There would be a time when I would feel unsafe when someone use a jibe that used my emotional response to my own abuse against me. The whole “so you don’t dig brown sugar….but you don’t see rap as bad..whaddabout Knoxville girl” – a song about domestic violence leading to murder comment would have thrown me. It is a ‘gotcha’ that this prick thought was inescapable. How could I be ok with the white Louvin brothers singing about a man who kills his wife and resents going to jail for it, they thought to their closed little mind, bullying, insistent, dull as fricking dishwater.
Let’s face it, I almost died. It’s no secret. I came very close to being murdered by my own husband in my own home while my babies cowered. I had fetuses beat out of me, birthing them in the bathroom alone, three months gone, waters gone, because I got kicked repeatedly in the stomach. Pushing them out into the water of a toilet. I held the fetus in my hand and wailed a cry I didn’t even recognize was coming from my own lungs.
I almost died when he beat me so badly. I almost went blind when he detached my retina and still have sight problems to this day. I went deaf in one ear. I am in constant and extreme permanent pain due to the abuse. Right now my shoulder where it was dislocated and my fingers where they were repeatedly broken and bent back are full of arthritis and hurting so much I struggle to cope.
In order to make his (racist…small minded, unintelligent) point that the historical records of the American streets, the modern beat poets of Rap and hip hop, Kendricks and Kanye, Cardi B and Nas (the original not the little, but little is good too), are, to him, “promoting violence’ a man thought it was acceptable to use my experience as a gotcha and bring up up a 1956 folk song by the Louvin Brothers, that records a domestic violence incidence that leads to death.
Many songwriters have shot their baby down. Hendrix in Hey Joe, Neil Young in Down By the River, In the Pines covered by Nirvana and written by Leadbelly, fuck…even my darling Zevon with Excitable Boy and his little Susie whose bones the excitable boy fucks after he is let out of the nuthouse all document the usual bread and butter of the patriarchy – the murder and abuse of women.
Not even Knoxville Girl, though the listener is encouraged to sympathize with the jailed murderer, glorifies the murder of women. They are telling stories about the reality of life. Women are beaten and murdered by men. Brown Sugar glorifies and excuses slavery, and misogyny towards both the ‘lady of the house, and more violently towards the enslaved women who are ‘whipped’ and raped throughout the song. That is the difference. Jagger tells us slaves are ‘doing alright’ – no one says Zevon’s Susie is ‘doing alright’, it is delivered deadpan, with a slight knowing nod, that the Excitable Boy is criminally insane. Hendrix’s documentation of the cuckolded Joe, going to shoot his old lady down, doesn’t excuse Joe – Hendrix is telling us the story. Leadbelly forges a gothic murder mystery in the pines with a head on a driving wheel..and a body that was never found. Down by the River is as nonsensical as Beck’s Loser. it’s a Hey Joe rip off lyrically, with a touch of ‘she could drag me over the rainbow’ strangeness – we don’t listen to Neil for wisdom or good lyrics, we listen for that guitar grind he stole from Danny Whitten…at least I do.
As far as angry white men complaining about music that glorifies violence – as they see it, whilst probably pushing the grotesque Tom Macdonald, white rapper who can’t stop mentioning the fact he is white, but doing it within a right wing Christian conservative framework, and pushing the woe is me to poor white male dribble of pathetic privilege, it is pure lack of intelligence. Documenting life as it is forced upon people is not glorifying shit – it is providing sustenance, support and a historical document. Kendrick Lamar is the new Kerouac, but more of that later.
Let’s go to Bob Marley’s I Shot The Sherriff. Beloved song, covered by white bluesman extraordinaire, Clapton. A song which documents police brutality, in which the protagonist kills the sheriff in self defense. Violent? The Sherriff and the Deputy are dead, but so are the babies of the man who killed him – “every time I plant a seed, he kill it before it grow”. Freedom can be fought for, freedom is worth fighting, the struggle to be free is worth the war. Men – and women – have a right to defend themselves from brutality. Marley sings “If I am guilty I will pay” – he is a man pushed beyond limits – “Every day the bucket goes to the well, one day the bottom will drop out” he sings. Push someone too far, fill up the bucket too full too often and the whole system will collapse.
Take Kendrick’s “Alright”, much in the same vein as “I Shot The Sheriff”, is the document of a man pushed too far,- whilst documenting the hurt, writing the righteous anger and the fear of living under the gun, where in his part of town, ” MAC-11 even boom with the bass down” – where you turn the music off and the bass still booms, but the Mac 11’s still provide the boom boom of the bass because the neighborhood is rocking with violence. This is the reality of living in Compton, this is the day to day grind of surviving in downtown USA. This is the reality of life I find myself close to, on the edges of, surviving. These are the worries I have for people I care about deeply. Listening to Lamar sing that we are going to be “alright”, even though the struggle is there, is a comfort, not a promotion of violence. It is a world in which for many young men their “karma come in heaven, no preliminary hearings on my record”. It is a historical document of a world which is violent and brutal, that the system traps people into, and the only comfort is that the people who live in that world are all in it together.
Nice little families in their rural cocoons with their neat lives, trying to ban their boys from looking into Compton’s window, whining that it is so ‘violent’ are doing their kids an injustice. They are stopping them from realizing the reality of life, and thus perpetuating the us and them mentality, where the majority ‘us’ get to look down on the othered ‘them’ and sit pristine and superior in their ivory towers. It perpetuates the superiority nose in the air separation and hatred. It creates nasty little men who use a woman’s survival against her in own space.
I make no excuses, and I will not turn my head. Bring it on, because the harder you want to attack and twist, the harder I will kick against the pricks, and more outrage will pour from my pen. Bring it on. I’m ready.