When Your Elders Fail You: Lil Yachty’s Journey To #BlackManHappy

Lil Yachty by Alex Redside

In the wake of #BlackLivesMatter, the Black community has taken the opportunity to invite our happiness and joy into the discussion about our humanity. #BlackGirlMagic, #BlackGayJoy and, most famously #BlackBoyJoy, allow for a more inclusive dialog about the full range of emotions that we all, including Black folks, experience.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. Without persistent effort, time itself becomes an ally of the insurgent and primitive forces of irrational emotionalism and social destruction.” So we have to always be working towards the goal of justice and freedom, because if not we run the risk of allowing emotion driven by suffering to take control of our lives.

It’s through this lens that I would like to spend some time talking about the importance of supporting Black men in being happy, joyous and fully present in our lives. This past week, Joe Budden and Lil Yachty appeared on the show Everyday Struggle. It’s an illuminating, while uncomfortable interview at parts, with Budden playing the overbearing dad character to Yachty’s more care-free, but hardworking, son role.

Before I jump into my discussion, I think it’s important to note. I admire Lil Yachty. More than any rapper that I can remember, he shows up, most times to complete opposition as his full self. He’ll come to the interview, be honest, be articulate and even admit fault or wrongness on his part when he feels it’s needed. He’s often still berated, but he keeps coming. So, big respect to Yachty.

In one exchange from the interview Yachty explains how he’s feeling. “I’m happy every day, because life is moving in such a positive way…” to which Joe Budden responds “Let me tell you how humans are…” (as if to imply that Yachty is somehow not human?) “You can not tell me, you’d be lying to tell me that as a young man … in this industry … you are happy 24/7, that is a lie….”

What’s so disheartening about Budden’s response, aside from the fact that his elder called him a liar, is that it calls into question if young Black men, can and should be happy with where they are at any given time, for any reason that they choose. I argue that young Black men deserve to be happy everyday, just like everyone else deserves the same. We need our elders, like Joe Budden, who have paved paths for people like Lil Yachty, to encourage happiness and invite young men to revel in that feeling. A feeling that’s so often not afforded to us as Black folks. That’s not say that sharing wisdom and challenges isn’t important, it certainly is. However, young people need encouragement to keep going.

In another exchange, Yachty explains “I don’t have no nice corporate white person in my ear…” to which Budden responds “that is the biggest crock of bullshit…” Now, I am not claiming to understand Yachty’s business, but it does recall an experience that Don Cornelius had when James Brown visited his show, Soul Train, during it’s third season.

Cornelius said, “I remember my first meeting James Brown. He was from an era where you couldn’t do anything big unless you had somebody, probably somebody white, backing you.” “He was so impressed as he looked around the studio, he said ‘Brother, who’s backing you on this?” to which Cornelius responded, “Well, James it’s just me.” Brown asked Cornelius the same question no less than two more times, as if it couldn’t be true that Cornelius was doing this on his own. So when Yachty says, in reference to his album cover, I did it, then I gave it to the label, why shouldn’t we believe him? There were folks who made sacrifices so he can do just that. We should be encouraging folks to make business decisions that allow them to do just that, as well.

Like Dr. King said, “This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” So, to the Joe Budden’s of the world, your experiences are not invalid, and to the Lil Yachty’s neither are yours. Us elders must find a way to both educate and support. You youngins might want to play The Payback, and then call me to tell me how you are incorporating that inspiration into your next project.

And for all of our sakes, if you don’t dig it, just find something else to play.

Watch the video of this blog entry below: