"The Vivid Ass Appeal Of It"
*Rock Star MP3*
Jim Jones should add Pharrell to his list of rappers eyed queer. On a recent MTV special Kanye cited Skateboard P as his chief style icon before similarly lauding his groomer Ibn Jasper and manager Don P. as the best dressed dudes in Chicago when he was banging out "5 beats a day for three summers." Now, Kanye inferred, as shots of his "stuntastic" self, the dapper Don and understated Ibn flashed across the screen, they make a enviable trio. "If I wasn't me" he said allowing a broad smile to stretch his chipmunk cheeks, "I would want to hang out with us."
Pharrell rhymed something similar but less democratic on his 2002 single, "Rock Star":
You can't be mePerpetual "It boy" Pharrell sums up the ethos of the hip hop moment. We can't be Pharrell. We're posers pining for absurdly fresh dookie chains and cloaking our awkward bodies in Bapesta's and Evisu's* two seasons too late when the kid from Virginia Beach has already found something more more exclusive, more expensive, and more Japanese to flaunt in videos directed by Paul Hunter. So what do we do? Parade through Fulton Street and Fox Hills malls in gaudy CZ laden costume jewelry and True Religion knockoffs? Hole up in our cramped apartments salivating at celebrities and their televised yellow brick lives? Work/hustle to our hearts arrest for paper and belonging? I don't know. Nor I am prepared to respond MB's provocative questions although I understand their answers are central to our persistence:
I'm a Rock Star
I'm rhyming on the top of a cop car
I'm a rebel and my .44 pops far
"How do we help people see that 50 is more likely going to get them dead than rich? And how do we show that life without wealth is just as or more so fulfilling?"I could go out on a limb, here, like Cosby and Tucker or Butts before, and attempt to unloosen the nooses encircling our necks, attempt to stop us from swinging cariactured dicks and sassy rubbernecks with bruising language. An invitingly facile and cathartic approach painfully proven unproductive. It may be all that we see and, in this hip hop moment, refused to resist, but it is not all that we are and I will not speak it into existence. If we are to uplift our spectacular blackness now drowning in awful stereotype we must speak the balance into existence. And then listen.
"I know people think we should save the music but I think we need to save the people. How do we do that?"
Kanye West dropped another gem, a diamond no less, on the MTV special. Reclined with his hands clasped behind his head, if my memory serves me correctly, the self conscious producer/rapper championed using people, harnessing other people's energy and talents for his own artistic product. So Kanye uses us to power his "Spaceship." Self-interest prohibits West from labelling this misuse but if I was to make the determination I would consider the integrity of his art, it's socially conscious index, and some responses too abstract to name. Most importantly, I would consider it's reciprocal value, in other words, what Kanye or Pharrell's music has done for me lately and what if anything it will do ten years from now? Hip hop should enrich, not just soundtrack, our lives. It should be a booie not dead weight.
You don't succeed cause you hesitateWhen I first heard this I cringed. Now I smile. It's a double edged stanza. Pharrell clowns and inspires in the span of a few bars cutting his encouragement with a reassertion of his unparallelled originality. That's leverage. That's fuel for a career. That diplomatic differentiation: "You can't be me I'm Rock Star" but you can "just be yourself." How comforting.
You think we're fly
But we levitate
Just be yourself
Pharrell and dem are right about one thing: no one ever really dies but we can invoke the death of murder music, that strange mutated fruit, that bitter crop that institutionalizes 'less than' in our brains and bodies. We can sow something more satisfying. We can make it better.
*For the record, I was up on Evisu in 2000. For all of you who are posing, not that their is anything wrong with that, Evisu is having a sample sale this week in NYC. I of course have moved on to something more exclusive, more expensive, and more Japanese. ; )