t think we can reach the ‘sho-nuff’ fan of gangsta rap, the Lil’ Wayne or 50 Cent admirers. But this is a one-shot situation, utilizing the expression of my thoughts with the wonderful writings of the Cosnarati. However, I feel that elders on down to someone in their 20s who can hear this music, and really listen to the words, will find it interesting. These words, along with these great beats, might catch the attention of a child who is on the fence and has no way of expressing himself, and no one is talking to him. This might give positive guidance.”
Some, such as professor and author Michael Eric Dyson, have faulted Cosby for statements he has made in recent years, calling out segments of the black community for a lack of personal responsibility. In the minds of those critics, Cosby is scapegoating African-Americans for social ills — such as teen pregnancy, crime and drug use — that are caused by forces greater than the mentality of individuals.
The Cosnarati reject those criticisms, arguing that Cosby is expressing his passion for the betterment of all people, African-Americans in particular. “There is an old saying that the truth hurts, and from our perspective, we know that it is hard for anyone to look at their dirty laundry,” said Jace The Great. “But we must do it, and look at our own personal realities and try to do better for ourselves and our families. One of the reasons Dr. Cosby came to Newark, N.J., is because it used to be rated one of the highest cities for homicides in the inner-cities. We give lovers of hip-hop music a positive alternative, and Dr. Cosby wanted to use a medium to reach the masses in the inner-cities to try to communicate positive thoughts that would translate into positive behavior.”
Although the Cosnarati see music as a sound that connects with people, in many ways it is the opposite of a personal experience that awakened Cosby to what he has come to view as a cultural disconnect.
“I was on a … broadcast recently on Sirius Radio with two African-American guys who played a speech I gave that quoted me as saying that some words in some popular rap song are disrespecting our black females, and the word ‘nigger’ is used over and over again,” said Cosby. “I indicated in my speech that I was shocked how the young people are not really listening to these words and getting up and dancing. I said this was insane. The radio host challenged me for saying that. Then they said, I am ‘disconnected,’ and I said, ‘I certainly am.’ And then they said I was old — I said, yes. I just can’t understand how anyone can use the word ‘nigger’ when the Mississippi River is filled with the DNA of African-Americans who were killed unjustly — and the last words that were spoken to them when they were placed on fire, the rope was pulled around their neck and hung, and black women had their babies cut from their bellies, was (that word). So, people want to go around and call each other ‘nigger’ for what? Is it out of disrespect for those people? The utilization of these negative and degrading words in some of the music today is a way of cursing back at life. Now, there are even some scholars who love and are protecting this negative music. It does not make them right, either, just because they are educated.”

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