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"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 about the 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.