At the gym today with all of the other gung-ho, potbellied New Year resolutioners like myself, my overstimulated brain tried in vain to take in the dozen or so television screens arranged in a perfect grid for cardio entertainment. Much like the endless variety of robot-armed machines, there’s a TV program to harness everyone’s poison. If Judge Judy or Jerry Springer can’t sufficiently float your boat, then you can plug into a bowl game ripe with skinny, spray-tanned cheerleaders or watch a whale give birth on Nat Geo (that’ll make you appreciate your own real labors of love). Through my sweaty, gnarly breathing, the Iowa GOP race locked into my periphery and that was the last excuse that I needed to crank the volume up on my ipod….Kid Cudi. Kid Rock, you say? No, I said Kid Cudi.
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a slew of fair-skinned Gen X’ers and boatloads of milleniels right here in the Bible Belt- not just Brooklyn and LA- who have hopped on the hip hop bandwagon (or the pimped out El Camino, whichever you envision). I, much to my grandmother’s chagrin, am one of these dedicated aficionados. It’s not like this endorsement has rendered me ghettofied either. In fact, one can trace the history of rap back to the West African professional singers/storytellers known as Griots. And long before hiphop came along, I tried to be cool with a K and failed. It was so high school. Literally. Hiphop is not what prompted me to hold a cig between my lips in the mirror and try to casually take multiple drags without using my hands. I retched on a Burberry scarf long before plaid or parachute pants ever considered a comeback. It was a gradual climb on the rap bandwagon and did not happen overnight. I may be one of the only people around here with Rascal Flatts on the shuffle next to Tupac. I knew that I was not alone in my fandom on a date to an Outkast concert in Denver, Colorado circa 2001 with my now spouse. Look around at these shows…it is a colorfully cool experience. My otherwise preppy, law-schooled husband is actually the one who turned me onto the rap genre over a decade ago at a time when Master P. spouted the Fbomb more than I use the articles, a, an, and the.
At first, I, too, didn’t grasp the appeal. Never one to endorse life as a spectatator sport for too long, I was shuffling off beat and bobbing my head before I realized I was even doing it. Listen to even the g-rated Cha Cha Slide and I promise you will be too. I know what you’re thinking. Kanye West is a total jackass. He makes off the cuff comments about racism that perpetuate the problem itself. Yes, Kanye has the capacity to act like a buffoon- I’ll give you that. Most passionate artists always do find a way to show their derriere- it’s part of their mojo dispersement. BUT, Suffice it to say that if Kanye West didn’t have a little something profound to say, there is NO way that he would find himself with multiple Grammy noms this year in the wake of his Crown Royal-fueled, trophy-grabbing Taylor Swift debacle. No way. The American public is just not that forgiving so if you will listen closely occasionally, you will notice that the guy is a actually a poet laureate with a precisely-placed chip on his shoulder. There’s narrative about the human condition going on here. It is raw in places…the same way a Hemingway novel or deKooning exhibit can be.
Recently, I took my daughter on her first trip to NYC to visit my best friend since the 7th grade who has made a name for herself by working her tail feather off in the music industry. This lifelong pal also keeps me in the know the about the worthwhile new music acts. If not for her, I am afraid I’d be sitting at home burning my thumb on a skyward lighter singing Freebird. The three of us were crossing the Brooklyn Bridge blaring one of hip hop’s newest, a Kanye & Jay-Z project called Watch The Throne. As we pulled up next to cab drivers and pedestrians, we got THE LOOK. Same look you get in that dream where you forget to get dressed. Well, not quite but almost. It is a double take- sometimes triple. These onlookers did not expect 30-something white girls to be jamming to this so… intentionally. That is, at a volume level that sends ripples through your Starbucks coffee in the Audi cupholder.
It’s not like I’m peering out through some fuzzy dice on my foggy windshield at the red light. If I were though, so what? I like rap. The same way I dig a caramel machiatto or a snow day. If it’s laughable to watch some random member of Irish descent get jiggy with it, let it be another one of the things that brings us all kicks and giggles. Life is short on reasons to laugh for most of us anyway. Let it be known though, lovers of Hova, Jay-Z or whomever, rap fans aren’t listening because it’s cool. It’s not a black n’ white issue at hand. We’re listening because music and the stories inside it unite us. Anyone who says otherwise is ludicrous. Or Ludacris.
P.S.Say hello to Mr. Bevins (aka Fross.T) ?