Am I A Hater?

 

For the last two decades, the term “hater” has been one of the most overused and unfit labels for any human with a personal opinion. I feel like there are times when I don’t give a certain kind of food, or a television show, or an artist a chance because of something indescribable that just turned me off. Does that mean I’m hating on The Walking Dead if it didn’t grab me like everyone else? I believe when it comes to peanut butter, Tyler Perry programs and Wale, I may just fall into the category of being a “disliker.”

As a coach and an educator, I have the unofficial job of mentor/counselor for students. They often talk to me about social, scholastic, domestic and extracurricular issues. Then there are times when sports and music dominate the convos, and since I’m not completely out of touch, they assume I can almost relate. Last week two young ladies, one a senior in high school, and the other a sophomore, decided to share a musical selection with me and a co-worker. They didn’t only share the song, they sang these lyrics word-for-word:

 

“I just bought a pistol, it got 30 rounds in it,

Pull up at yo momma house and put some rounds in it,

Wet a nigga block and watch them niggas drown in it,

Hunnid round drum gun a nigga down with it,

I’m on that Slaughter Gang shit, Murder Gang shit

Slaughter Gang shit, Murder Gang shit

I’m on that Slaughter Gang shit, Murder Gang shit

Slaughter Gang shit, Murder Gang shit”

 

And then they spit the first verse…

 

“I’m on that Slaughter Gang shit

Take a nigga bitch,

Nigga yous a bitch ’cause I ran off with ya shit

I’m a real right blood and these niggas counterfeit

You don’t pull up on the ave pussy boy you get dipped

I bought a brand new drop and then I poured me up some drop

Young Savage real street nigga y’all ain’t on no block

Bitch keep your legs closed ’cause all I want is top

(At this point my boy and I stopped them to inquire if that last line about keeping legs closed and wanting top were cool with them. They laughed and said that no boy could ever say that to them, but on a song it was funny.)

I pull up and pew pew pew y’all gone call the cops

21″

The hook came back in…

 

“I just bought a pistol it got 30 rounds in it,

Pull up at yo momma house and put some rounds in it,

Wet a nigga block and watch them niggas drown in it,

Hunnid round drum gun a nigga down with it,

I’m on that Slaughter Gang shit, Murder Gang shit,

Slaughter Gang shit…”

 

They sang the chorus with so much vigor and excitement…then they showed us footage of a party where everyone was “turned up” singing the words line for line and throwing up gang signs. My face was in shock but like a chronic WorldStar fight viewer…I wanted more. So the next verse was spat to us…

 

“Two guns up

I don’t give a fuck

I’m a big dog lil’ nigga you a pup

(Once again we paused the performance and marveled at the display of lyricism. They giggled and said it wasn’t good but it was catchy. I get it…big dog…pup. Clever. I’m a disliker.)

 

Pull up on ya spot, walk up on it, shoot it up,

Yo bitch she on the molly yeah I got her booted up,

You said you was trappin’ but I heard that’s a lie,

Baking soda, cold water, cut the stove on, scrape the side

You can keep the skinny bitch ’cause I like a fat ass and thighs

Bitch I’m young savage yo baby daddy know not to try…

savage

(By this time, more students had chimed in to kick the last hook and my face could not hide the shame. Shame for my race, my people, and what I once considered my career choice. By race, I mean the human race. I am embarrassed to be human when I hear stuff like this. But I had to ask myself was it really that bad?)

 

Another kid came up to me and said that rappers don’t have to be good nowadays. I agreed with him but I countered with the notion that if any profession excluded excellence from the requirement, what would that do to the profession? Especially an art form that is based on opinion and personal preference. If athletes didn’t need to be “good,” chefs didn’t necessarily have to learn how to cook well, and surgeons could settle for mediocrity, where would that leave us all?

 

 

I’m not a hater. But these lyrics by 21 Savage put me in a funk that would stay with me for the next 22 minutes. And then I revisited that funky feeling once I got home and attempted to share the story with my wife. My brain went in several directions trying to make sense of it all. I came up with these choices as to why I was so disturbed by these lyrics.

 

  1. I am old.old man up

Not old like ancient or out of touch. Just old enough to hear the words “nigga,” “bitch” and other FCC disapproved language when years ago they sounded like everyday verbiage to me. I’m old enough to listen to a song and feel like it should contribute to my life in some way other than the beat being hot. Words are more important to me because I value the craft. The same way I would admire abstract art I wouldn’t buy, a fancy car I have no desire to drive, or a beautiful piece of architecture that I can appreciate from afar…I don’t have to love a song to acknowledge its worth. And when artists show little concern for the wonderment of writing, it is bothersome. And maybe that has to do with me being on the earth for almost 40 years. I don’t know.

