Mon April 22
Memorial Coliseum

I come from a bourgeoisie (or bushi) black family. In the '70s, my father reached the peak of black stability--he was a pastor for three churches in rural Maryland. In the '80s, he was an economist for the World Bank, while my mother was a university lecturer and successful businesswoman. The one thing my parents encouraged was that we (my sister and I) be proud of our place in the world; meaning, they wanted us to be what those in the lower order called "uppity niggers." We looked down on "po' white trash" and "country" black folks, and spoke proper English, played piano, learned French, and went on summer vacations.

The one poor acquaintance I had during my childhood was a bad black kid named Kicky. I hung out with him because his grandmother thought very highly of my father, and wanted some of his success to rub off on her grandchildren. Kicky never liked me. I was his better--an "uppity nigger." To get back at me, Kicky would do the most vulgar things, like say dirty rhymes in public. This drove me crazy because the white people would turn and look at us--look at me!--and think I was just like Kicky: a po', uncultivated pickaninny. And Kicky knew this, and took great pleasure in embarrassing me.

Anyway, I feel this same discomfort when encountering on the radio or clubs the rap songs of Atlanta-based Ludacris. Indeed, most of the rappers from the "dirty south" (Juvenile, Nelly, and so on) embarrass me. The rhymes in Ludacris' "Area Codes," for example, are the very rhymes that came out of Kicky's uncouth mouth (or "mouf" in Ludacris' puerile language): "So control your hormones, and keep your drawers onread your hor-o-scope and eat some hor-derves." This is simply awful. There is no art to it at all, just the fickle thrill of being nasty in public.

Yes, I'm uppity, and the rap that I like is uppity hiphop (Mos Def, Mike Ladd, Lootpack), but this is the way I was brought up--to look down on crude folks like Ludacris.