Not that 31 is “old,” but I know I had more time to read when I was younger… Strange thing, that, seeing as how up to about 25 years old, I easily doubled the number of hours “worked” (counting being in class from 8am-1:40pm, then working 8-10 hours a day 5 days a week and 4-5 hours two others – overtime is a BEAST) compared to right now. Another thing I had more time and money for at the time was music, so much that the two hobbies’ time spent would more often than not intersect. No worries about many other things, considering the internets still sucked at the time as it were. All we HAD was music, Playstation and books.
I moved into my house last August and closed on it in October (see previous blog for details on how that worked out), but I had not moved all my stuff in until damn near April of this year. Even now, one year and almost 2 weeks after closing on the house, I am still unpacking stuff being stored in a spare bedroom as they come necessary to exit that room. Clearing one bin out, full of old Source/XXL/Vibe magazines, I came to one that was packed to the gills with books. Novels, non-fiction, reference and a couple of other things.
As I cleared that box, to move the items contained to the file cabinet/bookshelves I noticed a strange set of occurrences…
- Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart
- Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984
- Gil Scott-Heron’s The Vulture and The Nigger Factory
- Iceberg Slim’s Pimp
- John Lee Anderson’s Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life
- All 16 of Donald Goines’ novels, as well as his posthumous biography
- Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye
- The Philosophies and Opinion of Marcus Garvey
- Sun Tzu’s The Art of War
I could continue, but I am not sitting in that room right now to remember what else I pulled from that damned bin…
What I noticed, though, is that there was once a time where even the most IGNORANT of rappers (or musicians in general) could show you that they’d picked up a book at some point in their lives and comprehended what it was they’d read. If you could play me 5 songs in rotation on urban radio that would even SUGGEST this, let alone prove it as fact, I would--… you know what? Never mind, it won’t fucking happen.
Anyway, I was thinking about it just the same. Even “dumb” hip hop (or ‘rap’ as today’s self-righteous internets douchebag would call it) had some value, even if it only came under the guise of a dude who had been sent the Donald Goines collection while doing a summer in the county.
[Phlip note – as entertaining as those books were, anyone with an 11-th grade education should be able to finish one in 2 hours tops]
Nowadays, though? No dice! As has been discussed at long length on sites that are NOT The Musings of a Madman…, today’s “dumb” rappers are cashing in on being legitimately dumb. When pressed for WHY they continue to make bad music, as if not even trying, their response is usually something in the neighborhood of “sheeit, n**ga, I’m getting’ MONEY! I don’t need to worry about that lyrical shit!”
[Phlip note – I shit you not, Waka Flocka and OJ Da Juiceman, possessors of two of the worst rap names ever shat out, each said something JUST like that!]
So where does that leave us? Where there was once a time where musicians would read a book, then sit down with a beat tape and a pen/pad and write a musical adaptation of what they’d just read…
Fuck, makes me wish I could rap when I was in school, I would have aced EVERY book report I was ever forced to write. Example? Nas’ “Black Girl Lost,” which was one of the aforementioned Goines novels. Again, not being at home right now keeps me from cross-referencing my book collection to my music library, but I’m sure the both of you get it…
What does it all mean, though?
Actually, it means that - as I discussed 2 weeks ago – that expectations have been effectively lowered. We have a climate where formerly successful rappers are succumbing to the Tax Man (Method Man) and a complete void of thought of who NOT to insert their penis and the fallout by way of predatory child support laws in some states (Hi Nas!). On the other hand, people like Gucci Mane can drive a Hummer on the wrong side of the highway with no license or insurance, run from the cops, and eventually get put down with pepper spray, but still be on television talking about it within the week, after seeing a judge who HAD to have called his past into question.
Elementary school dropouts go on to make more in a year making BAD music than I have made in the 15+ I have been working, a great much of that while in school.
I guess the homie Tony Grands™ was right when he told us that "Reading & Writing is for Dumb People©"?
Yeah, to hell with this pride, education, hard work until I’m 70 bullshit, effective this weekend, I am retiring effective this weekend, I will buy $10 worth of powerball tickets and do ALL I can to get myself signed under Gucci or someone like that. It’s not like I need to be able to rap or anything like that. I know that this would require me employing diction that would make me hate myself, but that is a sacrifice I am willing to make in the name of getting my life back on track after all the time I wasted on actually behaving like an intelligent and decent respectable human being.