*Jazz legend Wynton Marsalis got candid about his opinion of hip hop’s effect on black Americans, suggesting its more damaging than a statue of a Confederate general who fought to preserve slavery during the Civil War.
“My words are not that powerful. I started saying in 1985 I don’t think we should have a music talking about n*ggers and b*tches and h*es. It had no impact. I’ve said it. I’ve repeated it. I still repeat it. To me that’s more damaging than a statue of Robert E. Lee,” Marsalis told Washington Post journalist Jonathan Capehart’s Cape Up podcast.
Marsalis assisted New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu in the removal of Lee’s statue last year, but feels that misogynist, negative lyrics in hip-hop are more damaging to African-Americans. “I feel that that’s much more of a racial issue than taking Robert E. Lee’s statue down,” he said. “There’s more n*ggers in that than there is in Robert E. Lee’s statue.”
Robert E. Lee commanded the Confederate army during the Civil War until he surrendered to the Union army in 1865, ending the four-year conflict. Statues dedicated to him have dotted the South, but many have recently been taken down.
Further discussing his point of hip hop being a bigger threat to the minds of black people than past transgressions, Marsalis tells the Washington Post: “It’s just like the toll the minstrel show took on black folks and on white folks. Now, all this ‘n*gger this,’ ‘b*tch that,’ ‘h* that,’ that’s just a fact at this point,” he said.
“For me, it was not a default position in the ’80s. Now that it is the default position, how you like me now? You like what it’s yielding? Something is wrong with you — you need your head examined if you like this.”
Asked about Kanye West’s comment about slavery being “a choice,” Marsalis said the rapper’s words shouldn’t be given much weight since he lacks the authority of an intellectual with prominence.
“I would not give seriousness to what he said, in that way. Okay? This guy is making products,” he said.
“It’s not like Martin Luther King said it, a person who knows or is conscious of a certain thing. … [H]e’s entitled to whatever it is he wants to say. The quality of his thought is in the products he makes.”