Pop Culture, Race & Politics, Theory & Essay

can’t knock the hustle?

jay_z_001_110507

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“.

“huh?”

“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?”

“yup”

“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”

“oh.”

(pause)

“no remorse at all?”

“a couple songs here and there but not really.”

(another pause)

“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.

—the champ

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Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a contributing editor for EBONY.com. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't.

  • charli skipp

    my momma has had a crush on jay z ever since she saw him perform at inauguation. “that’s a baaaaaaaaaaad thang right there,” she says. but, like your father, she has a romanticized view of him. whenever she sees him now she’s like, “where is his suit at!?” and when i spread the rumor to her about him getting mad at beyonce for disagreeing with kanye her response was something like, “oh heeeeeeeeeeeeeeells no. she done married the WRONG one.” still, though, i think she has a crush on him.

    • voiceovereason

      @charli skipp,

      “and when i spread the rumor to her…”

      Spreading rumors to your momma? Hahaha!

      • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

        @voiceovereason,

        “Spreading rumors to your momma”

        definitely should be a title of a chitlin circuit play

        • Gem of the Ocean

          @The Champ,

          lol

          • Freaknik

            @Gem of the Ocean,

            LOL. Im dyin from that one.

          • Freaknik

            @Gem of the Ocean,

            LOL. Im dyin from that one.

        • Gem of the Ocean

          @The Champ,

          lol

        • fubych

          @The Champ,
          “chitlin circuit” should be one of the words/phrases buried with the other racist/ignorant words.

        • fubych

          @The Champ,
          “chitlin circuit” should be one of the words/phrases buried with the other racist/ignorant words.

        • voiceovereason

          @The Champ,

          LOL. You’re right.

        • voiceovereason

          @The Champ,

          LOL. You’re right.

      • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

        @voiceovereason,

        “Spreading rumors to your momma”

        definitely should be a title of a chitlin circuit play

    • voiceovereason

      @charli skipp,

      “and when i spread the rumor to her…”

      Spreading rumors to your momma? Hahaha!

  • charli skipp

    my momma has had a crush on jay z ever since she saw him perform at inauguation. “that’s a baaaaaaaaaaad thang right there,” she says. but, like your father, she has a romanticized view of him. whenever she sees him now she’s like, “where is his suit at!?” and when i spread the rumor to her about him getting mad at beyonce for disagreeing with kanye her response was something like, “oh heeeeeeeeeeeeeeells no. she done married the WRONG one.” still, though, i think she has a crush on him.

  • http://www.awesomelyluvvie.com Thuggie Luvvie

    Wait… WHAT?

    *confused by post*

    • charli skipp

      @Thuggie Luvvie,
      it reminds me of that tv show, “the wonder years.” idk. i just tried to roll with it. lol

    • charli skipp

      @Thuggie Luvvie,
      it reminds me of that tv show, “the wonder years.” idk. i just tried to roll with it. lol

    • Me fail english?

      @Thuggie Luvvie,

      lol. Good and interesting drop. But without the question prompts I’m not sure what I should be doing here…

      …pudding anyone?

      • http://www.sistersoundoff.blogspot.com Cheekie

        @Me fail english?,

        LOL, I know. I was Ctrl-F-ing for that dayum wrap-up question. That question leads us. We are lost without the question. The question is the Moses rod to our blog comments.

        • charli skipp

          @Cheekie,
          I just felt like this was meant to be the VSB existentialism post. What does it all mean. Why are we heeeeeeeeere? lol

        • charli skipp

          @Cheekie,
          I just felt like this was meant to be the VSB existentialism post. What does it all mean. Why are we heeeeeeeeere? lol

      • http://www.sistersoundoff.blogspot.com Cheekie

        @Me fail english?,

        LOL, I know. I was Ctrl-F-ing for that dayum wrap-up question. That question leads us. We are lost without the question. The question is the Moses rod to our blog comments.

      • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

        @Me fail english?, amazing how if no question is asked, folks dont know what to do…

        • overit

          @Panama Jackson, vs be animal farm! lmao

        • overit

          @Panama Jackson, vs be animal farm! lmao

      • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

        @Me fail english?, amazing how if no question is asked, folks dont know what to do…

    • Me fail english?

