The Game

As a Black woman from the inner-city, I have a love-hate relationship with hip-hop/rap music. I love hip-hop because it is the soundtrack that I came of age to. There is no way I can look back at my teen years without hop-hop coming to mind. 1991: listening to my elders slam those “fast” teen moms after Sunday dinner, and wishing that they would listen to “Brenda’s Got A Baby” by Tupac and gain some sense of empathy. 1994: grooving and nodding my head to “One More Chance” by Biggie at a house party, then literally bumping into my junior high crush and him leading me out on the dance floor. 1996: stumbling upon “The Score” and discovering the talented Lauryn Hill, who showed me that one could be dark-skinned and beautiful without weaves and relaxers. 1998: hearing “Beautiful Skin” by Goodie Mobb and feeling so refreshed with its’ positive message. Yes, there is much that I love and enjoy about hip-hop.However, there is one aspect of the music that has always rubbed me the wrong way: the glorification of drug trafficking.

To this day, I get a chill up my spine when I hear a rapper bragging about all the ‘weight’ he moves. I flinch when I hear terms like ‘work’, ‘white’ and ‘bricks’. I react this way because I know ‘the game’ all too well. But my side of the game was different. You see, for me the game wasn’t about poppin bottles in a club, buying designer threads or being iced out. The game wasn’t about the nice cars with the boomin’ system or exotic looking model chicks. No, for me the drug game was something decidedly less glamorous and exciting: the end of my spoiled, idyllic childhood.

For me, the game was my Mom bribing me with extra trips to McDonald’s and Barbie dolls to keep me from telling my stepfather what she was really doing all those evenings. It was peeing in a cup because my Mom told me to and the look of anger on my Grandma’s face when she saw the cup and threw it out. The game meant seeing my Grandma, a woman who lived through the Great Depression and Jim Crow, break down in tears because she didn’t know if her child was dead or alive. To me the game was watching my mother’s thirteen years of distinguished service in the Navy come to an end over white rocks. But most of all the game was feeling my love for her, a love which once dominated my existence, turn to ice water, because I could not understand how there was anything in this world that could mean more to her than me and my sisters.

I know the human cost of the drug game. I know how it affects children and destroys families. I know how it warps and twists people. So when I hear people gloat about drug money, when I hear rappers call themselves “d-boys” like it’ s a badge of honor, I see red. It is nothing to take pride in. The crack game cut a wide path of devastation throughout Black America, and to this day it is hard for me to forgive those who took part in it.

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A native Seattleite and recent East Coast transplant, I have been interested in politics, religion, and race from the day I saw “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” on the bookshelf belonging to my BFF’s mom back in 1991. While my zealotry has thankfully diminished with maturity, I remain the deep thinking, passionate, and humble woman I have always been. I reside in the suburbs of NYC with my husband, daughter, and our two feisty but deeply loved cats.

3 thoughts on “The Game

  1. Stirring post. I have that same love/hate relationship with hip hop. I grew up on it, lived with it as my background. I think OutKast and Fugees were the two albums I played to death. I hear songs from the 90’s now and still get a chill of nostalgia and also dread. I was always explaining away the misogyny. In college I would go to the clubs and dance to “face down, ass up, that’s the way you like to fuck!” by Ja-Rule – and then go home and call myself a feminist.. LOL! Until someone called me a hypocrite and I started to actually think of the content and messages behind the words.. Then there is that fancy term “conscious hip-hop” like Common, Mos Def, Talib kweli , Dead Prez, etc… which is what I still listen to today. I can’t do mainstream anymore though, I just can’t.

    I know what you mean about the drug game.. For me it was a mix of drugs and “escorting.” I wasn’t an escort but my best friend in high school was. She was shot dead by her boyfriend one night when he came home drunk, leaving a baby boy to grow up without a mom.. Drug trafficking was definitely part of the game I had come to know so well. It’s interesting how all those things blend into one after a while.

    I meet girls and women today at my current job and hear the same issues and tragedies.. The game has not changed. Only we have.

    I am so sorry you had to endure drug trafficking in such a personal way.

    Thanks for sharing, and I am going to link to this post on my blog.

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