Whether you like it or not, Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick IS Hip Hop. The 37 year-old chief executive was famously dubbed Ã¢Â€ÂœThe Hip Hop MayorÃ¢Â€Â at the beginning of his first term, and while the title was meant as an insult, he embraced the image, and the moniker stuck.
Though he stopped sporting a diamond stud in his left ear during his second mayoral campaign, the former captain of the Florida A&M football team still dons the style and swagger of the hip hop aesthetic. Even the scandals that follow Kwame around like members of his entourage Ã¢Â€Â“ wild parties with strippers, SUVs, luxury resorts and spas in Cali, infidelity and text messages Ã¢Â€Â“ seem more akin to the typical lifestyle of a platinum-selling rapper or an NBA All-Star, than it should the mayor of the nationÃ¢Â€Â™s 11th largest city.
But Kwame Kilpatrick is Hip Hop. He typifies the young Black man who came of age listening to the sound of the boom bap. As glass ceilings in corporate America begin to open for the men and women who were once called Generation X and those of Generation Y to follow, the nationÃ¢Â€Â™s corporate style is changing.
AppleÃ¢Â€Â™s Steve Jobs turned heads among the suits over a decade ago by striding confidently through the halls of power in blue jeans and a sport coat. In 2007 former drug dealer Shawn Carter resigned his post as CEO of hip hopÃ¢Â€Â™s most storied multi-million dollar brand, Def Jam. For better or worse, Kwame Kilpatrick is the brash, young political leader who has symbolized this shift for the past six years.
Those who have grown up with and love Hip Hop celebrate its triumphs, and are embarrassed by its missteps, and Kwame Kilpatrick is Hip Hop. He is applauded for helping to improve the cityÃ¢Â€Â™s downtown, for encouraging economic development and working to attract much needed business to the struggling municipality. Beyond the lifestyle scandals, the mayor has been criticized for instituting a $300.00 fee for trash collection in the nationÃ¢Â€Â™s second poorest city. He has been accused of providing money for beautification projects in higher income neighborhoods while neglecting less affluent parts of town.
Still it is KwameÃ¢Â€Â™s baller status that makes headlines in a materialistic, hip hop driven media climate. His policy decisions Ã¢Â€Â“ both good and bad Ã¢Â€Â“ are overshadowed by his love of bling, money and women.
To his detractors, Kilpatrick represents everything bad about hip hop and everything bad about Detroit. Comments on one message board label the lawyer and former state legislator Ã¢Â€Âœa thugÃ¢Â€Â, Ã¢Â€Âœa goonÃ¢Â€Â, Ã¢Â€Âœa street personÃ¢Â€Â, and Ã¢Â€Âœa scum bagÃ¢Â€Â. He is compared to another infamous figure in hip hop, Death Row Records chief Suge Knight.
Among many of his supporters, however, this pejorative language is nothing more than thinly-veiled racism, or still another dose of anti-Detroit Haterade. The animosity of outsiders adds to the feeling among Detroiters that the city is always being dumped on. Ã¢Â€ÂœKwame is one of usÃ¢Â€Â, they say, and Ã¢Â€Âœgood or bad, weÃ¢Â€Â™ll stand behind our own.Ã¢Â€Â
Kilpatrick matured during his second term as mayor. His attempts to keep his personal life on the down low have been thwarted by a media intent on digging up dirt that can sell newspapers, drive web hits and attract eyeballs in a competitive news environment. The text messages that were leaked to the Detroit Free Press were created during his first term. The aftermath, plotting to cover up a secret settlement with the cops who were fired for investigating his activities and lying about his affairs under oath, show an older, wiser man trying to hide the mistakes of his carefree youth.
This latest Kilpatrick scandal wonÃ¢Â€Â™t automatically end the mayorÃ¢Â€Â™s career as many of his critics hope, but it has added another layer of tarnish to his tailored Teflon suit. Kwame may survive this row because many of his constituents and supporters are hip hop just like he is. The question that remains is: Will the Hip Hop Mayor chill out and stop flossing so much as he matures, or will he continue to live large like the baller he is?