"Boondocks" creator Aaron McGruder, whose pointed satires of BET were banned from TV stations in 2008 is at it again. Season 3 clips of "Boondocks" are being released, depicting fictional and real rappers Thugnificent and Will I Am singing "D* Riding Obama" are making the rounds, and causing a stir. What the Boondocks satire says, and how the black elite and the black community receives it tell a lot about us.
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"D- Ridin' Obama:" Boondocks Creator Aaron McGruder Thows a Bomb
by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
In his time and place, West Africa of the 1970s and 80s, Fela Anikulapo Kuti was a dangerous man. Nobody was better or more effective at irreverent, merciless mockery of greedy and unjust authorities. Fela eviscerated religious authorities with "Suffering and Smiling," he embarrassed dozens of African military regimes with "Zombie." He went after the transnational corporations like ITT who lurked behind them with "International Thief-Thief." Unflinching ridicule is a powerful weapon, especially when you can get a hundred million people at a time dancing to it.
Fela paid a heavy price for it. He was repeatedly imprisoned, though not for very long, he was financially ruined, his home was raided and his mother murdered by the authorities. The man definitely had other issues too, big ones, but that was Fela's biggest contribution to history. He showed us the power of art and ridicule in making people face up to important questions.
Boondocks creator Aarom McGruder is no Fela, not yet anyway, but his past work and pre-season released clips of real and fictional rappers Will I Am and Thugnificent singing "D* Riding Obama" seem to point him firmly in that direction. In Boondocks' season 2, back in 2008 McGruder showed a willingness to denounce and viciously skewer BET with two episodes that Cartoon Network refused to air. The banned episides were leaked and thanks to the web, went instantly viral. They're easy to find, and the intro to one of them is at the bottom of this page.
D* riding, for those who may not know, is metaphorical and current urban slang for old fashioned sycophancy, something that was already old when the pharaohs were young, the lavishing of undue and excessive praise and flattery upon someone perceived to be in a position of power at the moment. To keep this article G-rated, I won't explain the metaphor itself, somebody else can do that. But McGruder, who is very much in control of which parts of his work are released pre-season, is asking Black America an important question. Is Black America getting any use out of this First Black President thing? Or are we being pimped?
In some quarters, anything short of loud praise of the president is worse than unpopular. Tavis Smiley was literally hounded off the air for raising the most mild questions about the president's --- at that time the presidential candidate's --- allegiance to the African American community. And many commentators, pundits and quite ordinary people hasten to point to the racist Tea Partyers as reasons to stifle any and all criticism of the Obama presidency, lest we give his racist opponents heart. In effect, they play the mainstream media's game of pretending that all criticism of the president is from the right, and equating all critics of the president from the left to tea partyers. We know this is nonsense, and we are glad to see that McGruder is keeping it authentic.
Black America still exists, and so does the black internal conversation, despite the stranglehold of corporate media which generally limits that conversation to its own marketing needs. McGruder has been able, for the time being, to break through that barrier and tell some truths to a wide audience for a little while. Word is that Boondocks Season 3 will be its last. We have to wonder whether any of this year's episodes will be banned, as were the BET pieces in 2008. For that, and to find out whether Aaron McGruder ever does manage to be as dangerous to the powers that be as Fela in his own time and place, we'll just have to wait and see.