Save your Sons: Make ’em Listen to Rap

Every single privileged little white boy should be made to listen to rap. Force feed em Tupac, saturate them in Kendrick Lamar, make it so they can quote the lyrics to every single Nas track, just like they learn Shakespeare. Sit down your daughters and play them The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. If the poor chick Bauer bashed up in the name of ‘love’ had listened to more Lauryn Hill and the reality of love and sex and men’s dirty little inability to respect or understand, she would never have got hurt. There might be ‘whores in this house’ but they are getting laid and paid, not beaten and anally raped and destroyed and left bleeding and concussed. Come on, people, there is a difference between fluffy handcuffs and beating someone up. The older ones should take a leaf from the book of Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B, and talk frankly about sex, about the demands of men, about female strength and sexual empowerment. If the boys can sing about being backdoor men, 60 minute men, what is so distasteful about some WAP pride? The pearl clutchers need to get a grip. Sex has been part of popular music since Elvis thrust his pelvis and made the girls cry. So what is up now? Racism, people. Strong black women celebrating their power, their attractiveness, their sexuality, their art, is intimidating to the Karens of this world, and America needs to get over their bad selves.

While the privileged and white kids are being ‘protected’ from rap by zealous mothers who whine about the violence and the aggression, while little Timmy headbands to some heavy metal gore and misogyny fest, played by nice nordic boys with fake blood on their drumsticks, a fantasy land where violence leads to no consequence, and Kiss respawn for another show, while Kendrick Lamar raps eloquently about the reality of life in the ghettos and projects, the reality of life not as it should be, but as it is, pouring out a strong dose of Truth along with outlining the temptations of ‘Lucy’ (fur) – drugs, drink, gangs, casual sex, violence, that becomes not a choice, not a decision but an inevitable conclusion of a society that sets up its black community to fail to thrive.

I don’t listen to much metal – that bastion of teenage boys flea pit bedrooms since it first crawled onto the scene and set up shop with the glam Kiss and Alice Cooper, and then the more seriously heavy metal groups like Metallica, but I know this, songs like “Ain’t my Bitch” by Metallica never got the amount of outrage aimed towards the comment on society rap that is , a historical document that catalogs the problem of survival in a country that keeps trying to kill black people, to force them into self destruction, that despite the fact that admitted drug use is about the same in black and white populations, that black Americans are disproportionately arrested and prosecuted for drug offences.

Young white people who are looking from the outside into the Comptons and Oaklands of this country need the education: “let me tell you about my life” sings Kendrick in Alright, on his epic album To Pimp A Butterfly. This is what this country needs – interracial understanding. Kendrick owes nobody anything, but he is offering an education. This is a solid education in why BLM protested, in why the disaffection, the rage, the desolation, the fear and the bravery:

Wouldn’t you know
We been hurt, been down before, n—-
When our pride was low
Lookin’ at the world like, “Where do we go, n—-?”
And we hate po-po
Wanna kill us dead in the street for sure, n—-
I’m at the preacher’s door
My knees gettin’ weak and my gun might blow
But we gon’ be alright

Pride was at an all time low, people looking around wondering just where they can go, and the police are hated because they keep on killing black Americans in the street. To feel unwanted, pushed out not accepted within the confines of the country you belong to, and not only that in mortal danger from the police who are meant to protect and serve not hunt and destroy. Mortal danger for no other reason than the color of your skin, is no way for a country to conduct itself. A change has to come, and come fast. Kendrick deftly sketches how he is holding onto the light to the good – knocking at the preacher’s door, weakening amongst the pressures and temptations, but knowing ‘we gon be alright.” A man fighting for survival of his soul and his body, holding onto hope beyond hope that everything is going to be alright. This is poetic fighting with the ego, with the self, with society who seeks to destroy. This is art, this is beat. This is reality. This is life.

To deny our children rap music, is to deny the problem to fail to educate them, to fail to give them that empathy and understanding, to perpetuate segregation and hatred and mistrust and dehumanization.