  1. I’m a father.vader

This new shift in the way I receive songs happened before I planned to celebrate my first Father’s Day. But fatherhood does add to the change knowing that I will have to explain cinematic plots, the history of prejudice, and also misogynistic, violent, and negative rap lyrics to my son. So I can only imagine having a daughter one day and trying to shield her, educate her and prepare her for a world that has new and exciting daily dangers around every corner that will contribute to her growth. How do you get it right? The fathers of these young girls singing 21 Savage like it’s the national anthem are probably doing the best they can. They might even have great relationships with their daughters. But what does that mean for the kids? Don’t we still have to show them right from wrong without sheltering them so much that they seek refuge? I believe that I have softened up and now whatever I hear coming through speakers…I genuinely hear. And I have to decide how I want these messages to reach my son because they will ultimately reach him.

  1. I still love hip-hop.stevie j

Maybe I’m a purist that won’t admit it. Sure I bop when “Panda” comes on and I like some Future songs, and Autotune is no longer some effect that is frowned upon, it is almost industry standard and I have swallowed it like bad medicine. I have to live with that. But I have to also recognize that the sub-genre we call hip-hop is appealing to me. As much as it may be a dinosaur or archaic to the youthful minds, it is still something I crave. When there’s soul-infused samples or hard drums that remind me of an era that revolved around truth and originality, I get nostalgic. I can respectfully claim that Kendrick Lamar moves me; that J. Cole has some touching compositions, and yes my favorite artist at the moment might be Aubrey Graham. He may not speak about enlightening topics or share my view of being Black in America because he’s a Canadian Jew, but his music is filled with honesty and his pen is always sharp.

But am I a hater? That is the question. 21 Savage isn’t saying anything that NWA didn’t say. Buckshot had a hook where he vowed to “kill every nigga in sight,” Cypress Hill, Onyx, Mobb Deep, Kool G. Rap and the list goes on when I think about abrasive lyrics that teetered the line between artistic and animalistic. They mentioned guns and murder like it was an everyday thing and we ate it up because it was under the hip-hop umbrella. So I searched my mind for comparisons to this 21 Savage person so I could rationalize what they were feeling. Aside from my own foolish violent bravado that I spewed in my 20s in order to fit in, there was a true demon of the booth that practiced what he preached when he was in the streets.

“Don’t come at me wit no bullshit, use caution, 

Cause when I wet shit, I dead shit, like abortions, 

For bigger portions, of extortion then racketeering, 

Got niggaz fearin’, fuck whatchu heard, this whatchu hearin’ 

How much darker must it get, how much harder must it hit?

See if your hardest niggaz flip, when I start a bunch of shit, 

I like pussy, but not up in my face, so gimme three feet, 

Cause when we creep, no more than three deep, niggaz see sheep, 

Bloodhounds found your shit buried in the mud, 

Following traces of gun powder, residue and blood, 

A positive ID is impossible, so you know, 

John Doe is what they gon’ be puttin on that tag on yo’ toe, 

Now who gon tell yo mother, her baby’s under a cover in the morgue, 

Stiff as a log, sniffed out by the dogs, 

Another hard-headed nigga that wouldn’t listen 

so you got whatchu came for, 

[Sheek] 

What’s that? 

[DMX] 

Surgery wit the chainsaw grrrrr, I hit the fuckin streets, 

cause like I said before ain’t nothin goin down until I eat, 

Mu’fuckers think it’s all about impressin’ bitches and stressin’ bitches, 

Well, I’m testin’ bitches game, adressin’ bitches, and caressin’ bitches, 

And dealin’ wit mu’fuckers on all levels, 

What I’m dealin’ wit is all devils, fuckin with snakes 

Runnin’ wit niggaz you call rebels, 

I got an army of 730 niggaz, dirty niggaz 

That come through and worry niggaz 

30 niggaz that like to bury niggaz 

And scary niggaz get it all the time 

‘cause what they got is all of mine 

Your man was talkin’ shit until I pulled the nine, 

And if I don’t know you, I don’t fuck witchu, 

And if you wit my man, then he getting’ stuck witchu, 

And gave it the money, 

Cause I just lost my mind when he crossed the line 

Sent his back through his chest 

Then I tossed the nine, boss of crime 

Black Gotti, I stack bodies wit the black shotty 

Bitch-ass niggaz who act snotty 

Get it 

 

And that’s when it hit me…sure DMX was putting people in the morgue and altering human anatomy putting backs through chests, but it was absurdly poetic. Earl had some captivating couplets that were a bit frightening while the writing was excellent. His timing and flow were on point and his rhyme schemes continued on for more than two bars. DMX didn’t just rap because he wanted a check. Well he may have wanted cash to buy drugs…but he wanted to be good, or even the best. And for some time, he was arguably on top. In defense of the rapper that began this rant, if I was 38 or 39 years old with children at home when I first heard these harsh Dark Man X lyrics, I might not respond the way I did almost 20 years ago. I would have viewed the bloodthirsty content as too much for my ears no matter how witty the construction of the lines were. So with that said, I am still caught in a bind when it comes to labeling myself. But in all honesty I am comfortable with who I am. It doesn’t concern me whether I am truly a “disliker,” if I am biased to the era I was raised in, or if I am a hypocrite that contradicts himself with his narrow-minded opinion of today’s Autotune rap. I’m good with knowing that I will like what I like and when it comes to what I dislike, it doesn’t matter why.

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