Hip-hop/Spirituality/Freethinking. Speaking for all underdogs!
The ‘Hood Has Lied to Us!
Remember the movie “Super Fly,” where Ron O’Neal plays a character named Priest? His wish was to make one last score (drug buy) and get out of the game. Priest just wanted to get enough money to rid himself of his past—his filthy drug dealing profession, heroin junkies, prostitutes, stick-up men, dirty cops, and all things ‘hood related. His realization was that his life would either end in prison or he’d die in the streets, peddling dope.
Priest wanted to live the “American dream.” He wanted to walk down the street and see trees and manicured lawns and white picket fences and smell the aroma of apple pie coming from a neighbor’s house. He wanted to live in a neighborhood where he wouldn’t have to look over his shoulder because of his past deeds—a place where he could start a family—a place far, far away from what is referred to as “the ‘hood.” He wanted to live in “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood,” a place where the sun always shone and the birds melodically chirped.
“Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” is a far cry from the ‘hood that Priest and many of us came from. We remember the good times growing up in the ‘hood, our concrete jungle—playing in a project stairwell, eating Now/Laters and drinking red Kool-Aid, an occasional ass-whipping with an extension cord—government cheese, Ramen Noodles and syrup sandwiches—riding the subway with homies, tagging trains, break-dancing on the corner—basement parties, the first time we had sex. The advent of rap music! “I said a hip hop, the hippie, the hippie to the hip hop and you don’t stop!”Yes! The ‘hood memories are many!
But with the good times came the bad; the homeless sprawled out on the sidewalk sleeping, as children walk over them to get to school, the neighbors who were evicted and had all of their shit thrown on the front lawn, the neighborhood crack-head found dead in the alley, the gang fights, the raping of a child, the daily shootings, the police beatings, the riots. Back in the day, we wished for nothing more than to get out of the ‘hood.
Fast-forward. Hip-hop/street culture has made it fashionable to want to stay in the ‘hood. Some have said you’re “selling out” if you move to the suburbs. Some think you’re trying to be white for wanting better for yourself and family. They call it living “ghetto-fabulous.” We’ve romanticized the ‘hood. We’ve got suburban white kids trying to be hard. Remember white rapper Vanilla Ice, who fabricated his ‘hood status to sell records? Being from the ‘hood is all the rage! The Notorious B.I.G. once rapped, “Call the crib, same number, same ‘hood, it’s all good…”But is it really all good?
Many rappers say they’re just telling their story and speaking their truth, but how many of these rappers offer up an opinion or solution to the woes of ‘hood life? How many of them have that definitive song on their album that’s heart-felt—a warning to the pitfalls of criminality and gang life? Yes! We “hustle hard!” Yes! We go “hard in the paint”everyday, just working that 9 to 5 for the man. These are rap lyrics that should speak to the everyday man, trying to provide for his family.
Look at rapper Maino, a man who did a ten-year bid—a man who bares the scar of the streets everyday across his face—a man who physically made good after a ‘hood life, laden with street drama. He got himself together and got out of the ‘hood. But Maino is not the “rule,” but rather the “exception!” “The same can be said of rapper 50 Cent, a man shot nine times who lived to tell (rap) about it. Now he’s a multimillionaire! Again, he is another “exception to the rule.”
Maino’s song “All The Above” is one of the realest songs of overcoming ‘hood life in recent memory; “I’m a soldier/a rider/a ghetto survivor/…See me coming up from nothing/to me living my dreams/…Look how I ride for the block/Look how I rep for the ‘hood/I done suffered a lot/…Picture you willing to bleed/Picture you wearing a scar/…This what the ghetto done made me.”
Maino is one of the few authentic rappers, whose life is representative of many young black men stuck in the ‘hood, trying to make-a-dollar-out-of-fifteen-cents.
“Rags to riches” is a beautiful thing! But for every “rags to riches” story, there are hundreds, yea, thousands of young Black and Latino people who get caught up in the glorification of the ‘hood and never reach Maino’s success. Who will demystify the ‘hood and pull back the veil and expose its rotten core? How many must die before we understand that the ‘hood has lied to us?
Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls, , Big L, Jam Master Jay, Soldier Slim, Freaky Tah, Mac Dre, Proof, Big Hawk, Izzy Ramirez, Philant Johnson and Stack Bundles. Beautiful Black men are dying all over America over some bullshit—Black men who died in the ‘hood or by the ‘hood mentality!
The ‘hood has lied to us! Nas rapped of “street dreams.” But the real street dream is to get out of the streets! Get out of the ‘hood! There’s nothing wrong with being proud of your ‘hood, barrio, or set, which helped raise you. We should all be proud of our past, but we should never let our past define our future, negatively speaking. “Street dreaming” has gotten many-a brotha put in jail or killed.
The ‘hood has lied to us! There was a time when we were children and dreamed of being a fireman or a police officer or a doctor, but something went horribly wrong. Something changed many of us! Something caused us to give up on that dream and defer to a life of thuggery and chicanery. Recall, for a moment, the movie Menace II Society, when Caine’s granddad asked him if he wanted to “live or die”—to which he retorted, “I don’t know.”
How did he get there? How did the ‘hood influence him? What happened to his dreams and the dreams of many of us? Langston Hughes wrote a poem called “A Dream Deferred,” poetically asking, “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore—and then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over—like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?”
It appears that many of our young Black and Latino brothers and sisters dreams EXPLODED! The young are so bombarded with ‘hood images of get-rich-quick schemes and C.R.EA.M. (Cash rules everything around me) and M.O.E. (Money over everything) that they’ve given up on education and hard work. They need that instant gratification that four years of college can’t give them. They need that “dolla dolla bill y’all!”—and they need it now!
“It was all a dream… I never thought it could happen/this rappin’ stuff/I was too used to packin’ gats and stuff…”—B.I.G.
The ‘hood has caused many of us to defer our dreams of becoming doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers, firemen and policemen—to give our divine minds over to the streets—to allow the god in us to be used for evil—instead of good.
The ‘hood has lied to us! Who’s telling these young impressionable hip-hop heads and ghetto stars that trappin’ and slinging dope is a one-way ticket to the penitentiary or the cemetery? How many drug dealers actually retire? Gucci Mane, Rick Ross and Young Jeezy are paid! They can rap about that dope-boy life and never have to purchase another 17.5 brick! And all of their ‘hood heroes will never see the sunshine—Big Meech, Larry Hoover, Boobie Williams, John Gotti, Big Ike, Bumpy Johnson, Frank Lucas, Nicky Barnes, Manuel Noriega, Pablo Escobar, the Godmother Griselda Blanco and Charles Cosby—all are either imprisoned, dead, in hiding or in the Federal Witness Protection Program. The fuck!
In reality, the ‘hood hasn’t lied to us, but rather the people in the ‘hood who perpetuate the “money over everything” mentality. The ‘hood has given us some very clear warning signs that it isn’t to be fucked with. Just look around! The ‘hood is a den of iniquity—a damsel of deceit—Liquor stores, hella churches, drug addicts, pimps, prostitutes, gang bangers, hell on earth!
Pray for the day that we turn our ‘hoods into neighborhoods—a day when Ice Cube’s lyric “It was a good day; I didn’t have to use my AK” becomes passé and dated. Pray for a day when rappers rap, “I think I’m Ben Carson (a pediatric neurosurgeon)/Larry Handfield (a top-notch Florida attorney)/whippin’ work/hallelujah/one nation/under God/real men gettin’ money from workin’ hard.” Stop allowing the ‘hood to lie to you!
Khalil Amani is a blogger for AllHipHop. He also writes for DJ Kay Slay’s Originators Magazine & Straight Stuntin Magazine. Amani also writes for Hoodgrown, Maybach and Sext Magazines. He is the author of six books, including the ground-breaking book, “Hip-Hop Homophobes…” iuniverse.com 07). Amani is gay hip-hop’s self-proclaimed straight advocate. Visit The Coonerific One at http://www.khalilamani.ning.com Follow on Facebook/Twitter @khalilamani. Youtube @ yahweh 12 Khalilamani@yahoo.com