I watched my son – who is part white, part Asian and has a great granddad who was American and not white (trying to respect people’s wishes here and not out myself), sit and listen to Kendrick’s Alright. Sitting in the shelter, the murders outside, the fights, the open air drug markets, the racism the fear of being undocumented, of losing his mother, and chant along “we gon be alright”, watching the smile spread across his face, drawing strength from Lamar’s words and righteous passion in resisting the temptations and the fatigue, the violence and the fear, watching his head bob up and down in unison with the feeling that you know what “I didn’t wanna self destruct”, don’t let them win. A wise man once told my son ‘steel sharpens steel’. Kendrick is that steel to any little boy of color that sits in a homeless shelter in a dangerous part of town, the evil all around and still holds up his head, still keeps getting straight A’s, and still looks towards a future that is successful, and not doomed to the gutter and the boulevard. The Boy is determined to make a life, and he hasn’t lost heart because Kendrick, and Nas, Tupac and Lauryn Hill are keeping his spirits up.

Want to teach kids about the dangers of guns and violence, about the reality, the pain and the calamity of the street, play them Nas’s I Gave You Power. Pure honesty. Truth. Unvarnished reality. Pull the curtains open to the diversity of the experience of life in this country. It is not good enough to accept guns are bad, to look at the reasons why, the Power and the Glory of the gun, that metal dick that creates death, and then passes to the hand of the next soul that just wants to protect themselves. If you want to find a way out of the maze of violence, first we have to understand it. The keys are in the new beat poets, the most real, the most experimental, the most honest of music out there. It is about the only genre that is still alive and true to itself.

How you like me now? I go blaow
It’s that shit that moves crowds makin every ghetto foul
I might have took your first child
Scarred your life, crippled your style
I gave you power
I made you buck wild
(I Gave You Power, Nas)

The most important conversations on culture and society are taking place in rap and hip hop, the social protest, the change, the outrage – it is all there in rap music. If we are going to pull together, these cultural exchanges, these artistic expressions, these attempts to make sense of the unfairness of it all, the rebellion, the terrible consequences of this country’s history of slavery. If we want to understand these “teenage shooters that don’t play fair” (Kendrick Lamar), we need to pay attention to the real movers and shakers, the poets and the hit makers that are coming out of the streets where life is real. Where does the rage come from? It is so easy to be outraged at protest when you don’t understand the struggle and the pain. Listen to To Pimp A Butterfly, listen to Kings Disease II, listen to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, listen and really listen, open your mind, and let the children tell you why the black community is angry. Listen to Tupac and ask yourself what really killed him: black leaders are in constant danger. Life is danger. If you love your sons, force feed them rap, open their minds to reality, to society, to protest, to injustice, to the traps that it is easy to fall into ,and so hard to pull out of if you are not white, to the inequality, to the danger.

And I say this as a white woman who has fuck all. I have no home, no money, no hope no future. I know if I was not white I would have found it even harder to survive. As I ran down the street chased by a white man who wanted to hurt my son because of the color of his skin and the shape of his eyes, and the fact his hair stands up on end, other white people turning their backs and pretending they didn’t see, as racial slurs were yelled at him and we bolted for safety as the motherfucker threatened to beat him with his shoe, the reality of the hatred that comes from racism was made absolutely clear to me. It was made clear to me when a white woman yelled the N word at my two friends and nothing happened to her. Total white impunity. It was made clear to me when I can smoke weed outside and nothing happens but my black friend gets popped by the cops. And I am angry. I am so very angry. Come out of your bubbles, and open your eyes. Save your sons. Save your daughters. Buy To Pimp A Butterfly and listen to it together. Have frank conversations. Choose empathy over judgemental blindness.

If we are to have any hope as a society, as humanity, as people who love people who want to love people, we need to open our eyes beyond the white picket fences and society suppers. I’m putting Patti Smith on notice: I hear her perform Rock and Roll N_____ one more time, directing those words at people of color -, at Jimi Hendrix, at Japanese people, like she did at the Fuji festival, claiming a word which doesn’t belong to her white ass or Lenny’s or mine, and the literary gloves are coming off. It’s lazy racism, and petty-bourgeois shock punk at that. Show some sensitivity. Show some class: retire that song which never should have been made, and apologize for the hurt caused.

Angry? Yes please. We need to be angry otherwise we are going to drift into hatred and pathetic self-protection.

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