In the 25 years that I’ve walked this planet, I’ve realized that most people hate themselves in some manner. We smoke, we drink, we shoot up, we watch reality TV. We hate ourselves. As a self-loathing Jew from a middle class family, my dream was always to be anything but Jewish. I hated having to sit through 2 hour seders just to eat unleavened bread. This self-loathing manifested itself in one particular way. I wanted to be black. I wanted to struggle. I didn’t want my dad to drive me to school in his Acura – my parents were reformed hippies, a beamer would’ve been too much – I wanted to take the subway. I wanted to fight for something bigger than me. Blackness was something. It was anything. And hip hop music was the expression of a generation of young black men who didn’t have daddy’s beamer to take three blocks to the corner store. Here below is a semi-informal guide on how to impress your friends with your knowledge of hip hop culture if you are a middle class Jew:
Listen to A Tribe Called Quest. In my opinion, hip hop and rap music starts with A Tribe Called Quest. First of all, they were really good. Secondly, they wore dashikis and shit like that. That’s really cool, I think. Go on ebay or etsy right now and try to find a good dashiki to wear to school or work next week. I guarantee you will be granted a head nod from the one black guy who works at your office. Tribe helped push forward rap music and their lineage can be felt in contemporary acts like Pharell and Kanye West among others. Q-Tip, Phife Dawg and Ali Shaheed Muhammed pioneered jazz sampling in their music. Next time, you’re chilling and listening to Tribe, nonchalantly praise Q-Tip’s ear for good samples and mention how much you like Ali’s bass playing.
Bonus: Phife Dawg once rhymed about how we could skate on your crew like Mario Lemieux. That’s a hockey reference. Talk about genre-bending.
As noted, one of Tribe’s disciples is Kanye West. The always newsworthy West has a interesting place in the hearts of white people. To impress your friends with your knowledge of Mr. West always remember that College Dropout and Late Registration were his best albums and tell your friends that although you like all his new stuff, you yearn for the days when he made music like on his first two albums. This is great line at parties, use it on the ladies.
Bonus: Next time you see a black man wearing skinny jeans and an ironic t-shirt understand that this is all Kanye West’s doing. Jay-Z used to wear oversized throwback jerseys, Tims and baggy jeans before he met Kanye, afterwards it was all “Gimme a crisp pair of jeans, button up”
Understand the difference between Rihanna and Beyonce. Yes, they are both black but only one of them is talented. Rihanna doesn’t write her own music. Rihanna doesn’t write her own lyrics. Rihanna is an average singer. I honestly don’t know how she is popular but to each their own. Beyonce, on the other hand, helped push forward the modern women’s movement first with Destiny’s Child and then by herself. When is the last time you listened to “Independent Women Part 1”? If it’s been more than a year, please YouTube it now. Rihanna has done nothing except set women back generations with her insistence that she is a rebel because she still sleeps with the man who used to beat her up. No, I’m serious.
Bonus: Lauryn Hill.
Since rap music is basically pop music these days, it’s best to listen to the top artists of the day. The problem is that it’s not cool to listen to super popular people. The only way to get around this is to claim you only like Drake ironically. “Yeah, I listen to Lil’ Wayne, but only when I’m not listening to Mos Def” should be your go to line. In second place is, “I only listen to Rick Ross when I’m drunk and in the club”.
Bonus: “I liked Lil’ Wayne when he was in the Hot Boyz”
Speaking of Mos Def. You will get a lot of black people to like you if you claim you’re down with Mos Def or Talib Kweli or Common. Nevermind that these people are incredibly popular musicians, there is still an aura of underground-ness (Is that a real word? It should be) about them and liking these guys will get the hipster black crowd (or “bipsters”) on your side in no time. If you want a two-for-one special don’t forget to mention your love of Black Star and how much you wish they would come out with another album
Bonus: Jazz music. You wanna go deep underground? Bust out how much you like Robert Glaspers new album. Maybe you can talk about how much Christian Scott’s albums really speak to you on a spiritual level? Don’t worry, I don’t understand jazz either.
Finally, you can never ever ever like anything that an NBA player has recorded. Not Shaq, not Kobe, not World Peace, not Allen Iverson. With that said, if you are talking to a black person don’t forget to mention how Shaq can’t hit free throws and Allen Iverson ran himself into the ground with the way he balled out every night.
Bonus: You can however, at any time, bring up any of Shaq’s movies. Kazaam.