Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Married With Children.....& Rap

My wife and I recently attended the SXSW festival in Austin to see the Blacksmith Showcase featuring Reflection Eternal, Idle Warship, the return of the great John Forte', Homeboy Sandman and others. (I'll post video and pics as soon as my computer game gets better.)

The show was hosted by Hot 97 personality Peter Rosenberg who early in the show asked a question that has been stuck in my head since asked:

"How many of y'all are married with kids, and still love rap music?"

As is customary in Hip Hop I threw my hands in the air but the thought stuck with me. Young, single people are the ones leading the way in Hip Hop but I know for a fact that I'm not the only one in that position. I'm surrounded by folks in my shoes, but I began to ponder on whether or not this was a good thing.

I stated in my first post here that my parents disliked Rap but unbeknown est to them they introduced it to me. They were in their early 20's when the movement began to take shape and go more mainstream. I still remember my parents saying that Rap was just a fad that will play out like Disco but it didn't stop my dad from going cop the early records like The Beat Street Soundtrack and every record the Sugar Hill Label put out. My Dad made it a point that if a record was hot he didn't want to be without it if company came over and requested it. So now I'm officially indoctrinated into this "fad" that I've followed throughout my lifetime.

When I hit my teens I felt the urge to pick up the mic and spit. My friends would encourage me and at one point was close to getting a deal. But when that fell through I decided to put music on hold and take care of myself first. I went to jail, joined the Army, got married, had kids, went to war, had more kids, and then BOOM, here I am with the middle class, suburban life of football and basketball games, parent - teacher conferences, and frequent visits to a game room/pizza parlor owned and operated by a giant skateboarding rat whom shall remain nameless. But Rap has been with me the whole time.

I've spent many a night and road trip thinking about whether or not its good to let my kids listen to rap. Yes, my kids know how to do the "Stanky Leg" (much to my chagrin) but its no different then when we were doing the "Kid N Play" or bouncing and pausing with Jubilee. Both songs aren't exactly lyrical masterpieces but they are and were fun, so who am I to knock the joints that they find fun.

But its up to us to introduce them to what Hip Hop truly is!

When my 9-year old son got his first mp3 player I told him to give me a wish list of songs that he wanted. A lot of his list was whatever you will hear repeatedly on your local Hot, Z, Jammin, Power, Q or The Beat radio station but there was one selection that blew my mind:

Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five

"The Message"

I was floored!! I asked how did he know about this and he said he heard it in the movie "Happy Feet" and he googled the lyrics. I have to admit, this bought a Kool-Aid smile to my face. I gladly went to ITunes and bought it for him. Since then I've introduced him to MC Lyte, Special Ed, KRS-One, Ice Cube (even though he still refers to the Don Mega as "that dude in Are We There Yet"), Scarface, Em, M.I.A. and Kweli. And I think he's all the better for it.

My dad told me once that sometimes fathers have to put their own interests to the side so that their kids dreams can come true someday, so I'm not bitter. It's fun being just a fan of the music and culture. I still feel blessed to hear and see a great MC spit and tell real stories that I can relate to and exhibit a phenomenal mastery of words.

So whenever I'm in the car with my 3 sons they make sure they ask for "The Message" and we all sing along to the track (even my 4-year old knows the hook!). I can't help but to smile because I know that no matter how much cats complain about how hip hop is dying, in my own little way, I'm helping to keep Hip-Hop alive.

That feels better than any CD I could have ever dropped.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Rush Hour

We've all seen the scene before. It's the moment in the night that we anticipate.

The music is blasting, the dance floor is full, the drinks are flowing, everybody's feeling great, then the DJ makes that fateful announcement:

