[This post originally ran on Dec. 30, 2017.]
If you’re reading this, it’s too late.
I’m pretty sure I’m either dead, in “the upside down” or caught in some existential interdimensional prank show hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. This can’t be real life. Someone should call up Willie D or Scarface, because I think I have another verse for “My Mind’s Playing Tricks on Me.”
This year Kwanzaa fell on the weekend.
I had just arose from sleeping
Up late watching Umar on Instagram
When I got a message from Angela Helm
It was so early I knew something had to be wrong
It said: “Did you know there was a Kwanzaa song?”
I know. I know. Funkmaster Flex is probably trying to call me right now to get me in the Ciroc Studios for a live freestyle because that verse reminded him of Black Thought, but it is based on a true story. I found out this morning that there is an actual Kwanzaa carol and it was made by Teddy Pendergrass.
Now, I don’t want to make it seem like I’m Punkin’damus, the first cousin of Nostradamus, but I feel like if The Root contributing editor Angela Helm had informed me of the existence of a Kwanzaa song, I would have asked: “Did Teddy Pendergrass sing it?” I don’t even know why. It’s just in my spirit. Teddy P. just seems like a nigga who’d sing about Kwanzaa.
Unaware that I was about to enter the twilight zone, where everything makes sense and yet nothing makes sense, I decided to listen to the song. You probably think I’m skipping past the part of the story about Googling the song and finding it. Look, I don’t know what kind of friends you have, but I don’t associate with the kind of people who would say, “Did you know Teddy Pendergrass made a Kwanzaa song?” and not send you the link, the lyrics, a detailed description of every funny part in the song and 27 jokes about it. Maybe they weren’t raised right, but you need some new friends. I don’t.
First of all, the song is called “Happy Kwanzaa,” which I assume Teddy was forced to sing at gunpoint to repay a debt after being caught reneging during a game on the lucrative-but-dangerous underground spades circuit. They didn’t even try to give it one of the good baby-Jesus birthday titles like “Silent Night” or “O Come All Ye Faithful.” Nah, Teddy just walked into the studio, reached into the refrigerator, grabbed a bottle of ice-cold Champale and told the band to play a blues riff while he sang some shit about Kwanzaa.
We should pause here for a moment to acknowledge the existence of something that we rarely talk about. Some things are “too black.” And “Happy Kwanzaa” is like showing up to an interview at a Fortune 500 company in a dashiki and handing them a résumé smeared with barbecue sauce and stained with chicken grease. “Happy Kwanzaa” is so black, it’s almost embarrassing. If I wasn’t such a stan of Theodore DeReese Pendergrass, I’d think this song was a racist parody attempt by the “alt-right.”
It begins with African drums, then moves into a standard R&B musical instrumental that could only be achieved by a band whose members were blessed with the gift of plentiful and nappy chest hair. Then—because it is legally required in all Teddy Pendergrass performances—before he begins singing, he gives the perfunctory, “Oooh yeah!”
Ninja, what? There is nothing about Kwanzaa that makes me rub my body and say “Ooh yeah.” And that was a “touch myself” ooh yeah, not a standard, run-of-the-mill, everyday, “Oh, look, he sprinkled bacon on top of the deviled eggs” ooh yeah. As someone who grew up on ’90s R&B, I know my ooh yeahs. The opening “ooh yeah” in “Kwanzaa Song” was Jodeci-like. It was inappropriate.
Wait. I know I’m still inside a dream state but ... is someone whispering “Umoja”? No, I am not having ear hallucinations. Someone. Is. Whispering. Umoja. After Teddy informs you that “together, there is much we can do,” and pleads with you to teach the children well, the background singers recite the Kwanzaa principles while Theodore apparently has an orgasm describing “a few of the principles that help us carry ooooooooonnnnnnnnnn!!!!!”
And then, out of nowhere, somebody starts rapping.
Yes, there is a Kwanzaa rap inside a Kwanzaa song by Teddy Pendergrass. And not one dude rapping. There are two. They blew their entire budget on the Kwanzaa carol. Jesus is real, y’all.
The song ends with a choir singing, children reciting the Kwanzaa principles and Teddy emerging from his musical refractory period to have another orgasm as the song fades out.
I know I sometimes speak with hyperbole, but I have contacted the legal department at The Root, and we are willing to guarantee that this is the best Kwanzaa carol you will hear all day, no holds barred, or we will issue a full refund for this post. No strings attached.
You might think that’s a bold statement, but I am willing to put The Root’s money where my mouth is. It may sound like I’m going crazy, but if I am, at least I have this. Ooh yeah, Habari Gani!
Kwanzaa’s playing tricks on me.