my parents love to impress me with their contemporary urban (heh) music knowledge. there isn’t a week that passes without them telling me about an npr piece they recently listened to about the connection between japan and wu-tang or how “someone called brown thinking or something from the roots” is featured on their new santana cd.
they then chide that they know more about “my” music than i know about theirs, and to prove their point they’ll play some obscure pat metheny track and shake their heads when i can’t tell them what album its from.
so, it wasn’t a surprise last weekend when my dad jokingly asked “how come you weren’t down with jay-z and the rocafella crew? we’d all be millionaires with bentleys now” after seeing a jay-z commercial at halftime of the steeler game last weekend. apparently, he’d just read some article somewhere about jay-z’s vast influence and empire and wanted to show off his newfound knowledge
“well, he and everyone else in his circle is like 40 and from new york city, so we’d have to mess with the space-time continuum for that to happen” i replied, adding,
“plus, i would have had to deal drugs too“.
“yeah. him and most of the rest of his crew sold drugs before they got into music.”
“oh, like biggie? ok. well, as long as he’s doing something good with his life now, i won’t begrudge him for being a corner boy or something when he was much younger. we all make mistakes.”
“eh. actually he wasn’t just a corner boy. from what i understand he was more barksdale than bodie, and actually made quiet a fortune doing it.”
“oh. is that right?”
“did he ever go to prison or anything like fiddy cent?”
***yes. he actually said “fiddy“. between this and the biggie comment, i’m now convinced my parents have a subscription to the source ***
“not that i know of, at least not for a significant time.”
“well, did he at least make some songs about dangers of that lifestyle, to dissuade anyone from trying to emulate him?”
“nah. in fact he brags for maybe five albums straight about how great of a drug dealer and pimp he was. his rap empire is practically based on that”
“no remorse at all?”
“a couple songs here and there but not really.”
“thats very interesting, champ” my dad remarks, before leaving the living room to check on his pork roast.
for those not well-versed in champsdadspeak, him pausing, saying “thats very interesting, champ” and leaving is his way of saying
“so, lemme get this straight: the person you all have anointed the king of rap was an unrepentant drug kingpin who’s made multi millions bragging about his fortune in blood money? your generation disgusts me. plus. how could you, an educator who’s lost at least 10 kids to drug violence, call this guy one of your favorite rappers?”
if he would have actually asked that question, i probably would have responded with some cliche about separating the man from the art, and i would have cited people like martin scorsese who produce violent films but are (rightly) thought of and lauded as geniuses. i probably would have also mentioned something about the kennedy’s making good out of a criminal past, that we all have demons, and how we can’t judge how truly repentant someone is…and it all would have been bullsh*t.
in hindsight, i’m glad he walked away and didn’t ask because i’ve never really thought about how stupid my answer sounds.
maybe i should start.