Issue number 38 of Pound is set to drop soon-ish, and as a follow up to the “Slept On” issue, the theme this time around is “F*ck Your Street Cred”. Nice and direct.
When Brooklyn-based photographer Jamel Shabazz was in town a few weeks ago, I paused to ask his thoughts on street cred and social disconnection, and was humbled by his responses. Gracious and warm despite the sharp evening chill, some of what he spoke on is pasted below.
I was discussing with some other people what “street credibility” means in hip hop, how that definition has changed, how some people have taken it too far, how other people reject it completely. I’m wondering what your take is, on what street credibility means to you. What it meant growing up, and some different aspects of it that have been thrown at you over the years.
What a beautiful question. That’s a great question. Street credibility, to me, is an individual that devotes his time and energy to trying to educate society. To make a difference. That’s a person out there that has respect for life, and he wants for his brothers as he wants for himself. He is not selfish. He doesn’t flaunt bling. He doesn’t talk about how many bodies he has. He doesn’t talk about how many cars he has. It’s a person who is trying to make a difference.
You want to talk about street credibility? Martin Luther King. Malcolm X. Marcus Garvey. Minister Farrakhan. You have a lot of individuals that have street credibility that are trying to do things. They walk the streets, and they’re trying to offer hope and inspiration to young people. That’s true street credibility.
You want to talk about bling and that you’ve been to prison — why would you want to brag about that? But, tragically, wrong has been made to look right, and right has been made to look wrong. And we’re producing a generation that feels that, if you have a body or you’re in a gang, you got true street credibility. It’s been twisted and people have been deceived.
I have a really deep shot of a guy with a shirt on that says “murderer” in red. Murderer. And then there are guys that wear tear drops on their eyes to indicate that they murdered somebody. To a fool, that’s street credibility. “He has a body.” But who did you kill? Why did you kill this person? Should that warrant true street credibility?
I think that true street credibility is making a difference within your community, and your community respects you. And they honour you. Moreso than fear you, because often time, when you talk about a person who has street credibility he is not respected, he is feared. As often times, hated.
You look at a person like Malcom X who was, in fact, a stick-up kid. He robbed, he was a very negative person, and he transformed his life. So, we all can change, but we have to be willing to change. But sometimes we just don’t know. So, if you start to engage people in positive conversation, we can make wrong right. And we really can.
You’ve got kids growing up wanting to be thugs. Kids wanting bodies. This is becoming a phenomenon now with people who lack knowledge of self.
Like I said, it’s time to get with the true street credibility. Being positive. Striving to be righteous. I’m not saying you have to be a saint, but strive to live a life that you are respected and you are trying to make a difference within your community. I think with that comes respect. Because if we don’t, we’re going to suffer later on in life. Things are not looking good. We live in a very dangerous day and time, and it’s time to wake up.