By Ada Zhang
Unless you’ve been hibernating in the arctic tundra for the past few months, you have probably heard of Miley Cyrus’ controversial shenanigans or seen a .gif of her twerking at the VMAs.
After taking a hiatus from music, Miley has certainly made a strong come-back. Her new wardrobe, which apparently consists only of crop tops and disco shorts, screams “I’m no longer Hannah Montana!” and with every new single, Miley acts more and more provocative.
Mike Will’s new song, “23,” features Miley, Juicy J and Wiz Kalifa. Miley raps a few verses in this song, and it is horrendous.
The song is supposed to be a tribute to Michael Jordan, but I don’t really understand how. Indeed, the song’s title is “23,” which was Jordan’s jersey number in the NBA. However, nowhere in the song is Jordan’s athletic skill ever mentioned. The song just keeps repeating “J’s on my feet,” referring to the Nike Jordan shoe brand.
The “23” music video is set in an inner-city high school. It starts out ominously. We see grungy teenagers lounging around wearing beanies and studded leather jackets. Miley’s character is smoking in the bathroom in slow motion. Then the bell rings, the beat drops and the song begins.
The lyrics make explicit drug references. Miley is “high off purp” (purp is slang for promethesine) and Wiz talks about getting high. In the video, Miley suggestively pantomimes smoking marijuana.
Miley sends the message that if you do drugs, you are with the “in” crowd. You are cool. You roll with an entourage and have sassy hair. I guess it just slipped Miley’s mind to mention how substance abuse can affect cognition, a person’s overall physical health and worst of all, it can destroy relationships.
In addition to promoting drugs, the song glamorizes the inner-city lifestyle and urban youth culture in which drugs are typically involved.
While the song completely fails to honor the most influential basketball player of all time, it succeeds at inadvertently pointing out that people from every socioeconomic class want J’s on their feet. It’s just a matter of how to get them.
In 1992, Michael Jordan became a spokesperson for Nike. This marketing tactic was remarkably successful because it reached out to both the white and African-American population, two different socioeconomic stratas. Jordans became a must-have, a symbol of chic and swag.
Sociologist Mary Patillo-McCoy conducted a study on African-American neighborhoods and found out that young drug dealers spend a substantial amount of their earnings on shoes- specifically, on Jordans. Owning different colors and styles of Jordans became a part of, as Patillo-McCoy quaintly put it, the “gansta lifestyle.”
Poor or rich, everyone finds a way to get their feet into a pair of expensive, shiny, clean Jordans.
McCoy would say that Miley has been sucked into the “ghetto trance.” Miley is romanticizing what it’s like to live in the ghetto, go to a school where kids smoke in the bathroom, and be immersed in drug culture.
All of this is make-believe for Miley. At the end of the day, she rides in limos, travels in a private jet and enjoys the luxuries of being rich and famous.
For youth who really live in lower class inner-city neighborhoods, getting sucked into the ghetto trance has serious repercussions. By adopting the thug persona, they are likely to become actual thugs due to the gang violence and drug activity surrounding them. They can’t get high one night and perform on Good Morning America the next morning. Compartmentalizing their life like that is not an option.
Many may argue that “23” is just a song, and therefore, not to be taken seriously. And this is true to some extent. Time and time again, however, media has proven itself capable of affecting society in powerful ways.
While Miley and her entourage make money rapping about drugs and Jordans, less fortunate youth are dealing with the very real pressure and allure of entering the drug dealing business to make quick cash.
Not everyone can legally get a pair of J’s on their feet. Maybe Miley and her entourage should think about that the next time they make a song condoning drugs and romanticizing the ghetto. Or maybe Miley should just never rap again.