The Very Smart Brothas Guide To The Levels of Blackness

TetrisBetween Meek Mill, Candy Crush, and Very Smart Brothas, levels are having the greatest year ever. The fun part about levels is that they’re something people can understand, unlike Matrix 2 which nobody could understand, well except for the people who claim that they could understand it when nobody else could which makes some sense since, ya know, there’s levels to this sh*t. See what I did there?

By the way, its important to note that, “Levels” – the song by Meek Mill, the most yellin-est rapper of all time – is a smart dumb ninja song. It’s one of those songs that’s not deep at all, but some people will claim its deep, thereby informing you and everybody around you that said person who thinks its deep has either been to jail or is likely to go jail at some point. See also Pastor Troy “Vice Versa”. I do judge people who find “Levels” to be a song with any depth to it.

Moving on up to the east side…

While Champ did such a good job of illustraing the perfect levels of Blackness, it seems almost counterproductive to not discuss the various levels of Blackness that must exist for there to be a perfect level. You cannot have hot without cold which yields you the perfectly docile and splendid, warm. Just like you can’t have The most perfect color in the Republic and/or the Union, pewter, unless you have both black and white at the ends. If there’s perfect then there are various other levels. Like?


Really Really Black

You know something is real when you use the adjective twice (or adverb, I was never good at American). Things that are really, really Black are those things where pretty much nobody but (we’re talking 95+ percent) Black folks dwell, enjoy, participate in or appreciate like Detroit, Belly, weave pats, Donald Goines novels, Tyler Perry, red kool-aid flavored chicken gizzards, chicken gizzards, shooting dice on the corner or anywhere really, public school system in most major cities, etc

Pretty Damn Black

This level is where you still have a majority of Black people actively leading the charge for independence (what?) but you get a pretty significant number of others involved, and bougie Black folks are present but there’s definitely division amongst the reading ninjas. Such things that are pretty damn Black are: HBCUs, Project Pat, watermelon, Popeyes chicken, “Swahili” names, Kwanzaa, the last half of Mariah Carey’s career, Atlanta, Lupe Fiasco (he’d be more on the other side of Blackness except he’s gon’ full fledge conspiracy theorist lately), conspiracy theories, Final Call, Nation of Islam,

Perfect Level of Blackness

Covered by Champ

Not As Black As You Might Think

This is kind of explanatory. We’re moving to the side of things where there’s definitely some Blackness, but just because its led by the Blackness doesn’t mean that only (or even mostly) the Blacks indulge, though there’s still enough Blackness associated that we could claim them/it in the race draft. Such as? Wu-Tang Clan, Common (hey, he said its just coffee shop chicks and white dudes), hip-hop, Barack Obama, watermelon, fried chicken from Popeye’s, driving hoopties, saying hooptie, the itis, the sugar, the pressure, Bill Cosby, Drake, cognac, Moscato, etc.

And finally…

Not That Black At All (Or Just Black By Default)

This is the category where something is created by or inspired by the Blacks but has pretty much gone so mainstream that they’re just Black by default because they’re..well, Black, but they’ve transcended (though we’re still claiming), like Beyonce, Tiger Woods, Micheal Jordan, or Michael Jackson, Jordan’s, Lil Wayne, Kanye West (currently), crime (I keeed, I keeed), Scandal, The Butler, The Help, The Shoe Shine Boy (you’re saying that doesn’t exist yet? My bad), Soledad O’Brien, well you get the point.

Those are the levels of Blackness I came up with while listening to Meek Mill yell at me and tell me that he was a boss. I mean, there are levels to this since we probably don’t wear the same clothes or feathertickle the same women. It’s true.

So what are the levels of Blackness that you’ve observed? Or did I get them right? WHAT SAY YOU?


The Curious Case of “Amen”

And no, we’re not talking about Sherman Helmsley, smokin’ that “boat”, or Dee.

We’re talking about Meek Mill and Drake’s perplexing homage to, well, the same thing they talk about on every other song they write and record – f*cking, living the good life, and being swagged out – entitled “Amen”.

But first, let me say, lord forgive them, they got them dark forces in them.


This song perplexes me so much I’ve spent literal hours going back and forth with myself on how I should feel versus how I do feel. Let’s start with the basics, this is only an issue because the beat to this song is so insanely infectious and dope. The producer took us to church with it. On purpose. It’s like that bridge between secular and gospel rap that 100 percent of all gospel rappers have been looking for but couldn’t find. Real talk, put DMX or some other rapper conflicted about his spirituality and likes to talk about it over that beat and you might have your first respectable gospel rap song. Hell, you could even title it “Amen” and it would work perfectly.

More hell, you could have taken the ENTIRE verses spit by Meek and Drake, turned them towards a religious bent and had a significantly dope gospel rap record. I truly believe this. The vast majority of us, whether currently believers, atheists, agnostics, or what have you, began in the church and can immediately identify with that piano riff. If you’re grandmother is Baptist or Pentecostal, she likely crip-walked to it this past Sunday. Meek knew this, probably because he also is insanely familiar with it, immediately heard the beat and knew exactly where to take it…to church.


So what we get is a 4-minute long sacreligious ode to ignorance that is intentionally geared to play up to our religious histories in a way that would ensure that we’d all need to go to church on Sunday JUST to repent for dancing to it in the club the night before. The hook is a PERFECT call-and-response execution. Meek and Drake are both dope on it…if only they weren’t sending me to hell every time I listened to it. Which, obviously, is the conundrum. In many ways, I feel like they went too damn far. But I’ll admit it’s only because I’m Black and I hold church (even though I rarely, if ever, go) sacred. Which is mostly because despite my imperfect church record (no pun) over the past umpteen years, I’m still god-fearing and recognize blasphemy when I hear it. I believe in being struck by lightning, for heaven’s sake!

