I have always stood for the national anthem—not because I believe in America and want to honor my country. I did it because ... well ... being black in America comes with the knowledge that there are certain things you must do just so you won’t piss off white people.
But since this whole Colin Kaepernick thing started, if I found myself somewhere the national anthem was being played, I probably wouldn’t stand. Not out of protest, or to support the movement for justice and equality. I’d do it for one reason:
There are, however, a few anthems for which I would stand. Here they are, in some particular order.
7. “Dipset Anthem”
While this may be the least of all the anthems, one must agree that the Diplomats trump “The Star-Spangled Banner” from the outset. If Francis Scott Key had given a shoutout to Just Blaze before “Oh Say Can You See,” I might have been willing to salute the flag. Plus, no one ever made a video of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and the rest of the Founding Fathers standing on a stoop leaning to the bombs bursting in air.
I’ve been to the Smithsonian and seen all of the presidential portraits. John Adams never wore a matching do-rag under his fitted wig. Juelz Santana did. Which would you rather wear: Benjamin Franklin’s waistcoat or Camron’s pink puffy jacket?
I rest my case.
6. The Omega National Anthem
Perhaps no song is so identified with one group of people as “Atomic Dog.” If you attend any black function and this song comes on, you’ll probably want to get the hell out of the way before you get kicked in the sternum by a member of Omega Psi Phi. It doesn’t matter where this song is played—in court, at a party, even at your grandfather’s funeral; at least one Que Dog will be there and he is going to show out.
As a member of the world’s greatest fraternity, I got a little adrenaline rush just typing that sentence (no shade to the world’s second-greatest fraternity, the Unsullied. Sure, they pledge harder, but their probate shows are gruesome).
In fact, to overcome my fear of being buried alive, I have a clause in my will that requires the mortician to play “Atomic Dog” at my graveyard service before I am lowered into the ground. If I don’t jump out of the casket and start hopping, I’m really dead.
There’s nothing wrong with making sure.
5. “Back That Azz Up” (the Other Black National Anthem)
I understand why others (pronounced “wīyutt pee-pull”) get upset when people don’t stand for Francis Scott Key’s song, because when I see someone sitting during the opening stanza of Juvenile’s magnum opus, I get a little pissed off myself. Not only does not backing dat azz up show a lack of consideration to the people who served in the Cash Money army (better yet, a navy), but it’s disrespectful to all the soldiers, including the No Limit Soldiers, Sista Soulja and even Soulja Boy.
I immediately stand up and put my hand over my heart whenever I hear “Cash Money Records taking over for the nine-nine and 2000s.”
4. “Hard Knock Life” (“Ghetto Anthem”)
Look, man, I have never watched over a “rampart” for anything. I don’t even know what a rampart is. If you told me you left a $100,000 check right under your rampart, I wouldn’t even know where to look, even if the check was gallantly gleaming.
But if Key’s poem sampled the music from Annie and said something about the bombs bursting in air being for “chicks wishing they ain’t have to strip to pay tuition,” I’d be much more inclined to be patriotic. The original title for this song was “Ghetto Anthem,” but everyone started calling it “Hard Knock Life,” so ... you know how we do.
3. The National Cookout Anthem
There is only one song that moves the young and the old alike. It is a staple owned by every DJ and can jump-start a cookout, a wedding reception or anywhere men wear Stacy Adams and women wear leopard-print blouses with leather skirts:
Frankie Beverly and Maze’s “Before I Let Go.”
In a secret ceremony at all family reunions, black people are required to sign a nonbinding agreement that compels them to dance whenever this song is played under penalty of losing their black card. Even if you have to dance with your aunt Wilene, you must get on the dance floor when this song comes on and dance like a true American.
If you don’t hear this at a cookout, don’t eat the ribs.
They are probably trash.
2. “International Players Anthem”
That’s where Francis Scott Key fucked up. He didn’t get André to feature on the track. Everything is better with a verse from André 3000.
I have a cousin from New Jersey who believes Southern rap should not be called “hip-hop,” but the first time he heard this song, he said, “I can’t lie ... that shit go hard, cousin!”
Has anyone ever said “The Star-Spangled Banner” “goes hard, cousin”?
Think hard. I’ll wait.
1. The Negro National Anthem
You should know this song.
If you know the words to “Bodak Yellow” but not to “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” I don’t like you no more. I actually don’t even know how I learned this song; I thought every black person was born knowing how to do the Electric Slide and the lyrics to the first verse of “Lift Every Voice.” But I am beginning to run into more people who don’t know either.
There are too many renditions of the Negro national anthem to single out one as definitive, but I dare you to listen to all three verses in this version without crying. Go ahead, I dare you.