Raising Other People’s Kids

Posted on September 11, 2012


The brother greeted me with a smile and a “good morning” as I boarded the E4. He couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5 years older than me, he could’ve been younger.  His demeanor lightened everyone’s mood, which was great, because in a few moments I realized I was going the wrong way.  I was on an unwanted tour of greater North East DC.  I pulled out my latest library book and felt thankful I had time to finish it, then I realized the 40 minutes I had left before I got back to the station would take more time than the 16 pages I had left to read.  But being on the bus is always a blessing; it reminds me of how wonderful people can be.

Case in point:  Its now 10:15, and a 13 or 14 year old African American boy gets on the bus.  The driver greets him with the same good morning, but then looks at him sideways asking “Why are you late?”  The look on this kid’s face was priceless.  “You don’t know me!”  That was his face, not his words.  His words were some mumbled excuse that I couldn’t make out, and whatever the excuse was, it didn’t work for the bus driver.  Mr. Driver’s response was muddled to me trying to tune in from 6 rows back, but it was in THAT tone. I couldn’t help but smile. 

This is what is sorely needed in our communities.  Men who are willing to tell young men the truth about their decisions, even if its just telling a middle school-er being late is unacceptable. The need for us to tell the truth to our youth expands beyond these small incidents, and should be done on a larger scale.  That’s why this supposed rap “beef” between Chief Keef & Lupe Fiasco has caught my attention, and every black man who loves hip-hop and his community that I know.

For some background clarity Chief Keef is the hottest young thug rapper coming out of Chicago right now.  Imagine Wakka Flaka, without the rhyme skills, production quality, and sense of social responsibility. He represents a city, and specifically a section of the city, that is going through I spat of gun violence among black youth that would rival the Wild West in its heyday.  His hit single “I Don’t Like” has been tearing up urban radio, and was even remixed by the reigning Don of Chi-town rap, Kanye West.  He’s most famous recently for sending tweets laughing about the death of fellow teenage rapper and rival Lil Jojo.  (I’ve also seen a clips on Worldstar of what is supposedly JoJo taunting members of Chief Keef’s crew called “300”, just minutes before his death).

If Kanye is Chicago’s Don, and Chief Keef is its young gun, then Lupe is its Imam.  His most recent single “Bitch Bad” is a favorite among the conscious fans in hip-hop (and a thorn in the side of some feminists, but that’s another blog). Its subversive spin, and acute analysis of the word “bitch” in hip-hop culture is typical Lupe Fiasco.

While on the radio in Baltimore promoting his new project he said this about his fellow rapper: “Chief Keef scares me. Not him specifically, but just the culture that he represents.  Specifically in Chicago. And I don’t speak this about any other city because I’m not from there. But like my family lives in Chicago. So my nephews, my cousins, my friends, and my peoples they all in those hoods that he represents. When you drive through Chicago…The hoodlums, the gangsters, and the ones you see killing each other. And the murder rate in Chicago is skyrocketing and you see who’s doing it and perpetrating it, they all look like Chief Keef.”

This was hardly a rebuke, more of an observation, but sometime shortly after tweeting taunting laughs about the death JoJo, Keef sent this tweet “Lupe fiasco a hoe ass nigga And wen I see him I’ma smack him like da lil bitch he is”.

The real beef culture (when actual violence is threatened and carried out), which started with Pac and Biggie, extended with 50 cent and Ja Rule, and is now playing itself out as a major marketing ploy for artists like The Game and 40 Glocc, is taken to a different level with Chief Keef.  The Chicago police are currently investigating the teenage rapper due to his tweets regarding the death of Jojo.

The idea that Chief Keef would threaten Lupe for expressing a genuine concern for his community, and the rest of the commercial hip-hop community would remain silent, is the problem with commercial hip-hop in a nutshell.  It’s our job, as adults, to continue to talk about the ills in our community, no matter how the teenagers react.  I applaud Lupe for that. I’ve got his back, whatever that means.  Modern thug rap is the art of reducing the death and destruction in our communities, to nursery rhymes.  It engages a demographic waiting for someone to teach them.  We can’t let them  win.  We have to support the Lupe’s, the KRS-1’s, the Dead Prez’, and the bus drivers willing to tell the kids the truth.

…The wheels of the bus went round and round, and the wipers of the bus went swish-swish-swish until we got to the kids school.  “Be on time tomorrow!” The driver bellowed as the kid hopped off.  Not sure what the boy said, but it was definitely a profanity from his body language.  The driver didn’t mind at all.

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