Me Again, Dom Kennedy

“At seven sharp, I’d watch

Mom heat our dinners up.

I used to wonder why

She’d never eat dinner much.

I hit my first dice game

On some beginner’s luck,

And ate good all week.

Meet the winners chump.

We was wild in those days.

We don’t sin as much,

Got a lot more going

But we don’t grin as much.

It’s still cops and robbers, but

We don’t pretend as much.

All that stimulus money,

And they don’t send us much.

Looking for a break, but

We don’t really bend as much.

Homes is going up, and

They don’t even lend us much.

It’s still red or blue, and

They don’t really blend-in much.

Police try and break it up,

But they don’t end it much.

Tonight a young man was shot

Is what it ended up. So,

Don’t tell me swine flu

Gonn’ be the end of us.

I believe God can see us

‘Fore he sends us up.

And I don’t know about you,

But He made men of us.”

–Me Again, Dom Kennedy

The tragicomic commitment to hope. In Cornel West’s book, “Democracy Matters,” the Princeton professor writes about “three crucial commitments [that] fuel deep democratic energies” (16). Those commitments are the Socratic commitment to questioning, prophetic commitment to justice, and tragicomic commitment to hope. West continued to write, “the mighty shield and inner strength provided by the tragicomic commitment to hope. The tragicomic hope is the ability to laugh and retain a sense of life’s joy–to preserve hope even while staring in the face of hate and hypocrisy–as against falling into the nihilism of paralyzing despair. This tragicomic hope is expressed in America most profoundly in the wrenchingly honest yet compassionate voices of the black freedom struggle; most poignantly in the painful eloquence of the blues; and most exuberantly in the improvisational virtuosity of jazz” (16). I whole-heartedly believe that the tragicomic commitment to hope survives through this generation, in the honest lyrics of hip hop. Dom Kennedy’s second-verse of “Me Again” illustrates that.

A mother’s determination and sacrifice to feed her children without fail, a child’s ability to recognize the unfairness of her forfeiture, the curiosity of finding success in a gamble, and the pride of finally being financially fulfilled; Dom is giving his listeners a direct insight into his childhood and the motives that built the man he is today. He then talks about growing up. From his transition from a wild child to an imperfect man with responsibilities, “We was wild in those days. We don’t sin as much” his progress in life and its inability to fill a void “Got a lot more going, but we don’t grin as much”, Dom wants to give you the honest and inside story on his life. “It’s still cops and robbers, but we don’t pretend as much” is the line that evaluates the changes in life’s stakes. Though their lessons remain true, the childhood games are over. Here comes manhood with serious responsibilities and consequences; imprisonment or freedom while on the pursuit of happiness, life, and liberty.

“All that stimulus money,/And they don’t send us much./Looking for a break, but/We don’t really bend as much/Homes is going up, and/They don’t even lend us much” is a testament to the government’s business and how it never seems to be for him. Political science may suggest that it’s all necessary to get us out of our current recession; however, there’s a large group of people that feel abandoned by the one institution that should be protecting their interests. Huge corporations failed our economy; so why are we giving them billions of dollars instead of feeding families? Homes are being built and sold, but we aren’t given money to buy them; so who is funding this gentrification? These trickle-down economics are not for us.

Furthering his argument that life is nothing sweet, Dom raps, “It’s still red or blue, and/They don’t really blend-in much./Police try and break it up,/But they don’t end it much./Tonight a young man was shot/Is what it ended up. So,/Don’t tell me swine flu/Gonn’ be the end of us.” On Bill Maher’s HBO show, Mos Def addressed the terrorist scare in the media, “I don’t think I’m gonna get blown up by a bomb. Listen. I’m Black in America. I live under constant pressure. I don’t believe in that boogeyman shit.” Dom is saying the same thing. Why fret about terrorists that we’ve never seen or heard from (after the travesty of 9/11 of course) or lose sleep about swine flu? The media uses such scare tactics to distract us from our immediate realities. Nobody can stop powerful street gangs from controlling neighborhoods. Oakland, CA, currently averages a homicide every three days, and the victims tend to be black males in the danger zone, between ages 18 and 22. Other cities have even worse statistics. Why are these issues rarely addressed on our news networks and radio stations, and even greater, within our politics?

Dom Kennedy finishes his story with death and answering to God’s judgment. “I believe God can see us/’Fore he sends us up./And I don’t know about you,/But He made men of us.” This is his final appeal to hope. The gist of his poem was struggle and inequality, abandonment and impossible responsibility; however, he won’t allow his trials and tribulations to deter him from being his best. He answers not to man, but to God, not upon death but with his daily actions. “I don’t know about you,/But He made men of us” is his assertion of pride and the tragicomic. God and the life he put before us have made us the men and women that we are. Smile at the life struggles that developed us, and when looking in the mirror today, be proud of the individual that life has built.

Posted in Black Man’s Fate--Coffin or Cell, Broken Homes, Maintaining Hope, Media Failure--Silence to the People, Quality of Lifestyle, Spirituality | Leave a comment

Do I Look Like A Role Model?

“Drinking

from the lemonade bottle.

Now tell the truth. Do I

Look like a role model?

To the kid who

Chose me to follow,

Life ain’t nothing

But bitches and impalas.”

–Role Model, Curren$y

This quatrain illustrates a very important component of this project; honesty. It is only through our honest commitment to analyzing our lives, our communities, and our world, that we will make progress towards positive change. The artists, chosen to have their lyrics analyzed on this blog, will be the artists that have similar commitments to honesty.

In this quatrain, Curren$y begins by drawing you a picture of himself. He’s the type of guy to drink straight out of the lemonade bottle. Get a glass? Not him. Now tell the truth, does your mental image of this guy seem like a role model? Answer honestly. If you say yes, you’re either in denial about his lack of etiquette and regard for others that might also want something to drink, or you actually support his objections to society’s concepts of sharing. If you say no, somebody has convinced you that drinking from a lemonade bottle is wrong. Who taught you that? Why is it wrong to just drink your lemonade as it comes, bottled and probably cool out of the refrigerator?

Here’s the big part, comedic yet profound, “To the kid who chose me to follow, life ain’t nothing but bitches and impalas.” Curren$y has made a commitment to be himself (apparently a guy whom likes women and cars–we’ll address the term “bitch” later), but has no aspirations to be a role model. Let’s stop being politically correct. Stop brushing up against controversial issues and jumping away nervously. Now is always the time to dig into the honest truths about ourselves, our communities, and our societies, our wealth disparities, racial inequalities, and prejudices. Metaphorically drink from the lemonade bottle. Challenge yourself and the people around you to understand why we are as we are, why we do as we do.

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