You’ve probably already heard about the controversy surrounding the new board game Ghettopoly? If you haven’t, then let me first say that no, this is not a joke. The board game, which is loosely patterned after Monopoly, used to be available at most Urban Outfitters stores for a little more than $20, although it appears they no longer want the drama.
There are a lot of things that bother me about the game, at least by what I’ve managed to read about it. I never had the opportunity to drive to Ann Arbor or East Lansing — the two closest Urban Outfitters outlets — and check it out up close and personal, but I figured I could at least call both stores to check up on business. Guess what? Both stores have stopped selling the game. The Philadelphia-based chain decided to pull the game following protests from the NAACP and others.
“We’re sold out and won’t be selling it anymore. The only place I know of where you can still get it is on eBay,” said a salesperson from the East Lansing location. Just for fun I decided to check eBay last Thursday afternoon and found sellers seeking as much as $250 for games before bidding was shut down.
That same day, the game’s online store at yahoo.com was barred from taking new orders — apparently for violating a Yahoo ban on the sale of obscene, vulgar, offensive and otherwise inappropriate stuff — but the site posted a promise to fill the existing backlog of orders by mid-December.
Looks like the controversy has had an effect, which is good, but the game still bugs me for a couple of reasons. The obvious complaints have been stated by the Kwesi Mfumes and Al Sharptons and others, namely that the game is a blatant insult to the African-American community. The game’s creator uses the ugliest of black urban stereotypes — pimps, prostitutes, Uzis, drugs, crackhouses, etc. — as the main attraction for the game. This fool apparently thinks this is funny and entertaining.
The other thing that really bothered me about this “game” is who the creator is. David Chang is a 28-year-old Taiwanese immigrant whose family moved to the United States when he was 8. What’s worse is that Chang admitted that he has never lived anywhere near the hood, and that he did most of his so-called research by watching MTV and playing video games.
The result is a package that, according to his Web site, includes: game board, loan shark tray, 40 crack houses, 17 projects, pink slip cards, ghetto stash and hustle cards, 7 game pieces (pimp, ho, 40 oz., machine gun, marijuana leaf, basketball and crack), counterfeit money, and 2 dice (non-metallic).
But what’s even harder to stomach for me is the part that we as African-Americans have played in this whole mess. For example, if some of these videos produced by today’s young stars weren’t so aggressively promoting the lifestyle that has been translated into Chang’s game, then perhaps the game never would have been created in the first place.
Granted, it can hardly be called “research” when someone plays games and watches MTV to figure out an entire culture, but if MTV and the entertainment world weren’t flooded with all that crap that Chang perversely interpreted as “research” then maybe it wouldn’t be giving folks like Chang the idea that they have the green light to join the party.
In short, we provided the board for the board game. Chang just provided the pieces.
Want a good example of what I’m talking about? Check out Pimp Juice.
Unlike Ghettopoly, Pimp Juice was not created by a Taiwanese immigrant. It was not created by any immigrant. Pimp Juice was not created by The Man. Pimp Juice is an actual beverage being promoted by rap star Nelly, who just a few short months ago launched the marketing campaign for his brand-new energy drink that is named after his hit song of the same name.
Check out what the Beverage Network Web site says about Pimp Juice, which it lists as one of its Top 10 along with Red Bull, Orbitz, Bong Water, XS Energy Drink, and Starbucks Frappuccino. I guess Pimp Juice be helping dem other drinks to keep it real.
“When it gets hot in ‘herre,’ you can cool down and hype up with Pimp Juice, Hip Hop SuperStar Nelly’s new energy drink,” reads the headline across the top of the page.
“Nelly is the newest musical artist looking to diversify his portfolio and conquer new entrepreneurial ventures. In addition to his successful male clothing line, Vokal, Nelly just launched his female clothing line, Apple Bottoms, with a nationwide search for the Apple Bottoms Girl. Nelly also has an innovative new member-based fan site, Nellynell.net, and holds part ownership of a NASCAR team. All of this combined with his young record label, Derry Entertainment, makes this young artist, and now entrepreneur, one of the most sought after new moguls around.
“Visit the web site at http://www.letitloose.com to learn more about the product and rest-assured, that Nelly will be straight pimpin’ in the energy market with Pimp Juice!
“And just so you know, Pimp Juice is good for you too! It is made up of 10 percent apple juice, with 100 percent vitamin C, B6, B12, riboflavin, niacin, and panothenic acid.
“Its sweet yet tart flavor mixes perfectly with numerous vodkas and lends flavor to your game. With the assistance of taurine, guarana, and natural sugars, this drink will help you party all night long and give you that added edge in the game. … The can is a sleek and shiny gold and silver, classy yet edgy with the coolest of names. The drink, itself, is bright green especially under the lights of the hottest night clubs.
“Promotions in the works include a reality documentary and a nationwide contest targeted at college students.” (Outraged italics mine.)
Can you resist? Now check out the chorus to the Pimp Juice song:
Pimp juice — oooooooooh-ooooooooh-hoooooooo / I think I need to let it loose (might think I need to let it loose) / Let her loose, let her loooooose / She only want me for my pimp juice (that’s all she want me for f’real) / Not my pimp juice, I’m talkin new pimp juice / I think I need to cut her loose (it’s time for homegirl to recognize) / Yes I do, yes I doooooo-hoooo
I repeat: Pimp Juice was not created by The Man. Ghettopoly may be the house that Chang built, but he got all the help he needed from folks like Nelly.
In my last column I incorrectly stated that Milton “Heavyfoot” Austin’s weekly Thursday night jam session at Nancy Whiskey’s was started by him alone. The jam session was initially started by both Milton and blues vocalist Cee Cee. I wish to extend my sincere apologies to Cee Cee. I did not intend to overlook her contribution.Keith A. Owens is a Detroit-area writer and musician. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org