Hip Hop Culture for Grown-Ups
Words by Tony Grands
When I was a kid, I had a father. Not just some dude who donated the sperm to hatch my mother’s egg, but a dad who was right down the hallway, in arm’s reach of whatever type of service I needed at that moment.
All bullshit aside, I knew at a relatively early age that I was blessed to have my dad, because most of my friends didn’t experience the same luxury. Bugs, heavy shit, social issues, nothing that the old man couldn’t repair & reassign. Now that I am a dad I hope my kids make the same assessments of my character as I did of my father when I was their age(s).
Dads teach their sons a lot of different things that can all be housed under one general umbrella: survival. Tough-guy dads teach their sons how to fight. Pacifist fathers teach their sons how to stand for something peacefully. ‘Fraidy cat poppas make sure their sons know the most efficient methods of high-tailing it the hell outta there. You catch my drift. Whether it be self defense or self reliance, a father gives his son(s) certain pieces of information that inevitably assist in molding his adulthood experiences. Survival. This is that part of growing up that they never talked about on The Cosby Show.
My pops wasn’t real big on fighting. He’s the type of cat that was outsmarting you before it even became a conflicted situation. I’ve heard about some of his “0-100 ni99@, real quick” moments but that was never his steez around me. For the most part, the little nuggets of knowledge he slid to me were about avoiding foolishness to begin with. His main point was how easily it is to get hurt in the world. Not heartbroken hurt, he meant shot or stabbed or billyclubbed to death hurt. So he gave me tools of survival. Urban camouflage. An invisibility cloak of uncommon sense, so so speak. Taught me how & when to blend in, why having certain types of friends was important, etc. Once I reached a certain age, one thing that was obviously of dire importance to him was how I needed to act
if when I began coming in contact with police.
For the record, cop interaction is a rite of passage in the Black community. As an innocent, naive babe, you look up to, even admire the police when you see them cruising down your grandmother’s street or posted in the local playground parking lot. It’s not until you start to move around with social independence do you begin to see that the kindred respect you existed does not. You find that in many instances, it is quite the opposite thought . For this reason, cop etiquette is passed down through generations verbally, from fathers to sons (& sometimes daughters) & so on. My father taught me that as soon as I see the siren, pull over & put my hands up.
I used the “hands up” technique all throughout my younger years, & even when I was totally wrong, driving on a suspended license with no registration, they let me go. & it happened more than once. I can’t help but to think that my hands-up introduction governed the exchanges, especially the times the officers informed me about my suspension & warrant & still let me bounce. They may have towed my vehicles, but never arrested me, which they surely could have. I miss the 90s in Los Angeles.
For generations, African American tradition dictates that we must warn, inform, & educate our youth about how to survive on the streets. & that’s not to say other cultures don’t do the same but I strongly doubt that the informational exchange consists of the same variables. One culture’s response to violence may be, “Call the cops!” while the next culture’s violence may be coming from the cops, for example. Which brings me back to my original point. My pops taught me — literally — how not to get killed in these streets (by cops OR criminals). I’ve taught/am continually teaching my sons the same things. Funny thing happened, though…I noticed the techniques that helped my generation stay alive don’t seem to work anymore.
I’ve been around a while & Ive witnessed racial & social hostilities flare & die back down. The natural cyclical fluctuations of human behavior. But this latest wave of blatant racism & disdain towards Black Folks in general is new to me. Just go on any news website, especially their Facebook pages, & read the comments for a glimpse at the scathing perceptions of the modern-day negro. It’ll shock you for a moment, but you’ll be numbed by redundancy after a while. It seems all peaceful, level-headed attempts at respect & recognition are thwarted as quickly as they are started. So seriously, now what? If anybody has any brilliant ideas on how to pull a leaderless, homeless, seemingly directionless people together for the projected betterment of our future survival, now is the time to drop them on the proverbial table.
Recently, rapper Kendrick Lamar put one of his ideas on the table via an interview in Billboard magazine. In it, he makes reference to Mike Brown’s murder having something to do with “us” “not respecting ourselves,” as if that’s a solution to young, African American men being murdered. I wear a tie & shiny shoes to work at least 3 times a week but that ain’t gonna stop lead from bleeding me out if the cops start shooting. Had Kendrick chosen his words more carefully, I’m almost positive he would have eluded to the fact that a communal reboot or revamp of our collective image would force the distorted perceptions of “us” to be recalibrated. That would merely be seeds planted in hopes that future generations will have the luxury of running to the cops instead of away from them. The “Money Trees” rapper also said it “starts at home,” another cohesive point which leads me to believe K. Dot’s out here doing interviews on superweed, thinking & talking way too fast. Weed has caused me to get pulled into arguments simply because my focus was clouded so I won’t judge you, Kendrick. Just don’t smoke so much pre-interview weed next time. & yes, it does start at home. But “home” isn’t where the police are committing their atrocities. It’s happening everywhere. At this point, we might have to start teaching our kids how to catch or deflect bullets. But per the belief that we Blacks are superhuman, I suspect that would only lead to more people dying. Because cops tend to be bad shots.
In any event, these are strange & dangerous times (although not really), so stay aware & stay ready. God bless & safe travels, everyone.
Words by Tony Grands
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