There is a tendency among young African-American men who are desperately hoping to make it into the record industry to infantilize themselves - a practice that has unfortunately been adopted by many African-American males. Within contemporary hip-hop, rappers have chosen “Lil’” as an essential characteristic to denote their identity, for example, Lil’ Wayne, Lil’ Bow Wow, Lil’ Cease, Lil’ Romeo, and so on - all of which serve to infantilize the African-American male.
Within hip-hop culture, the terms “son,” “boy,” “kid,” and “baby” refer to African-American men rather than children. Songs like “What Happened to that Boy” speak of the murder of African-American men, but refer to those murdered as boys. The lyrics are not speaking of murdering children, but men.
Hip-hop mogul, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, has chosen the rebellious black infant, garbed in a diaper, as the icon of his multi-million dollar company. It is certainly true that contemporary hip-hop reinforces this tendency. Aspiring young rappers imitate this practice and are thereby willingly infantilizing themselves.
It is time for the hip-hop community to reject this practice. Power is stripped from the infant. The infant must be coddled and cared for, and cannot function as an autonomous agent within the world; he must be provided for.
Surely if one were to confront contemporary rappers, they would undoubtedly insist that, “It’s not that serious” or “You’re making a big fuss over nothing.” The truth is that there is a big fuss to be made. How is one to take the plight of the African-American male seriously if members within our own community refer to themselves as boys and kids?
When I was younger, in all truthfulness, I didn’t see the harm or what all the fuss was about. Now that I’m a man, I can understand the terrible threat of ascribing infantile names to one’s identity and how it ultimately undermines the effort and knowledge used by these men to amass their wealth.
The biological truth is that boys grow to men, which is natural. To willfully identify a man as a child is counter to what nature intended; thus it is unnatural. Hip-Hop artists have poisoned the minds of young, black boys for too long with the ever-elusive hope of a record deal and a pathway out of poverty.
The sobering truth is that the vast majority of these boys will grow to be men, yet retain the mentality of an infant. This is what is at stake. It is therefore imperative, and I would challenge all hip-hop artists, to drop the “Lil’.”