Before there was bottle service, there was the Bull.
There was once a time in black history when we as a people consumed drinks with names like King Cobra, Colt 45 and Magnum voluntarily and without a hint of irony. We’d get loaded on high-gravity malted swill and spend an evening pointing out one another’s shortcomings until someone called Earl or someone got stole on. And we did it every weekend because that was the socioeconomic norm of hip-hop consumerism in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when rappers were still middle-class guys with gold ropes and Sergio Tacchini track suits.
Honestly, the most disrespectful shit about consuming this black-on-black crime in a bottle is that we thought we were obligated to pour some out on the curb for the homies that weren’t there like they were actually missing out on that shit. For real, if I knew then what I know now about responsible alcohol consumption, I would’ve probably faked my own death in 1995 just to save myself the indignity of partaking in Steel Reserve 211 in person.
Professional wrestling is, in and of itself, enshrouded in ridiculousness. Koko B. Ware was three notches past ridiculous, but damn it if me and my older brother didn’t fight over who would be Junkyard Dog and who would be Koko B. Ware when we pretended to be wrestlers because those were the only two black wrestlers going. Also, I can neither confirm nor deny whether one or both of us used a balled-up pair of Jamz on our shoulder as our own Frankie.
(Note: If you got any or all of this, I owe you a high-five when I see you.)
Word to Ben Carson blessing Jesus: This is all kinds of blasphemy.
At some point, we’d bought enough DMX records and believed in DMX so much as a logical premise of personhood that someone in Hollywood decided that it was time not only to put him on the big screen but also to give him top billing as an action-movie star.
Mind you, this was the late ’90s/early ’00s, when Will Smith was just becoming Mr. Summer Blockbuster, and someone at some studio was like, “Well, DMX is a rapper, too. Pair him up with Steven Seagal and let’s see how much magic they can make.”
Needless to say, DMX was and is currently no Will Smith (lyrically or dramatically), and even Steven Seagal is, well, a bloated Russian shill posing as the master sensei of a renegade Cobra Kai-dojo franchise, and we still have so many questions. So. Many. Questions.
Look at this commercial and realize that the voice you hear rapping is hip-hop legend and LL Cool J adversary Kool Moe Dee.
Holy shit—British Knights made no sense in regard to their branding, style and/or purpose. Why did we let British Knights happen? How can we prevent British Knights from ever happening again? How many poor souls lost their lives at bus stops and nightclubs in America in the name of defending their honor and their BKs from being smudged or jacked? How will we explain that to the children?
Da-hah, da-hah. We literally didn’t think hip-hop would take it this far.
For those of you born after Russell Simmons became a vegan, there was an era when rap music was a strange slurry of serious rappers with skills and gimmick rappers just trying to ride a short wave to fleeting fame. Sometimes they were one and the same with emcees like Doctor Ice, whose whole shtick was built around being a medical professional, and groups like the Fat Boys, who were, well, fat and boys.
But the Rappin’ Duke was a special case of fucked up because he embodied the gimmicky aspects of primordial mainstream hip-hop and paired them with the cultural zeitgeist of the Reagan era in a shitty John Wayne impersonation over a beat that was kinda dope for the time to make something like a hit. I mean, we were so starved for rap records and hyped to hear rap music that we listened to that shit on the radio (a lot), and they even made a video for his song because why not?
So next time y’all wanna talk sporty about Lil Thug Gun Yachty Killa McDollas, remember that we had the Rappin’ Duke, and he’s prolly somewhere right now counting that da-hah money.
You don’t gotta raise your hand or nothing, but just blink twice if you either had a Jheri curl or you wanted a Jheri curl but your parents were some hatin’-ass haters who wouldn’t let you be great with a Jheri curl.
Black people have survived a lot, from slavery to Reconstruction to Jim Crow to the civil rights movement—but there’s never been any singular force as pernicious and divisive to our community as the Jheri curl. I mean, a good curl was a luxurious ghetto waterfall of oily tresses that bounced hither and yon to the beat of “Set It Off” whilst glistening regally across a roller-skating rink. A bad curl, though—that shit looked like a cotton ball that got dragged through half a plate of egg foo yong gravy and dropped on a barbershop floor. And really, there was no middle ground.
You either looked like Stoney Jackson on 227 or Marsha Warfield on Night Court: a definitive line between “hell yeah” and “aw shit” that sat affixed to your scalp.
There is no person in the pantheon of modern black excellence who isn’t probably two degrees separated from a Jheri curl (*cough, cough* Oprah Winfrey had one, dawg *cough, cough*), and someone you know and/or love(d) probably rocked that greasy mop in the midst of mentoring you to your current level of greatness.
I’ve yet to visit the Blacksonian in person, but if I get there and there isn’t at least one corner of one exhibit dedicated to the drip-drip chemicals and shower caps in all their glory, I’ll personally feel like we’ve been robbed of a significant and relevant part of our collective heritage.