I am certain my daughter, nephew, and I would all cringe if we heard one another listened to a song entitled “Fuck Me for Free.” However, I am well aware there will come a day when they will like music I consider vulgar. When it comes to my nephew, I play dumb. He’s 14 years old, is in the know of all of the contemporary hip hop artists, and knows the words to all of their songs. I would be taken aback if I walked into his room and heard him rap all of the words to the Lil’ Tjay’s of the world; but I would not be surprised because I grew up in the age of Akinyele.
I was introduced to the poet known as Akifella as a sixth grader in 1996. At a church function, a couple of my older friends-who were in high school-recited the chorus of this essay title. It was a badge of honor to be considered cool enough to fraternize with the older kids. In order to keep your status as a peer, one must shut up, act like they’ve been here before, and laugh when everyone else does or you will be relegated back where you belong. a rite of passage to be the lil’ homie; somewhere between a trial run and internship into teenage world. After a taste of such awesomeness, it is a demotion and would have felt like death to be relegated as one of the “little kids” again.
If anything, it is a large responsibility to be the lil’ homie in the crew. The rest of your everyday friends were left behind. You have a foot in the door and are the bridge of acceptance for the rest of your crew who wants to be down.
As the young person with a seat at the table, I had to play it cool and pretend I’d heard Akinyele before. I don’t recall how in the mid-90’s; but I made it my business to hear “Love Me for Free.” If it came up again in conversation, I was prepared and knowledgeable. Twenty-four years later, I can’t help but laugh at my train of thought and the common introduction into hood politics.
It’s a catchy song and I will sing every word and have a grand time when I am alone in my car.
I think we all feel a sense of freedom when we recite the words to raunchy music. There is an excitement we experience as we take a moment to break away from self-judgement. For three minutes and forty-five seconds-or fifteen because I do have to run it back a few times-I have not a care in the world because the self-inflicted dopamine shot helps me make it through an already hard life. The emotion intensifies into a full-blown high when in tandem with others who can sing along.
Before I know it, my nine-year-old will have her day; middle school is in two years. A part of my soul will want to cry when I notice a glimpse of a side of this little person I’ve raised and I know nothing about her. She will want to preserve the image of how I see her and little parts will slip out for acceptance. It is all but certain I will observe and not display my sentiments. However, I have been there and done it; hell, I do it too.
Perhaps my daughter’s recent love of Hamilton is her way to test the waters. She has made it her business to learn all of the words and research to understand its context. Maybe she has heard her dad listen to music with an undertone of guns and sex and it is a safe way for her to explore and tell me about it without a phobia of judgement. I want to look into this theory a little more.
I would be remiss if I wrote about a song from middle school without an acknowledgement of my band of brothers from “Lefrak City Queens.” Boog, DeRon, Gabe, Fritz, Early, 360, K-Starr, Mumz, KK, Killa, Mike, and Kev: whatup. I’ll write about them later.