I went and saw the new Batman movie with Yort on Thursday. I had a few minor fanboy quibbles, but overall, a not-too-bad attempt to stay true to the comic book character, and it was pretty entertaining.
After the movie we headed over to the food court for a quick bite to eat, and ended up in line at Arby's. The black dude working the counter had all kinds of "prison style" tats, or maybe he actually got them in prison, I'm not really sure. Anyway, I noticed that among the mishmash, he had a tattoo on his neck. It was carved in at an angle, so it took me a bit to figure out what it actually said. I was finally able to get a good look at it, and it said, "Death before Disshonor."
Since I'm a middle-aged white guy* and I no longer have my finger on the pulse of the east coast rap culture, I was not aware that the saying had been co-opted by gangsta rappers.
Actually, I always thought it was a Hell's Angel's credo, all mispellings aside, but I guess I was wrong. I did some quick research, and "Malo mori quam foedari" dates back to at least 1086, so I guess rappers are as entitled to it as anyone else.
As I was standing there in front of the register, I noticed a small pile of CD inserts on the counter. I picked one up, and started reading the song list.
This thing read like a felony rap sheet. I think in the first 3 song titles alone, there were enough violent crimes listed to put someone in maximum security lockup for at least 7-10.
The dude behind the counter sees me looking at the CD insert and says, "You into underground hip hop?"
This question caught me entirely by surprise, because (a) I'm so white I'm practically flourescent, and (b) I am pretty sure that 98% of my actual genetic makeup consists of rap anti-matter.
In short, I am the exact opposite of someone who might be into underground hip hop.
For some unknown reason, out of my mouth comes, "I like all kinds of music." Now that's a true enough statement as far as it goes, since I don't consider rap or hip-hop (yes, there's a difference) actually music. It's more like performance art.
This statement hit his "on" button, and he started the sales pitch. Seems he had a whole pile of CDs behind the counter that he was selling for 5 bucks. Now, I'm not that familiar with the Official Arby's employee handbook, but I'm pretty sure selling hardcore rap CDs behind the counter is probably not listed under "Allowed Activities."
He complained about the lack of venues in the area for underground hip hop, and I agreed wholeheartedly. He said they were raising money to "pay off the clubs" so that they'd be able to perform. I asked him if he was in the band, and apparently, he just does their production, which I think means he's just handles the PA. I asked him if they recorded it locally, and he said they did it in his home studio.
By that time our food was ready, so I told him I'd think about it, and then we went and sat down, where we shook our heads and laughed hysterically at some of the song titles. I wish I kept the insert.
I actually came very close to going back and buying the CD after we finished eating, if only to see what it was all about. I suspect it was just some derivative crap, based on the song titles alone.
I don't hate all rap, just most of it. Some stuff I can actually listen to: Eminem, DMX, LL Cool J, Ice Cube, that sort of stuff. I don't even mind some rap elements in my rock if it's done well. The Red Hot Chili Peppers come to mind.
I was also tempted to buy one just so I could send it to my co-worker Special Dark, in order to get his professional opinion. I consider him my official liason with the black community. I ask him questions about why things are the way they are, and usually his answers are very enlightening, and sometimes unintentionally hilarious.
I remember one time, he gave me a lift somewhere in his car. I got in, and even though it was a few years old, it looked brand new. I complimented him, and he said, "Yeah. Black people keep their cars clean."
Another time, I was walking down the street with him, and I noticed that every black dude we passed acknowledged him in some way, or he acknowledged them. I asked him what was up with that, and he said, "Black people all know each other."
I think he was only half kidding.
Anyway, it would have been worth five bucks just to have the CD titles and pictures for my blog.
Maybe I'll go back and get one on Monday, if my tattooed friend still has a job.
*Damn, really? What constitutes middle-aged these days? Isn't thirty the new twenty? If so, then by the transitive property, 40 must be the new 30, in which case I'm not old yet.