Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Are you feelin’ it? A honky’s guide to hip-hop

I am pretty much the whitest white girl imaginable. My German-Irish heritage made sure that I was born with white-blonde hair, big blue eyes, and pink skin that gets angry in the sun. In short, I was Hitler’s wet dream. All heil me.

As the years went on, my hair turned from blonde to dark brown and my eyes turned from blue to green. No longer an Aryan princess, I still have plenty of white-girl in me. I have no inherent sense of rhythm, I am utterly unable to use slang unironically, and I am unabashedly in love with early Rod Stewart. If Reason to Believe comes on the radio, it’s all over. There will be no talking, but there will be three and a half minutes of off-key singing and frantic emoting with my hands. I feel you, Rod Steward. I feel you. Same goes for Elton John and Billy Joel. These men transcend music, to the point where I shouldn’t even call them men. They are Gods.

My high school friends reacted to my bizarre taste in music by dropping subtle hints like leaving brochures for retirement homes and coupons for Polident in my car. They were at white as I (the suburbs of Northern Virginia didn’t have many people whose skin color could be described by a coffee drink. [At least, not in high school. They were pretty much in the kitchens.]) yet they just didn’t get it. How could they not see the utter brilliance of Crocodile Rock?

I’m a white girl on the surface; I’m a white girl in my bones. And for a long time, that was my reference point for reality. It was my identity. But recently, I’ve began listening to my soul. And what my soul told me, is that I’m a sistah. Just like Rod Stewart spoke to me in my adolescence, Jay-Z speaks to me now. I know what it’s like to be a hustler. To be a thug. Common told me what it’s like on The Corner. Kanye West made me want to drop out of college, despite the fact that I had graduated over a year prior. Talib Kweli convinced me that “the pigs killed B.I.G and Pac too. And if they didn’t, then they know who did.” That is some heavy shit right there. It’s a burden, all of this understanding and knowledge. It’s a weight I am happy to bear.

Unfortunately, most of my snowy brothers and sisters don’t agree. Hip-Hop scares them. In their world, it’s all, bitches and Hos, and gats in yo’ ass. Or something. It’s a myth that tons of white people listen to hip-hop. Tons of white people listen to Top 40 music. If TRL tells them that 50 Cent is okay, then they will happily shake their asses to the marble-mouthed stylings of an ex-crack dealer who was shot in the face. To them, 50 is the same as Gwen Stefani or Fall Out Boy. It’s controlled danger, like a Fear Factor stunt with harnesses and safety wires.

I hang out with very few people who actually listen to hip-hop. Most of them are the type of people who said, "Jay-Z's calling Beyonce a bitch!" the first time they heard 99 Problems. So with this in mind, I feel as though it is my duty as a white-girl sistah to take away the fear. I have created a mixtape; A guide, if you will, to the wonderful world of hip-hop. Read the guide, download the songs, and before you know it, you’ll stop averting your eyes and crossing the street whenever hip-hop gets too close.

1. The Boogie Man Song--Mos Def
I have a crazy obsession with Elvis Costello. I know I'm not alone (at least in my mind, I'm not). The first couple of times I heard this song, it confused me. It sounded like something, but I couldn't quite figure out what. Then I realized what it was: This is the best Elvis Costello song that Elvis Costello never wrote. While it's not a typical hip-hop song, it shows that hip-hop artists are capable of doing more and it's a good way to start a novice off, especially someone who is resistant.

2. Bridging the Gap--Nas
It's a family-friendly way to introduce someone to Nas. It has a familiar sound that non-fans can identify with. Plus I have a crush on Nas' dad. Seriously. He's adorable. Screw you for judging me.

3. The New Workout Plan--Kanye West (not the shitty remix)
I forced a friend of mine to listen to this CD right after it came out and subjected him to my insane hip-hop stylings. He was not impressed with me, but he did dig the CD, especially this song. After he heard the line, "All the Mocha Lattes, you got to do Pilates," he couldn't stop laughing and said that this would be the first Hip-Hop CD he would ever buy.

4. Ms. Jackson--Outkast
Fun Southern Rap. It's been around for a while, and it won't freak anyone out.

5. Guns & Roses--Jay-Z feat. Lenny Kravitz
A fun Rock/Rap combo, and true white-people-music-lovers will notice that the guitar underlying the entire song is not Lenny Kravitz, but a song called Arco Arena by Cake.

6. Shoop--Salt N Peppa
We've gotta represent the ladies, and Foxy Brown can suck it. Plus, this is my Karaoke song. I do all three parts. I'm very talented.

7. The Proud--Talib Kweli
It's time to get socially conscious, ya'll. The first time I listened to this song, I was at the gym. I nearly fell off the Stairmaster. I had to listen to it again. It'll get you thinking.

8. Fight the Power--Public Enemy
It stays in the socially-conscious realm and will be familiar to anyone who's seen Do the Right Thing. Flava Flav hasn't always been a reality TV star, kids.

9. The Food—Common feat. Kanye West
It’s a fact. White people love Dave Chappelle. And those who don’t fast forward through the musical performances will recognize this song from season one of Chappelle’s Show.

10. Lodi Dodi--Snoop Dog
By this time, they shouldn't be too scared, so they should be open to a little stereotypical early 90s rap without too much of the bitches and hos. This song, not originally being from the early 90s, has the added bonus of introducing them to Slick Rick.

Seriously. Get this playlist on your I-Pod and pretty soon people will be doing double-takes. “Who’s that—is that Steve? Dude’s got Soul!” You can do it; it’s not hard. Embrace hip-hop and it will embrace you. Don’t be scurred.

No comments: