The Atlanta Post: Is It in a Black Man's Soul to Rock That Gold?

R. Asmerom examines the connection between bling and black expression.

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slick20rick202
Rapper Slick Rick is known for his bling.

The Atlanta Post's R. Asmerom is wondering aloud about the connection between bling and the motherland. While many see grillz and thick gold chains as indicators of conspicuous consumption, Asmerom asks if it is more of a reflection of black cultural expression and the role that adornment plays in our lives across the globe. Is it "foolish spending" or part of who we are as a culture? Check out an excerpt of his post below:

EXCERPT from "Is It in a Black Man's Soul to Rock That Gold?"

And I could blame my environment but /there ain't no reason why I be buyin' expensive chains -- Jay-Z, "Public Service Announcement"

Is it in a Black man's soul to rock that gold? Is the attraction to the flashy and shiny coded in our genes? Are we wired to appreciate and covet the precious metals that lie in abundance all over the homeland? It may seem a peculiar thing to question -- who doesn't love jewelry after all? -- but the unique role of this spectacular show of adornment in Black culture is quite extraordinary.

Nevertheless, the relationship between bling and Black expression is not generally understood as something deeper than just a case of conspicuous consumption. Grillz, over-sized platinum chains, and diamond earrings evoke images of rappers showing off in grand fashion in music videos,  defining and selling the idea of urban cool to the rest of the world. Ostentatious swagger, some may call it. And many critics, Black critics included, would demean it as a foolish display of wealth. As over the top as it is, the need to flash, is not something that was born in the ghettos of America.

As MC Schooly D put it, wearing gold "goes back to Africa." Historians would agree, there is a connection, albeit underlying, between how African-Americans dress and the habits and customs of African ancestry.

“The sharper the dress,  the flashier the gold the more you are taking care of yourself and putting yourself ideally in proximity to important people and even to the divine,” said Robert Ferris Thompson, a renowned professor of African and African American Art who has dedicated his professional life to exploring the art history of the Afro-Atlantic world. "When the Portuguese first landed in Ghana the local chiefs with their gold and early versions of kente outdressed the greys.  Score:  Ghana 7, visitors 2."

Read more at the Atlanta Post.

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