Which presents a whole OTHER problem. Ladies, I have issues. For some reason I’m more conflicted about this than about the rampant exploitation I hear in the record. I kind of just want them to change the title and stop saying “amen” and “church”. I know, and I’m working on this. There’s really no defense for it. Though I’ve mostly stopped listening to 90 percent of the “ignorant” stuff. My daughter has COMPLETELY trumped all of my music choices nowadays. Believe it or not (and this might sound ironic) but I pretty much only listen to pop music stations when she’s not with me and gospel when she is. Oh how the mighty have fallen.


Back to just wanting them to change the title and hook. Sure the beat is churchy, but I could live with that as just being creative. Besides, more rappers than you may realize have straight jacked gospel for samples. Shoot, early soul and blues owes its entire lineage to gospel. So gospel tinged secular music isn’t exactly new or troubling. This just feels different.

I hear it and I want to dance, but yelling “amen” after their lines using the terms “b*tches, kill n*ggas, etc” just seems inherently wrong. Perhaps I read too much or have mostly grown up (again, I’m apparently okay with the exploitation and misogyny present…help me) but I wonder why NOBODY thought there would be anything wrong with this record. Granted, its creative as a mug and of course entertaining. Meek does entertaining records and the boy can rap. I’m fairly certain his album would be terrible but his singles are monsters (I’m not sure I could listen to him yell at me for a whole hour…I’m grown, stop that).

Back to the lecture at hand, the record…befuddles me. I’m fairly certain that I shouldn’t like it, but deep down, I do. Because it’s a good record. I just want them to stop being so blasphemous. And I’m not even sure they are. I’m nowhere near the level of ole boy out of Philly, the pastor who found it to be outwardly just damn wrong. But in some small way, I get his point. For the first time ever, d-boys everywhere will be yelling “amen” and “church” ad nauseum and it will be for all of the wrong reasons. Which brings up something else: I know that I’ve DEFINITELY used lots of church references in my everyday speech and things I’ve written that could very well be considered sacrilege. So perhaps there’s a little bit of pot-calling-the-kettle-black here. And perhaps I should reconsider my own choices.

But perhaps, I’ll probably not do that either. And I’m making a mountain out of a molehill.



(Couldn’t help myself.)

So good folks, what do you think about the record (video included uptop)? Is anybody else conflicted by this song? Does this record go to far in its sacrelige? Does it even go to far? Does it even matter?

Talk to me.


Don’t forget about the upcoming panel hosted by VSB P and Raheil T of Urban Cusp in conjunction with the Washington Post on July 26, 2012, from 6-8pm at the WaPo Building. It should be a great interactive conversation about relationships between all of us! Group participation, ninjas! See you there!

Thoughts On The Light-Skinned Beef Heard Round The World, And More…

It was all good just a week ago

1. The Increasingly Bizarre Chris Brown (IBCB for short) is becoming a caricature of himself

You know how in every crime/heist movie, there’s always that one skittish and perpetually sweaty guy who no one really wants to talk to, no one ever wants to partner with, no one trusts with a gun? The guy with strange clothes and “unique” hygiene that’s only involved with the crew because…well, no one really knows why he’s involved with the crew, and the only reason his character was even written was to provide an in-house foil to annoy (and potentially sabotage) the rest of the characters?

Well, I’m not going to say that IBCB is becoming that guy, but IBCB is becoming that guy. His continued descent from “boy next door” to“that sweaty, skeevy, rapey guy with the platinum Caesar and the sleeveless jean jacket doing push-ups in a bar bathroom” has been amazing to witness. You can even argue that Britney Spears is the only other celebrity ever to go from “widespread heartthrob” to “person who creeps the hell out of everyone with an IQ over 86” as quickly as he has.

***“BOY FIGHT! Thoughts on the (Alleged) Drake v. Chris Brown Beef”— my latest at (and an article I obviously did not title) — lists four of my initial thoughts about what could be the most entertaining beef in hip-hop history. While I definitely want you to go over there and read the rest of the list, here are a couple more quick things I want to add

1. As much as I chide toughDrake for being, to quote Big Ghost, “the human electric slide,” I actually don’t dislike him or his music at all. I know his latest album was full of songs that may not even actually be songs, but I’ve stopped expecting him to live up to the expectations he set with “So Far Gone” and “Comeback Season” and just accepted him for who he is — a diabolical (Yes. Diabolical. “Marvin’s Room” was some diabolical-ass shit) stripper-saving “Merchant of Cuddles,” and a talented guy who makes decent albums that you wouldn’t be caught dead actually listening to.

2. Apparently, a three-way series of passive aggressive Rihanna-related tweets between toughDrake, IBCB, and…Meek Mill preceded all of this. Somewhere, Suge Knight is spinning in his grave. (and eating waffles)

3. Rihanna still scares the shit out of me. And by “scares the hell out of me” I mean “somehow simultaneously arouses and scares the hell out of me.” I’ve never been more attracted to a woman who I didn’t think was really all that attractive. Her p*ssy is a paradox, and I somehow feel haunted by it just by typing her name. Basically, she’s the coital “Candyman.”

If this doesn’t make any sense, good. It doesn’t to me either.

***Before you leave today, I want you to go and check out Anything But Style. It’s a fashion blog run by a good friend of mine, and she decided to celebrate her blog’s one year anniversary by launching her own online vintage clothing store today. Although she’s a (gasp) Delta, I’m very proud of her for setting a goal and doing what she needed to do to accomplish it.

***Lastly, check out A.P., this week’s Very Smart Single, and hit us up at if interested in getting to know her better.

That’s it for me today. People of, what’s new on your ends of the world and shit?

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)