Thursday, August 6, 2009

Wisdom Body 101: The Tao of Dennis Coles

Men marryin’ men/Ill…- "Mighty Healthy"
Fuck what they say/Cuz we against the abortions –“Beat The Clock”
Do business with the Jews?/Never that!- "After The Smoke Is Clear"

The idea that you should hold a woman equal to a man is really fucking basic (no homo). No bleeding heart eyeroll-inducing feminist lectures, its just human courtesy. Sure there is a lot of typical macho bro shit that comes out the mouth of Wu members but these are 70’s babies, 90’s rap survivors and still a bunch of dudes from the projects of Staten Island and Brooklyn. What’s surprising is how backwards what the fuck came out his mouth was. You’d have to be terribly PC and sheltered to think that there aren’t women like that described in “Wildflower” and that being a male somehow neuters you from expressing derision or disappointment or out and out shitting on a woman with reason. If you accept the premise that people should be treated equally until shown otherwise then that goes without saying and makes invoking the "m" word a lot trickier and more up for discussion. The weird thing is that, you don’t have to be at all "feminist", “liberal” or “sex-positive” to draw ire with the Angela Yee interview comments.

I was half expecting him to go in on some practical reasoning or maybe even bring up how when he got diabetes he thought it was AIDS because he recklessly went raw with a lot of girls during Wu's heydey and wants to avoid another scare. But not some ole' style male supremacy shit. On general principle, that’s some 1950’s bullshit he’s saying, that, though perfectly in line with the Wu and, really, a classically royal/Victorian/pre liberation male notion of the Madonna/Whore complex and the worth of a virtuous woman versus one who is loose(d) (And creepily suggest that a lot of the WU kind of just want to find a girl just like their mom, who is consistently the highest revered figure in their depictions of women in song). Most reasonable people, like myself, are willing to allow a shitload of wiggle room in Ghost’s logic because A)We love him and B)It seems typical of what we’d expect to hear from a lot of people, rappers or not. The thing that’s jarring in his whole “I’m not going to wife up a chick I perceive to be a slore” steez is how low his number was. His base car loan pitch of “1 guy a month being too much” is pretty fucking ridiculous, if not insane. (And Nahright takes another L for cosigning that shit) It's reminiscent of Clerks and Chasing Amy, when Kevin Smith (“36 dicks!?”) effectively distilled male insecurity and hypocrisy about women.

There's cognitive distance between enjoying an acceptable level of shooting and drug selling and womanizing on record up until a certain point, illustrated by the interview. Wu always had a lot more going on in the songs, and usually the difference between typically negative content that bored intellectual essay-writing rap writers aim to defend to moralists (and really people who tend to not care about art in the first place) and what we tend to eschew comes down to that extra amount of detail or soul or insight or recontextualizing. The same was really dumb attempts at art from kids at my college would be torn-apart for being one-dimensional and obvious is why “C.R.E.A.M.” is transcendent and some LCD rapper breaking the fourth wall and hollering “I ROB NIGGAS/I ROB NIGGAS (HAAAAAAAAAAH!)” like a bad Wild n’ Out is equally shat on. No matter how fucked up some of the things Ghostface has said on wax, and there’s been a few, there was always this belief, at least in my head, that my view of him as an artist was thankfully unmarred by who he might actually be as a person.

Most of his interviews with mainstream (i.e. traditionally white) press outlets have had him seem wizened, a little ornery and pretty guarded while his interviews with hip-hop outlets always find him a bit more energetic and willing to delve into questions that he seems to always skirt and falsify when it’s the Onion or something. As someone both conscious and admittedly extremely liberal, I’ve found myself trying to doublethink the ongoing and bothersome clichés of rappers being heterosexist and (though there’s a lot more to hip-hop’s various takes on women than 1-hour VH1 rap docs would relay) misogynist. The truth is that most seemingly negative lyrics about women rarely bother me, not being a woman and rarely hearing a rapper suggest women are inferior and shouldn’t have rights, when they offer at least one reason for the song’s ire or criticism or dressing down. But I have frequently tried to justify all the “faggot” talk from rappers I admire, like Q-Tip, the assorted Native Tongues satellites (Talib, Mos, Common, etc). and others because when you enjoy an artist’s music, there’s still this lingering childlike notion that you want to like them as people also. I’ve maintained for years that I could give fuck all who a musician molested or peed on or raped or filmed peeing or shat on in a crowd or accidentally killed in a drunken car crash or forcefully annexed into German territory in the late 30’s.

Busta Rhymes is a piece of shit as a human being but he’s still got some classic material, which is and should be all that matters. It’s not even the banal “fuck faggots” steez a lot of guys still parrot. It’s the really vitriolic learned hatred of gays that I still see pop up on rap message boards and, as opposed to classical pre-90’s racism, doesn’t seem to be dying down with newer generations. Trick Tricks’s “ra-ra” Hutu-esque "cut the tall trees" call to arms last year was made more disturbing by the fact that so many people were agreeing with him. Luckily most instances of the utterance of "faggot" are in the normative "feminized male"/"bitchass nigga" sense and not actually addressing anyone who actually identifies as gay. But the feminine implication is still troublesome, and pretty inaccurate considering I could hop on the L to Canarsie right now and find chicks harder than most of the dudes I've ever met.

In general most of the guys who've said some reckless transgressive shit in interviews have been either smart enough or cajoled enough into keeping it out of their music to avoid hurting sales or drawing unnecessary Marshall Mathers LP-like negative attention to themselves. And as someone who grew up with such a morally complex art form to deal with and discuss you're so used to assorted coonery and general ignorance from mainstream rappers that it makes you almost proud to look at your favorite MC and not have to shake your head or cringe at some shit he said on a song. This Ghostface interview is sad not only because he said some questionable shit when I would've, as a fan, preferred him to've been mum or at least hold a more acceptably backwards view on the topic, but because its genuinely disheartening to know there's a 39-year-old grown man who believes this shit.

Ghost holds onto this outmoded "women v. hoes" taxonomy that, realistically, is probably more reasonable than most other American male's, but its still a denigration of one sort of female and honoring of one based on a rubric that probably doesn't allow any wiggle room to convince him that a woman can fuck 12 or more guys a year and not be any less valuable. Ghost lyrically treasures smart, strong, and faithful women, but falters on her sexual freedom. Although, considering the era in which the WU grew up, where they grew up, and the archaic lyrical inspirations of their music (Egypt/Kemet, Islam, Christianity), it makes sense that he wouldn't extol Sontag-isms. Especially Islam, which despite revisionist attempts is pretty fucking conservative. Just a shame that his "futuristic"-ness ends at his lyrics and fashion.

Remember when I long-dicked you and broke your ovary? Remember when I said you weren't equal because my questionable splinter religion said I was the embodiment of God and you're naturally subservient? Good times.

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