Straight Outta Rural Iowa
We watched Straight Outta Compton last night.*
Thanks to the mainstream media and Tipper Gore, I know who NWA is. I grew up in rural Iowa, where the closest thing to a black person I knew growing up was the half-Laotian kid who moved away in 1st grade (and then moved back in 8th…that poor, poor man is tough as nails for what we put him through).
My first boyfriend called himself Timmy G, and swore he would move to LA and become a rapper after high school. Looking now at Eminem’s career and success, I probably shouldn’t have laughed so hard. Back then, rappers weren’t white kids, and they certainly weren’t white kids from rural Iowa.
Rappers were subjugated black kids with anger issues who made words with that anger instead of violence. The other mainstream news out of LA at the time was the nightly gun violence, the gangs, the war on the streets. I feared for my sister, who lived in Riverside, drove a Toyota Celica convertible, and swore the violence only happened at night to other people.
The mainstream media shed more light on gangster rap than they did on gang violence. How dare these boys make money on a lifestyle that was killing people. How dare they try to give young kids the hope that they could make money doing something other than selling drugs on the street. Not only that, what vulgar language they used, and taught to our young people. What a horrible example they set.
Dear Tipper Gore; I didn’t learn a single new word from Ice Cube that I hadn’t already heard on the school bus. I swore like a sailor by the time I hit first grade.** The mainstream media said that kids like us ate up gangster rap even though we’d never seen the ghetto. We didn’t need to see the ghetto to understand. Young people everywhere are subject to the same powerlessness against adults. I may not have said, “Fuck the police,” but I sure as hell said, “Fuck Mr. M,” for playing favorites in class and telling me flat out that no “girls like you” played high school softball. I still haven’t decided what a “girl like me” is.
Where are today’s voices of dissent against the crazy world in which we live? The media gives Kanye a platform to berate Taylor Swift, but where are the Black Lives Matter rap artists? Where are the poets of action against today’s crimes, bringing power to the youth of tomorrow?***
If Kanye is it, I fear for future generations.
*I’m well aware that my take on current events is usually behind the times. I haven’t bought the soundtrack to Hamilton yet, either. **Bus kids are the toughest kids you will ever meet. We steeled ourselves for war with our words. We talked circles around the town kids. They didn’t understand half of what we said, but that meant we could walk away, get back on the bus, and leave without physical confrontation. ***Seriously, if you know some good tunes for Black Lives Matter, post the song, artist, and url in the comments and share.