I have a confession: Every time I hear someone say music “ain’t what it used to be,” my ass itches. I mean this figuratively but you get the picture: This is, IMHO, a top tier bullshit statement — one of many that have somehow become hallowed communal knowledge. We peddle in many generically “truthy” statements that aren’t propped up so much by reality as by the fact that they’ve been repeated ad nauseum in somebody’s barber shop. Need proof? Consult your Facebook timeline. I’ll wait.
At best, these “truisms” are bogus. At worst, they’re ugly attacks on things we don’t like or understand. Either way, I argue, they’re pure monkey shit and it’s time we bury them deep. Here are the top three lies that Black folks can stop telling themselves right now and today. Make that change!
“Black music was better back in the day!”
I may have to fight someone over this statement, and that’s ok. My windmill game is proper! This truth must be told: Music was never “better” than it is now, just different. "How can this be?", you say. "Dej Loaf!", you say. Walk with me for a second. True or false: Each generation swears that the current generation’s music is crap. Your grandparents said that about Rick James. Your parents are currently saying that about Migos (full disclosure: I. Love. Migos.). And guess what? One day, when rocking linen suits, mandals and a straw hat starts sounding g-fly to you, you’ll be telling your kids that their music is crap. Sounds like music is just getting progressively worse, right? Tall glass of nope. If music truly kept devolving, at some point we’d be head bobbing to someone beating trash cans while incoherently grunting. Young Thug notwithstanding, we’re not there yet. The music of the ‘60s spoke to that generation. Same with the ‘70s and ‘80s etc. The “depth” of the lyrics is irrelevant; music captures the spirit of the moment.
When you put it in that context, no generation’s music could ever be better or worse. Music just…is.
Of course there’s the argument that rap in particular is far more violent and ignorant than it used to be. To that I say, are you being serious right now? I recall rappers like Kool Moe Dee and LL Cool J locked in jihad for the duration of the ‘80s — an era which, might I add, brought us such pinnacles of ignorance as a dance that involved bending over and rhythmically rubbing your butt. Rubbing. Your. Butt. Yeah I did it a few times. But this isn’t about me!
OK but music today is definitely more vulgar, right? Yeah no. I remember being a little girl watching 2 Live Crew’s “Move Somethin’” and wondering why those women were lined up dancing in the street. Grown Me wants to go back and tell Kid Me that this is a hoe line, these nice ladies didn’t have daddies growing up and go lay down now.
And that was in 1987 — we won’t even get into surreptitious filth of the ‘70s. This is the time of “innocent” lyrics that crept into your head only to make sense five years later. That’s when — over a bowl of cereal and a newspaper — it finally dawns on you what “feel my nature rise” meant. This happened to me. Tell ya what, Google Jelly Roll Morton’s ol’ turn-of-the-century hoe shit ass, then talk to me about how music was more elevated way back when. Nah son!
“If Black men would just pull their pants up, (insert amazing community progress that has nothing to do with pants) will happen!”
Some time over the past decade it became popular to blame everything from infant mortality to MLK’s assassination on men sagging their pants. For a while, there was a pretty steady flow of local legislation cracking down on ass cracks. It’s all been pretty terrible to watch, especially since the push has been so squarely led by Black people, against Black people. America has a significant history of villainizing urban street fashion; read up on the Zoot Suit Riots sometime and see how deadly fashion haterade can get.
Frankly, while the sag-induced thug waddle is pretty tragic, saggy pants as a whole never killed anyone. Now those gripping ass, butter cutter pants that held nuts hostage from 1970 to roughly 1985? Directly responsible for lowering the Black birth rate. Hell, I can’t be the first only child who saw an old picture of their dad in those heat-seeking infertility pants and instantly understood why she grew up playing hide-n-seek alone. Seems like all the people blaming sagging for holding back the race should actually be thanking the trend for emancipating nuts and reversing the population decline those birth control pants started. Low slung britches, I salute you!
“Black don’t crack!”
Sorry but this most celebrated of Black truisms just doesn’t hold up. Consider for a minute Morgan Freeman. Now, I happen to think Morgan Freeman is a regal looking guy, and given the chance, I’d probably hire him to live-narrate my life. But has this man ever NOT looked like he was AARP-certified? His face has been 75 since he was 25. His Black cracked - it just did so very early in his life and hasn’t progressed much since. He’s the Liberty Bell!
What real harm is there in this truism? Two words:
Look closely: This is what happens when you don’t have a prayin’ grandmother. Bless her heart, this woman is walking around in carefully placed Ace bandages secured with faith the size of a mustard seed. All because someone told her Black couldn’t crack. Well my eyes have had enough close encounters with this woman’s labia to last me. We need to stop passing along this myth. Do it for the children!