"Last call for alcohol!
Chaos is inevitable!
The great vibes everyone was feeling turns into udder pandemonium. Suddenly the DJ, who has been on point all night, plays some bullshit you can't dance to like "Elvira" by The Oak Ridge Boys or I don't know, Kanye West's "Say You Will (Chopped & Screwed Version)" to empty out the dance floor and causes a crush on the bar. But before I go any further I'm going to point out some of the players instrumental in the cause of this insanity. There's:
Dirty Dancing Girl who don't want nobody to dance on her.
You know or might be this specimen. You put on your sluttiest outfit, do pole tricks, splits and bend your goodness all out for the world to see. But the second you get a dude to step to you, suddenly the Holy Spirit and entered your body and you don't want that type of attention. Next:
Matching Shirts Dudes
This is an especially sad breed of specimen. For some strange reason you and two of your buddies think its a great idea to not be individuals or show some originality about yourselves, and wear matching shirts. OK I'll give you some credit, you do get attention from chicks, ("Why yall dressed alike?) but in my experience of club hopping since 16, about 80% of the time yall go home empty-handed or with rosy palms.
Obese Girl inappropiately dressed
Do I really need to go into detail about this one?
Baby Daddy Recruiters
This species has multiple offspring from multiple donors and they are now seeking that one sucker, I mean great guy with benefits, to come along and be generous enough to save, I mean help, her and her kids out. They usually don't tell you about the quantity of the kids they have but more about the quality. And it never dawns on them that its 2 a.m. on a school night and they are at the club and their kids are somewhere. And there will probably be a 70 - 90% chance that the person they end up leaving the club with at the end of the night will have already or will soon be procreating another crumbcrusher for us all to take care of.
Free Drinks Girl
Let's rewind the tape a decade or two. Back in the old school if a guy offered to buy you a drink, it was understood that acceptance of the drink was a unwritten and verbal contract between you and the purchaser of said drink that the two parties involved could conversate. IT DIDN'T MEAN YOU HAD TO SLEEP WITH THEM, just talk and see how things went after that. Your denial of the drink purchase was also understood that you were not interested in that party's company.
Now in this "Get it how you live, instant gratification" society, you have what I call "Alcohol Preadators" whose main goal is to get as many guys to buy them drinks as their livers would allow and not pay a dime for it. Nevermind the fact that they showed up to the club at 6:30 p.m. to get in free but now they will gladly let you but them a drink and then happily walk away from you without a Thank You, let alone the "illusion" of interest in you.
These types along with but not limited to:
Fight Club Girls (see Bad Girls Club)
Old Pimps with Balding Gray Cornrowed Hair
Pill Pushers
Pill Poppers
Lil Jon Fan Club Elbow Throwers
and everybody's favorite, The Cougars
Which we will touch on at a different date, leads to that old familiar scene at every club, every Thursday through Saturday night, all over the planet:
Rush Hour
Rush hour is that one hour before the club shutdown in which a fury of activity begins to take place. Everybody bumrushes the bar to get their last few overpriced drinks. Guys who've struck out all night begin to lower their standards and make an attempt to pull anything with (or without) a pulse out of the club. Fights break out, death threats are made to the DJ, and suddenly what started off as a fun night of music, drinks, and merriment turns into a test of survival.
How did it come to this?
Maybe its because we've had a stressful week and need to let off steam. Maybe its our everlasting pursuit to get a nut off. Maybe its every human being's need to feel special or to have some sort of connection with somebody........anybody.
The places change whether its Rumors, Whispers, OZ, Spurs, City Lights, Starz, Dynasty, Jamaica, it doesn't matter, the game remains the same.
It's just fun as hell to watch it!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Why Can't I Like Both?

What makes Hip-Hop and life in general more interesting is the great debates. You know what I mean:

Jay vs. Nas

Pac vs. Big

East vs. West

North vs. South

Underground vs. Mainstream

Gangsta vs. Revolutionary

Ross vs. 50

Fat Joe vs. 50

Ja Rule vs. 50

Kanye, Lil Wayne, The Game and basically half of the continent of North America vs. 50

Conservative vs. Liberal etc. etc. etc.

I would be lying if I said I didn't take part. I would always find myself falling into an endless hours long debate over why I think American Gangster is better than Reasonable Doubt (please don't start that one here) with my friends.

Well recently I had an epiphany:

What's the f****** point?

I mean really, what are we accomplishing with these debates? What are we learning? Why do I have to take sides? Why can't I like both?

In Hip-Hop especially there's seems to be a definitive line drawn in the sand between Artist A and Artist B and if I don't see what it is that you see that makes your artist great, then either I don't know what I'm talking about or I'm an asshole in general.

I'm from the South, born and raised, but I love N.Y. hip-hop just as much as Jeezy and Gucci Mane. OK. I don't know or particularly care for O.J. da Juiceman. Does that make me any less supportive of Southern hip-hop?

Love is a very dangerous word indeed. A lot of Hip Hop fans throw it around when it comes to their favorite artists and their albums. What ever happened to being reasonable and realistic? Of course there will be albums that are classics and live on forever but you can still enjoy the ones that will be forgotten tomorrow. Sometimes I think we act like sports fanatics. If they sold The Carter 3 or Illmatic car magnets and window flags, I'm willing to bet my meager salary from my day job that cats would run out and buy them. I wouldn't be surprised if cats had a sign in their front yard that says "All Eyez On Me" fans parking only.

There should only be a few things that you love in life: Your God, family, friends and maybe your job or career. Don't get caught up in the beef and debates and be realistic. Sure they can be fun for the sake of conversation but some of yall take it too far! Relax!! Don't be a Stan! Life is too short to take sides. It is just music by the way.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

So how did Hip-Hop save me?

The year was '86. Reaganomics was in full effect, Crack was making hood cats millionaires, and I was a snot-nosed living with my parents, who thanks to my father's grinding, raised us out of the poverty that engulfed every one else in our area.

Digging around in my dad's record collection I came across a 12' vinyl with the blue Jive label by an artist named Kool Moe Dee called "Go See the Doctor".

"I went to the doctor's office, I said "What have I got?"

He said 'Turn around boy and take this shot"

I looked at him like he was crazy, and I said "What?!'

Ain't nobody sticking nothing in my butt.

Now a song about getting burned by a chick went completely over the head of an 8-year old, (I just thought that the word 'butt' on a record was endless comedy) but it was at that moment I fell in love with Hip-Hop.

Soon after my parents separated and just like a majority of my peers I was residing in a single parent household with just my mother (who hated hip hop) who drilled me with an endless dose of gospel music (she even hated gospel hip hop). But thanks to my friends, Rap City, and Yo! MTV Raps, I didn't miss out on the conscious P.E. movement and the rise of the Gangsta / Ruffneck sound.

It wasn't until '91 that I bought my first album "Naughty By Nature" (laugh if you want to but O.P.P. was irresistible). The song that connected with me the most was "Ghetto Bastard (Everything's Gonna Be Alright)". Now I wasn't a bastard in any sense but my early teen angst along with sitting in the hood, single parent apartment, friends in the same position as me, helped me the relate with Treach's lyrics:

"A ghetto bastard, born next to the projects,

Livin' in the slums with bums, I say now why Treach,

Do I have to be like this? Momma said I'm priceless

So I am, I'm worthless, starving, and that's just what being nice gets"

Over the next few years I came to realize the importance of the songs I was listening to. From Ed O.G. & The Bulldogs to Brotha Lynch Hung, I ran the gambit. From positive to horrorcore, from stuntin' to sad stories, from legends to one hitter quitters. I believed in the stories that I heard because I was seeing them unfold before my eyes. I saw my friends go from rocking their clothes backwards (See Kriss Kross) to Dickies Khakis and Chuck Taylors in the span of a school year. I lost friends who the year before we rolled worldwide on our Huffy's together, then by the end of the summer they chunking me the deuce as they rolled by in their Cutlass bumping the new Spice 1 tape.

My mother took me to see "Boyz N Tha Hood' with my cousin who had seen it twice already and was in full West Coast gangsta attire. While I looked on with sadness as Ricky got gunned down he's sitting next to me giggling. After we dropped off home my mother made an announcement to me: "If I see you acting like anything in that movie, I'll kill you myself!". Needless to say my wish for a Dickies khaki outfit went out the window. My cousin would go on to see countless nights in jail for everything from selling dope, to assaults before he straighten his life out.

Now could I have went the route of so many of my peers? Easily.

Do I blame Hip-Hop? Never.

I have 3 sons of my own (by my wife) who listen to Hip-Hop (even though I cringe at some of it). In a nation that quickly seeks someone else to blame (See Asher Roth's "hacked" twitter account) for their own personal failures and mistakes the music we love should inspire you to either avoid or go towards the lifestyles you listen to. I accept the responsibility of the failure of my kids behavior due to the influence of rappers, trappers, pimps and the occasional revolutionary.

Hip-Hop did save my life. There are thousands of songs that warned of the pitfalls of life in these streets but at the end of the day it was those closest to me that helped steer me in the right direction. I learned that from Hip-Hop too.