Cameron (Cam) Jerell Newton is developing into one of those type of iconic players that come around once or twice in a generation. His talent, combined with his camera presence and showmanship, have become the talk of the nation and a prime target for mountains of criticism. Regardless, as potentially the new face of the NFL, Cam and his team have set the stage for him to become one of the most iconic figures of a new generation. This is a generation that is becoming more and more infatuated with hip-hop culture. Here we will explore his relevance to hip-hop and what his emergence means for the African American community.
What’s the big deal?
There were not high expectations for Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers at the start of their 2015 campaign. Many figured that they would fall somewhere in the middle of the 32 teamed NFL at best. As it turned out, this was not the case. “I think we crashed the party,” said head coach Ron Rivera during a Friday afternoon press conference. His response came after a reporter asked him about the amount of criticism his team had been receiving. The Panthers saw their media time increase as the season progressed, most of it circling around their 6-foot 5-inch, 248-pound quarterback – Cam Newton. Not all of it was glamorous. From tearing down opposing team banners to excessive celebrating, everything was under the microscope for the new elite quarterback in the game. Many have cited his “dabbing” celebrations as being arrogant and the cause for most of the attention, while others blame race as the key cause for the scrutiny. However, if we dig a little deeper, the real issue is very c lear and could mean great things for the black community.
It’s not a black thing
ESPN analyst and former NFL safety Ryan Clark pointed to the true issue hiding just a layer behind the race card. “This isn’t about racism,” Clark claims before pointing the finger at Newton’s culture: the hip-hop culture. Cam Newton’s roots lie in Atlanta, Georgia, the new Mecca of hip hop as it stands today, so it makes sense that he carries traits of the culture with him. This isn’t new to the NFL; many teams welcome those traits in their wide outs and defensive backs, but as the leader of a franchise, a winning franchise, it turned some heads, as many of the viewing audience find this hard to accept.
For proof of this being a case of cultural discrimination rather than racial, one would only have to examine the other successful “brown skin” quarterback, Russell Wilson. Wilson has seen tremendous success in his career and has a lot of similarities to Newton as far as playing style. However, Wilson has not been faced with the same controversies as Newton and has been easily accepted by the masses. “Russell Wilson doesn’t dance,” Clark pointed out, alluding to the fact that the only major difference between the two is their culture. “Young Jeezy and Future aren’t coming to Russell Wilson’s games.”
The fact of the matter is this: Newton’s emergence marks the beginning of a new era, an era in which the culture of hip hop will be accepted on a nationwide scale. This acceptance won’t happen overnight, of course, and it won’t be solely because of Cam Newton either. A simple awareness of today’s society will reveal the ever-growing influence of hip-hop culture in America. Hip-hop super stars such as Nicki Minaj and Drake continue to blur the lines between hip-hop and pop music, giving hip-hop a greater presence in the music world. Straight Outta Compton, a biographical film that follows the rise and fall of hip hop group N.W.A., shattered box office expectations, becoming the 2nd highest grossing African American film of all time, just to name a few examples.
Hip-hop: The new norm
The transition will be met with adversity, as is the case with any major change, but the inevitable is the inevitable. With the younger generation having an icon such as Cam Newton to emulate, the influence of hip hop on generations to come will be cemented. This will be a victory for future generations of young black men, as they will feel less obligated to follow perceived rules of conduct that would limit their expression of self, as they take on the already hefty task of being effective leaders. This freedom from limiting their emotional response will elevate more African Americans in their roles in their profession, community and society in general. What this means for the black community is insight where before there was misinterpretation and ignorance. Hip hop was created by black youth in the streets of America, and it’s inclusion as a social norm will make the African American footprint on America even more relevant.