Team Future or Team Desiigner: What Happens When That Black Business Ain't What You Thought It Was? / by Aquillia Mikel

ItsRoutine ain’t Drake- but you couldn’t tell me that the first time I listened to Erykah Badu’s “But You Cain’t Use My Phone” mixtape. First, because I knew that Erykah and Drake knew each other it was logical for him to join the project, and also, I just wasn’t expecting anyone else to sound so much like him. You would think I would have been more woke by the time Desiigner dropped “Panda” like a month later, but I was still happily watching Panda dance routines on Youtube thinking that it was Future. (And I wasn’t the only one.) Also, unrelated, Desiigner is substantially younger than me. How do these trap-producing children keep getting favorited in my Iphone playlists? (I’m looking at you, Rae Sremmurd.) At any rate, those two got me thinking about my bird tendency to get lost in cool beats, but also this whole controversy surrounding Black owned companies that were (but are no more) and Black owned companies that have remained just that. Understandably, people have a reason to be all up in arms when they believe a company to be Black-owned, but have a whole ‘nother face running the game console. (This is just how my brain works- keep reading if you would like to see more of mental inner workings.) But, I’m not talking about companies that pretend to be Black owned to get Black dollars- they’re trash. I’m talking about companies that started out with a voice we recognized and came to love, and then switched up the game on us with this brand new person who sounds and operates like you- BUT AIN’T YOU.

Before you continue reading- I need you to choose a side. You are either metaphorically Team Future (which is translated to Black Owned or Bust) or metaphorically Team Desiigner (which is translated to I’m Wit It If They’re Wit Me). I’m not going to tell you which team is the right one to be on- I will just tell you what I believe the philosophy of each one is. Got your team? Ok- let’s gets started.

Team Future (Black Owned Or Bust)

If you’re on this team, you are probably livid any time one of our Black owned giants merges or sells to another (whiter) corporation. BET did it, Carol’s Daughter did it, (we’ll get to both of them later) and many smaller companies did it that you may not even know about yet. And, no- I won’t be posting them here because one of the characteristics of belonging to Team Future is that you are good at doing research. You started supporting Black businesses because you understood that by doing so you were helping to circulate those dollars back into the community. You were siphoning money away from big corporations that don’t see Black consumers as human beings. We know that Black owned businesses hire more Black employees (shout out to the Gazelle Index) which is definitely a plus. Public profiles of Black entrepreneurship provide examples for our children to aspire to- that feeling of “if they can do it, my kid can do it, too”. They certainly have an investment in creating educational opportunities for our youth and redeveloping our hoods- and I’m here for all of that.

When BET was bought by Viacom, Robert Johnson had someone to assume the majority of his debt (and he had HELLA) and still provide resources to see it grow. He believed that there were some benefits to it (BET could get help from CBS in expanding its news operations and BET could gain global distribution for its music channel BET on Jazz), but my issue came when the merge was said to “better help the Black community.” Besides that amazing Prince tribute at the BET awards and the acquisition of my faves over at Black + Sexy TV, I haven’t seen much growth, have you? This is what makes this argument so strong- conscious consumers know that mergers have the potential to bring about false promises or a lack of genuine interest in the community- which is completely fair. It also brings about potential lack of representation when it comes to decision making. And also- what about legacy? Dang- can WE create something and keep it in the fam for once? When we’re in charge- we have the say on who we pass it down to. When we don’t run the show, we just sit back and watch our hard work be passed through the lineage of someone else. Because of our emotional attachment to entrepreneurs that look like us, we get mad when we think one of us can do better, because we’re not here for anything other than Black excellence. I get you, Team Future- but let’s look at the other side, too.

 

Team Desiigner (I’m Wit It If They’re Wit Me)

Just to be real about it- some of ya’ll weren’t really about supporting Black businesses exclusively until VERY recently (at the max 5 years ago), and some of these businesses had been struggling for a WHILE.  When Carol’s Daughter “joined the L’Oreal family”, it was because she didn’t want to worry if her company could stand the test of time because of some of economic pressures that specifically exist for entrepreneurs of color. Business is a long game, and what she created for women of color is something that is still very necessary and prominent in our culture. Her love for the women that she created for didn’t get scooped up with her acquisition- it was just that she didn’t want her business to vanish. We all know that love don’t pay the bills. We don’t know what funds she started with or what her economic journey had been up until the point of selling.

Many of you want to project their zeal for why they believe that Black entrepreneurs should exist- on people who may not have the same vision that you have for them. Maybe some Black businesses who sell to non- Black companies aren’t trying to change the world- maybe they just want to make sure that their families are good- and that’s ok, too. Entrepreneurs do not have to be moved to social activism because that is what the times or society are pressing them to do. And who’s to say with greater economic freedom that they can’t do more to inspire change?  realize more and more that folks love to tell OTHER folks what they should be doing with THEIR money. If the CEOs of these companies want to sell and decide to stay on to direct the vision that they had in the first place, that’s their choice. As a consumer, you have the freedom to say “I ain’t wit it” and scoot your All Black Everything dollars elsewhere. This sensationalist discussion of “selling out” comes with a luxury of not being directly involved with the financial matters at hand. Everybody wanna be in Carol’s wallet, but don’t want to pay her bills.

At the end of the day, I rock with Future at the club and the cookout and Desiigner’s “Tiimmy Turner” puts me in a crazygoodtrippy mood that I will only let Snapchat capture. Future has made some questionable life choices that ain’t my business and I will never really know if Desiigner practiced in his bedroom mirror at night until he got the perfect Future pitch down. What I do know is that just like I have a choice on whose concert tickets I actually buy and who I simply stream on Apple Music, I am fortunate enough that Black people continuously create, buy, and own in order to give us a choice on whether we can even support Black businesses only or not. We all win when that happens.