"Jesus Walks": Rappin' with Mittens
by Hillary Hardcore
Since I've disowned my parents -- it's a long story and I ain't got
the time or inclination to be bloggin' about it -- I've had a standing
invitation to join the DuBois family for their Christmas meal. I usually
avoid it: Mittens with her born-again preaching gets on my nerves, though
she means well. But Francine and I are tight, so since I didn't have
nuthin' goin' on, I went over on to the DuBois crib this year.
It's no secret that I love nothing more in these type of situations
than to cause arguments. So I filled my iPod full of rap and Christmas
songs, figuring I'd sneak out and hook it up to the stereo so we could
enjoy that unique blend of James Brown's Funky Christmas, Run-D.M.C.'s
"Christmas in Hollis" and Easy E.'s "Merry Muthaf***in'
Christmas" that always makes me feel all warm inside.
So, no sooner than I walked in and sat down did Mittens start in on
me with "How long has it been since you've even heard Jesus's name,
and not taken in vain?"
"About ten minutes, since Kanye West's RAP song played on my iPod
on the way here."
"A rap song, with Jesus? And not taken in vain?"
So I played "Jesus Walks" for her. And while I loved watching
her cringe when he said the few "vulgarities," she pulled
off the headphones afterwards and just said, "You can rap about
anything but Jesus! Why won't the radio play this?"
"That's a load of crap. It's posturing. I've seen the video on
MTV Jamz several times, that and that other video with John Legend where
Kanye's acting like a preacher."
"So they will play this song on the radio?"
"Yeah, if it's the right kind of radio station. Unless they're
just pissed that he said radio stations WON'T play it so they won't.
But he just got nomination for a jizzillion Grammy awards, so you'll
hear it. If you're listening to urban stations."
"So this isn't 'gangsta rap,' is it, Hillary?"
"Hell, no. But it's very funny to watch your pretty little mouth
say gangsta, Mittens."
Then Mittens asked where Kanye was from, so I told her that he was
from Chicago. I ran down the list of current rappers and their hometowns:
Ludacris and OutKast from Atlanta, Eminem from Detroit, Nelly from St.
Louis, Big Tymers from New Orleans. While 50 Cent is from New York,
many of the new artists are coming from the Midwest and South: the East
Coast and West Coast no longer dominate the airwaves. The red state
rappers are gettin' in on the action too.
As it always does, our conversation turned to politics. Mittens asked
paper I had written four years ago predicting more political rap
comin' out because of Bush's win. Was I right, she wondered. Well, kind
of, I explained.
The most popular political rap song of the 2004 election was Jadakiss'
"Why?" Jadakiss hails from Brooklyn. Eminem's "Mosh,"
released just a few weeks before the election, failed to gather as much
attention and many radio stations might have been more afraid of it
as it was a much more pointed attack directly on George W. Bush. "Why?"
was angry about Bush ("Why did Bush knock down those towers?"
was a line from the song, edited out by several stations and some video
channels), but lumped it with a litany of other complaints about contemporary
African-American urban life. I still believe that the suits were a little
too scared of what Eminem's message could do if it reached the young
people. But what surprised me most of all was the reaction to Eminem's
"Mosh." There was a mini-backlash of "How dare you contradict
our president" spewed across the forums.
So Mittens just proclaimed her love of Kanye West based on that one
song, based on that one line. She didn't care to hear anything else
he did. He got all the Grammys in the world in her eyes because he said
"Jesus" (not in vain!) out loud on a rap CD.
While I do like Mittens a lot, despite our obvious differences, I believe
this says a lot about her politics. Oh, and our nation.