Home Video Vault Video Vault: Hip Hop Music Educates Us On How The ‘Hood Diet’ is the ‘New Crack’

Video Vault: Hip Hop Music Educates Us On How The ‘Hood Diet’ is the ‘New Crack’

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Hey. Let ’em know.

A little bit about this video:

Long before Flava Flav became a reality show punch line (or a would-be fried chicken mogul), back when Chuck D was more of a political subversive than the kind of respected activist who would be called on to testify in front of Congress, Public Enemy released the track “Night of the Living Baseheads.” Like many songs from that era, the lyrics dealt with the crack epidemic that was decimating African-American communities around the country in 1988, the year it was released. In the song, Chuck D calls out black crack dealers who sell to their own, rapping, “Another kilo/From a corner from a brother to keep another/Below.“

The Oakland-based group SOS Justice has reframed the classic hip-hop narrative of the ’80s and ’90s that “Baseheads“ fits into. Instead of being critical of people contributing to the African-American disenfranchisement by selling drugs back into the community—or of the government injecting crack-cocaine into black neighborhoods as a means of repression—the group’s new music video sets its sights on a modern epidemic: the domination of cheap, highly processed food in minority neighborhoods.

Instead of the choice between a crack pipe and a future, the young protagonist of the video has to pick between a carrot and a Red Bull. Street bums are shown drinking sodas instead of malt liquor; a white dusting of aspartame coats the upper lip of an addict rather than a Schedule 1 drug; death-by-processed-food is recurrent.

“Who would have known you can die from a diet,” raps Seasunz, who both stars in the video and had his hand in various production elements, “Diabetes and the -itis from the dairy and the dose of the high fructose.” [source]

My first thoughts were, quite honestly, about how often we’re told that black and brown people only want trash food in their communities and that’s all they eat… instead of embracing the fact that that’s what people eat for any number of reasons. I’ve even made the argument before that this is what’s available in these communities because it’s what people eat, but you need to go deeper than that.

For goodness sakes, the Good Times clip (wasn’t that good times?) talked about how they’re not eating caviar because they’re eating cheap. They’re getting all the calories they can on as few pennies as possible because money is scarce.

My second thoughts were… what would happen if the government funneled money into getting better quality grocery stores and resources for cooking in the hood, and not just poured Medicare money into podiatrists and dialysis centers in the hood? Proactive care, instead of reactive?

My third thought was “Damn, how many people would expect people who look like this to not have a clue about any of this stuff?”

I love it.

What did you think?

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Jayde February 27, 2013 - 12:36 AM

I am so shocked! its very true though…. you cant find healthy places to eat in the hood. I have drive 15 mins to get to a decent place like Jason Deli when im on campus for classes. They really dont think that black people are inform with what’s healthy or unhealthy.Some of us care and want to eat better. I get sick of eating something fried every other day. Popeyes,Mcdonalds,Whataburger and Captain D’s is getting old!

kami February 27, 2013 - 9:42 AM

I am not shocked because this is the only options in the hoods. The food makes people sick. I am still trying to get people to understand why eating fried chicken dinner from popeyes is disgusting and not cheaper than healthy food cooked at home. I remember when I was young I wanted the Frosted flakes and the Lucky charms cereal now to this day I will not buy them even the organic counterparts. I am so over most boxed foods organic or no organic they just dont fill me up. Another issue is all the added high fructose corn surup or hydrogenated oils. people need education to make a change. I learned about healthy eating at Maryland Food Coop. The first video had me thinking the whole time dont throw the vegetables I have plans for the greens, squash and plantain.

Shas February 27, 2013 - 6:27 PM

This rings true to me! My boyfriend’s parents, his aunts and other family members have Type 1 Diabetes. Watching the way they turned around their diet has inspired me to over-haul his diet too. He is fortunate to not have a chronic disease like Diabetes and we want to keep it that way.
I grew up in a neighborhood where there was no real grocery store. Like only one, full of pork, cornbread mix, hot sauce and fish-fry mixes. With all the fat-laden meats and sugary drinks to keep the people in a haze. We need to help our community by educating them of the real consequences of the ways they eat.

Kenya W. March 1, 2013 - 12:36 PM

I love this video. And unfortunately the message is true; we eat what we eat, because of what we have access to. Of course, we can make better choices, but the wealth of unhealthy options have been made so convenient in our “urban” neighborhoods. I think most black and browns would LIKE to make better choices but accessibility is a huge issue.

Ashleigh March 1, 2013 - 2:23 PM

Both videos were visually powerful–especially the first where the little boy is trying to get away from the sugary foods and then escapes the store and vomits them out. I almost have no words. Very evocative.

It makes me feel sad really. And overwhelmed. How can this be changed? Death by food. The only veggies one gets is from the Chinese food store. It also makes me more determined to improve the diet of my family so my girls grow up with this knowledge instead of struggling to learn like I am now.

Chemese March 2, 2013 - 3:33 PM

It sad that we have to worry about “food” killing us. The past four months I have learned so much about the way food is being process and it scares the hell out of me.

Jayde March 4, 2013 - 9:46 AM

Hey! So where did you watch the information about food being process so that I can scare the hell out of myself lol serious question! 🙂

LadyLittlefoot May 19, 2013 - 9:30 AM

The song/rap really hits home. I am moving back to Brooklyn at the end of the month and I dreading going back to the old neighborhood because every time I go it seems there is another fried food place. If I want to buy healthy quick meal I’d have to take my dollars out of the neighborhood. Most people just buy the fried and processed.

Christa August 11, 2013 - 1:59 PM

As an advocate for better eating I presented a proposal to the Mayor of the town of my birth and was told that it could not be opened because the assistant did not know how to open an attachment so I have to go the snail mail route (yay USPS) The proposal is for a bi-monthly farmers market to co-operate at the community health center. The area was birthed out of a plantation and the area has yet to ‘diversify’ its population. The residents are of color,public transportation dependent are aging and the closest grocery store that sells fresh foods is 5 miles away. So even when the message is trying to be shared it is cut off at the knees.

Erika Nicole Kendall August 12, 2013 - 5:54 PM

Wow. Sigh.

People’s preconceived notions about persons of color and “what they’d want” more often than not are what affect willingness to support this stuff. Sigh.

KalleyC September 24, 2013 - 4:26 PM

Both these video ring so true. I recently moved back into my old neighborhood and I’m shocked at the choices that I used to make. All around us, there is a takeout place on every other block, and there are more than one major chains in the same area. It’s a shame. I hate to say it, but I am glad that fresh direct does deliver fresh fruits and veggies on the days I cannot make it to the store, and I’m glad that I can at least drive to a grocery store that has what I want to feed my family.

The sad truth is, eating healthy is not really expensive, especially if you know what you’re doing, but if you’re new to it, it can look very expensive. Grass fed beef, organic, etc. Some people don’t realize that they can get a good meal out of legumes.

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