      @Thuggie Luvvie,

      lol. Good and interesting drop. But without the question prompts I’m not sure what I should be doing here…

      …pudding anyone?

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @Thuggie Luvvie,

      confuse deez

      wait. nevermind. that sounds painful.

      • http://ravingblacklunatic.blogspot.com Big Man

        @The Champ,

        Hmmm, I wouldn’t call him unrepentant, just not ashamed about what he did.
        I mean, there are songs on every album Jay has dropped talking about how the hustling lifestyle has a whole host of problems. He’s basically admitted he was addicted to the thrill, and that he was reveling in genocide.

        But, he also admits that he had a great time doing it, and isn’t sure he would do anything different in his past.

        Seems like a fairly honest and normal response. I mean, I think fornication is wrong and look at the problems it caused my life, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to pretend that I didn’t enjoy it when I did it. Or that I’m positive that I would be able to resist the allure if I had a time machine. Seems like Jigga is a human being.

        • charli skipp

          @Big Man,
          You know what? I like this comment.

        • charli skipp

          @Big Man,
          You know what? I like this comment.

        • http://www.sistersoundoff.blogspot.com Cheekie

          @Big Man,

          “Seems like Jigga is a human being.”

          He’s a camel.

          • charli skipp

            @Cheekie,
            *devastated lil mama face*

          • charli skipp

            @Cheekie,
            *devastated lil mama face*

        • http://www.sistersoundoff.blogspot.com Cheekie

          @Big Man,

          “Seems like Jigga is a human being.”

          He’s a camel.

      • http://ravingblacklunatic.blogspot.com Big Man

        @The Champ,

        Hmmm, I wouldn’t call him unrepentant, just not ashamed about what he did.
        I mean, there are songs on every album Jay has dropped talking about how the hustling lifestyle has a whole host of problems. He’s basically admitted he was addicted to the thrill, and that he was reveling in genocide.

        But, he also admits that he had a great time doing it, and isn’t sure he would do anything different in his past.

        Seems like a fairly honest and normal response. I mean, I think fornication is wrong and look at the problems it caused my life, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to pretend that I didn’t enjoy it when I did it. Or that I’m positive that I would be able to resist the allure if I had a time machine. Seems like Jigga is a human being.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @Thuggie Luvvie,

      confuse deez

      wait. nevermind. that sounds painful.

  • http://www.awesomelyluvvie.com Thuggie Luvvie

    Wait… WHAT?

    *confused by post*

  • http://thinkprettysmart.typepade.com Ms. Smart

    Ha!!! I think similar conversations are going on all over the world. My mother was quite disappointed to find out Biggie only have a couple of albums.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @Ms. Smart,

      so was diddy, lol. just think how many biggie albums would have been posthumously produced if he was half as prolific as tupac?

      • http://lmbao.org Dorian G.

        @The Champ,

        U mean as willing to live in the booth like Pac. Pac gets all the props in the world for that cuz he started ni99as on staying in the booth and knocking out tracks.

      • http://lmbao.org Dorian G.

        @The Champ,

        U mean as willing to live in the booth like Pac. Pac gets all the props in the world for that cuz he started ni99as on staying in the booth and knocking out tracks.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @Ms. Smart,

      so was diddy, lol. just think how many biggie albums would have been posthumously produced if he was half as prolific as tupac?

  • http://thinkprettysmart.typepade.com Ms. Smart

    Ha!!! I think similar conversations are going on all over the world. My mother was quite disappointed to find out Biggie only have a couple of albums.

  • http://naturallyalise.blogspot.com Naturally Alise

    As I get older I am starting to resent or be embarrassed about a lot of the rapper/rap music that I once was a proud stan of… like I can’t reconcile my love of the grittiest of rappers with my way of thinking now. The more I try to justify those likes the more ridiculous I feel/sound… so Champ I can relate….

    I feel old. “Growing up can be a pain…” (c) New Edition

    • Gem of the Ocean

      @Naturally Alise,

      i have the embarrassment. especially when talking to my parents about the music i like, used to like, and the general popular music artists (or so they call themselves) out these days.

      having these talks with my parentals def makes me do some soul searching.

