The Global African-American influence

Prior to living in America, I had already visited the country a number of times. But that’s not how I am able to sing RnB songs, or how I’m able to rap full verses from artists like Common, Jay Z, Biggie and Tupac or even much older hip hop groups. It’s not how I understand African-American slang or can do certain dances in clubs. I know all of that because African-Amerian culture is broadcast into homes around the world. Despite growing up in the UK, I have been exposed to many aspects of African-American culture throughout my entire life, as have many other black people around the globe.

It can be hard for African-Americans to get a grasp of just how pervasive and global African-American culture is and has become. When I lived in Johannesburg in South Africa, for example, I was at times amused and at other times disturbed by the adoption of African-American language, fashion and music by young South Africans. I used to go a particular club that could have come from a Beyonce video. You would have thought you were in New York or Atlanta rather than Johannesburg.

People always ask me ‘how do you know these songs?’ and ‘how do you know about that, how do you know about this?’ and I tell them I know because I have been massively exposed to it all throughout my whole life. America, and by extension African-America, is constantly shown to the world on a huge scale.

Now, I wonder if African-Americans realized this, they would also feel more responsible about what they put out. I’m talking here about people like Nas and his new album, I’m talking about BET and the type of content they put out, I’m talking about all of those people who insist – through various media – in showing the worst aspects of African-American life. Not only is that stuff released to America, it is released to young impressionable black people around the world who look up to African-Americans as a beacon of success and progression.

I was reminded of this by a blog I came across in which the writer said he’d come across a shop in Malawi called ‘Nigger’ (see picture above) and how proud the owners were of their shop’s name, thinking that they were somehow in touch with African-Americans that they looked up to.

Nas is releasing his song Nigger not only to his homegrown community but to the global community. What will the effect be on the young kids in the townships of South Africa, for example, who don’t really understand the significance and nuances surrounding that word? What about the black kids in the inner cities in England who have only just, in the past 10 years or so, started calling each other ‘nigga’ – just because their favourite black hip hop artists have made the word seem cool – and who now believe that they are ‘niggas’?

The global influence of African-American culture is huge. It affects black people all over the world. This can of course be a great thing. It has unfortunately also been a negative thing. I just don’t think people get how far the reach of African America extends… If they did maybe people like Nas might really think hard about how they use that influence.



4 thoughts on “The Global African-American influence

  1. I agree with you that it is terrible that the worst of African American Culture is being exported to the rest of the world, but I don’t think that the artists would change if they realized how much of an impact they really had in other continents and countries. If they don’t care about their own country enough to fix up their stuff, I doubt that they will be anymore concerned about another country. Funnily enough, I am doing a presentation on hip hop analyzing it in terms of its gender/racial/class representations. Profit and capitalism seems to be the main motivation. As long as it sells records, and do gig tickets in the other countries they’ll keep on keepin on. You should check this link out. You probably seen it already, but just in case you haven’t

  2. Thats really terrible that Black children who don’t understand the history of the n-word are using it because they hear it in music. I totally agree that artists have to be more responsible with their work. But a lot of them protest that its free speech, its art, or they are showing real life. There has to be a solution to this problem because it seems like things are getting worse.

  3. I literally wept when I heard a recent report stating that the highest number of African American murders are carried out by african Americans themselves, and that there were more blacks in prison than in college, and lastly, that one out of every three African American can’t read.
    I dont know how accurate these figures are, but one thing I know is that the black race is got a lot of work to do to be morally relevant in today’s world. Look at what African Americans dish out daily all in the name of entertainment? from a moral point of view, it is best I would say it is “frightening”!
    They call their females B*t*hes and H*os, you name it, the women often go as far as taking their men to court before they can make these brothers take care of their own babies, it is a shame, my message to the black race is WAKE UP FROM YOUR SLUMBER, it is never too late

  4. To be honest Nev some of those statistics although oft quoted cannot be taken at face value and/or are plain WRONG. First of all, with regards to the number of men in prison than in college… The most recent census data does seem to suggest that’s the case, but 1) it only takes into account the black men who live on campus, not those off campus and 2) most importantly, the college population if of a certain age (18 – 24) whereas the prison population goes up to nearly age 70.. so you cannot even compare the 2 populations since of course the prison population is going to be higher than the college population since there are many more numbers of men (due to the wide variation in age) in prison.

    Secondly, I think you’ll find that murders of white people are also committed by other white people.

    Thirdly, I find it v v hard to impossible that in the west 1 in 3 black people cannot read. I believe that the African-American literacy rate is around 70%.

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