Starlet Cubana Lust in the video “Grindin’.”
“How are you supposed to not watch that?” my friend asked, adding that he’d feel better “if they just called it ‘WorldStar’ and left off the ‘HipHop,’ because the shit they show on there—old guys getting blow jobs in the backseat of a bus—is not hip-hop.” This is one of the big questions about WSHH: exactly where hip-hop begins and ends. D.J. Vlad, who runs WSHH’s more “upscale” competitor VladTV, said, “Hip-hop is anything of interest to urban people. If Chris Paul gets traded, that’s hip-hop, if Sean Bell gets shot, that’s hip-hop. If people get into fights, it’s too bad, but that’s hip-hop, too.” At the end of the day, however, what bothers most WSHH critics is that the site owes its success to what one observer described as black people “acting the fool.”
Case in point is a December 23, 2011, WorldStar vid headlined “Pure F*ckery: News Report on Air Jordan 11s Turns Ghetto in Texas! What If Yo Baby Get Ammonia.” The last bit refers to a quote from a young black woman trying to purchase a pair of limited-edition $189 Michael Jordan sneakers at a pre-Christmas midnight sale. “It cold, they wrapped up in blankets,” the woman told Fox 26 News. “What if yo’ child get ammonia for a pair of shoes? It is not worth it.” This was followed by an interview with two young men identifying themselves as “the Get Money Boys” out of Lakewood, Texas. They were the Get Money Boys, one said to the white Fox News reporter, “because we get a lot of money, so it nothing for us to get shoes—you know, we get money—we come up to have fun, and you got people tramping each other over a pair of tennis shoes … What we need is to have Michael Jordan have the shoes at his house and we go to his house to buy the shoes. We see if you like that, Michael Jordan.”
This video instantly went viral, with the subjects’ idiosyncratic interface with the English language inspiring an animated parody, containing much verbatim dialogue, which also played on WorldStar. The original video attracted a large number of unusually pointed comments. Many commentators were angry with Fox News, which, as commenter Ryan maintained, always looked “to interview the most ignorant black folks they can find.” But mostly the attitude was one of rueful despair.
“Well, this set us back about 50 years,” wrote one commenter, Hollywood Cole. Another, ON A MISSION, noted, “OMG, can u say Embarrassed!” S added, “Who are we? You must be speaking of an alien race, not native to earth.”
I asked Q why, if it is true (as he says) that young white kids make up a significant portion of the WHSS audience, if white teens with backward hats are sending in a lot of those N-word screeds that fill the WSHH comments section, African-Americans are almost invariably cast in the role of the fall guys. Is it simply that black people, by virtue of inventing the music, will always be the protagonists of the hip-hop narrative? Or is it more in line with the grumpy punditry of people like Stanley Crouch, who seems to believe the majesty of African-American art has been on the downslide since Louis Armstrong’s solo on “Potato Head Blues” (or maybe Ellington’s Black, Brown and Beige symphony) and often refers to hip-hop—WorldStar no doubt included—as a latter-day, gold-toothed “minstrel show” staged primarily for the benefit of a white audience?
This is a serious question, Q allowed, something he thinks about a lot. WSHH is gonzo, but it isn’t like they’d post just anything. He refuses to show sex with animals, bans all videos where a child is hurt. As for the discomfiture caused by stuff like the “ammonia” video, Q said it bothers him that many people are “not able to talk.” It is a deep problem tied up with massive issues of race and education. WSHH is a running commentary on all that. But it isn’t as if he can do anything about it—what is real is real.
“What can I say?” Q said. “The truth hurts.”