The ball park is not my favorite place to spend a Sunday afternoon. But thanks to my son's interest in baseball, that's exactly where I found myself several Sundays ago. The unseasonable nip in the air had me sitting in the car with the Sunday paper rather than somewhere out on a bleacher feigning interest in the action on the field. Of course, had it been something other than a practice, I would have most certainly been out there shivering and cheering alongside all of the other little league parents. . .
So, I'm seated in the my car with the two front passenger windows barely open an inch when I hear it . . . the loud, repeative thump of a hip hop beat. Make no mistake, as an African American woman who attended an historically Black college in a predominately Black city during the 80's, I've loved hip-hop and rap since it first hit the scene with folks like Curtis Blow, Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five and broke into the 9o's with the likes of Doug E. Fresh, Brand Nubian, Big Daddy Kane, Eric. B and Rakim, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest. . . you know, all the folks now considered "old school."
But this song, the loud, repeatively thumping one I hear while I'm seated in my car, in the park, on a Sunday afternoon with my windows rolled durn near all the way up ain't nothing like the fun-loving, playful, braggadocious or even the socically-conscious and politically-infused music I bumped, jammed and used to hear coming from La-dee, Da-dee and some of everybody's boom box back in the day. No, this particular song apparently has only one lyric and that's the socially unredemptive "mother-f$%&er . . . mother-f$%&er . . . mother-f$%&er."
Okay. So, I sit there with my teeth rattling from the mind-numbing bass as the loud music draws closer and I think to myself, "Surely, there isn't really a song out there called 'mother-f$%&er?' is there? And if so, why on earth would anybody in their right mind want to listen to it THAT LOUD . . . much less ride up in a park and treat everybody else to it on a Sunday afternoon?
I watch from my rear-view mirror as the car with the over-powering bass and the offensive music finally pulls to a stop and four laughing, loud-talking African American youths spill out. They look like young men in their late teens or possibly their early twenties. For a moment, I think perhaps they've come to the park, like my own young son, in order to spend some time working on their swing and their ball-handling skills. I think perhaps, in a moment they will turn off the music and restore the peace of the ballpark that on that Sunday afternoon is filled primarily with women, children, young families and older couples.
But no, after changing out of their long, over-sized t-shirts and into other long, over-sized t's in the middle of the parking lot, these young brothers show off dance steps, laugh and rough-house and all while engaging in a conversation loud enough to be heard over the delightful sounds of the tune, 'mother-f$%&er' which is still thumping away in the background . . . a conversation loud enough to be heard several yards away and in a car with the windows barely cracked . . . a conversation riddled with the same word that got Michael Richards in so much trouble not so long ago. Really, I kid you not, every other word is, "nigga this, nigga that . . . nigga, nigga, nigga." Matter of fact, as loud as they're speaking, "nigga" is the only word clearly distinguishable in their entire conversation.
Unlike some, I don't believe in banning words or censoring music. As one who loves art and appreciates the freedom of self-expression, that's hardly a bandwagon I'm about to jump on. But nor do I believe it's necessary to disrupt the peace and quiet of a park filled with women and children and old folks on a Sunday afternoon or any other afternoon for that matter with a loud litany of "niggas" and a trifling chorus of "mother-f$%&ers." Come on . . . has it really come to that? Do we really not know or want to do any better?
According to Nas, "Hip-Hop Is Dead." According to some others, the rappers from the Dirty South should be held responsible for having killed it. Please. If in fact, Hip-Hop is dead, the primary thing that killed it is/was that always potentially lethal, and all-too American combination of ignorance and greed . . . a combination in which for far too long many us have either collectively reveled, or else have avoided openly critiquing.
"Hip Hop is Dead?" Wow, what a stunning revelation. It ain't like hip hop hasn't been stinking to high heaven and spinning in it's own rot for years now. Had we any real respect for ourselves, much less the dead, we would have closed the casket and buried the corpse a long time ago.