    • Gem of the Ocean

      @Naturally Alise,

      i have the embarrassment. especially when talking to my parents about the music i like, used to like, and the general popular music artists (or so they call themselves) out these days.

      having these talks with my parentals def makes me do some soul searching.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

      @Naturally Alise, you know, i have never had that problem. NWA is my favorite rap group of all time. period. jay is probably my favorite rapper (with a close or equaly second being Andre 3000). there is definitely no dearth of questionable (to say the least) content yet i feel no conflict within myself at what i love or my way of thinking. mostly b/c for me, they’re all able to co-exist. i think everything has context and if put in proper context its possible to still appreciate those things.

      now i may not blast my NWA album as loud as i used to when i see kids around or even ever listen to it around my own kid, but the music is still as good to me now as it was then.

      while there may be no real retort or way to justify to one’s parents the rapper role models, i mean, i love eazy e, but then again, i wouldnt even try to…its pretty indefensible.

      so i just say, i like what i like and i do what i want, i smoke crack in the bathroom.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

      @Naturally Alise, you know, i have never had that problem. NWA is my favorite rap group of all time. period. jay is probably my favorite rapper (with a close or equaly second being Andre 3000). there is definitely no dearth of questionable (to say the least) content yet i feel no conflict within myself at what i love or my way of thinking. mostly b/c for me, they’re all able to co-exist. i think everything has context and if put in proper context its possible to still appreciate those things.

      now i may not blast my NWA album as loud as i used to when i see kids around or even ever listen to it around my own kid, but the music is still as good to me now as it was then.

      while there may be no real retort or way to justify to one’s parents the rapper role models, i mean, i love eazy e, but then again, i wouldnt even try to…its pretty indefensible.

      so i just say, i like what i like and i do what i want, i smoke crack in the bathroom.

  • http://naturallyalise.blogspot.com Naturally Alise

    As I get older I am starting to resent or be embarrassed about a lot of the rapper/rap music that I once was a proud stan of… like I can’t reconcile my love of the grittiest of rappers with my way of thinking now. The more I try to justify those likes the more ridiculous I feel/sound… so Champ I can relate….

    I feel old. “Growing up can be a pain…” (c) New Edition

  • MizThickaDenThick

    I thinnk the battle between old and young will continue forever b/c I find myself having the same convo’s with teens and im only 24.

    Why is it that people assume that just because you are an educator that your musical styles and tastes for different things alcohol should stop or change?!

    And my pastor tried me like two weeks ago on my T.I. knowledge. Wats up with that…SMH

    • Lili

      @MizThickaDenThick,

      You…..might wanna consider changing churches…

      • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

        @Lili, i don’t know…T.I.’s “no matter what” was pretty inspirational.

        “what up, whats happenin'” on the other hand…not so much.

        center hill, cedar ave, that’s where i be suuuuuuuucka…

        • Lili

          @Panama Jackson,
          On the contrary, “What’s up, what’s happenin'” is a song that gets my adrenaline pumping and is a great workout song. I like it for road trips too.

        • Lili

          @Panama Jackson,
          On the contrary, “What’s up, what’s happenin'” is a song that gets my adrenaline pumping and is a great workout song. I like it for road trips too.

      • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

        @Lili, i don’t know…T.I.’s “no matter what” was pretty inspirational.

        “what up, whats happenin'” on the other hand…not so much.

        center hill, cedar ave, that’s where i be suuuuuuuucka…

    • Lili

      @MizThickaDenThick,

      You…..might wanna consider changing churches…

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @MizThickaDenThick,

      Why is it that people assume that just because you are an educator that your musical styles and tastes for different things alcohol should stop or change?!

      lol, because maybe they should.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @MizThickaDenThick,

      Why is it that people assume that just because you are an educator that your musical styles and tastes for different things alcohol should stop or change?!

      lol, because maybe they should.

  • MizThickaDenThick

    I thinnk the battle between old and young will continue forever b/c I find myself having the same convo’s with teens and im only 24.

    Why is it that people assume that just because you are an educator that your musical styles and tastes for different things alcohol should stop or change?!

    And my pastor tried me like two weeks ago on my T.I. knowledge. Wats up with that…SMH

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