This Is Not Huehueteotl Pt. IV
Worry too much about realness and you'll get called a hillbilly. Rightly, too, probably: artifice isn't simple, nor without its considerable rewards; Beethoven isn't particularly real, but he's a raging bonfire of passion and pain and raw intellect. Still, when something reaches through the speakers practically screaming at you: "A human being made me! He is speaking to you now! He's in pain!" there is something primal about it. A lot of the popular post-emo folkie stuff that's big right now & still getting bigger tries to pull off the I'm-talking-to-you switcheroo on pretty much every song. That is why, for me, most of that stuff fails: it's banking on its pain all day. If you've managed to talk about your pain through several albums' worth of material with hardly a cracked smile to show for it, then you should feel better by now.
But if, on the other hand, you are a straight-up gangsta who mainly raps about kicking people — and here I quote — "in their assholes," then you're likely to catch my attention when you change the subject. It's a card that can be overplayed, sure; a whole album's worth of emo rap is something I hope never to hear, or at least never to hear more than once. And the melancholy-wistful narrative rap trope (whose signal moment was Ice Cube's "It Was a Good Day" and whose craft was elevated to a science by Biggie and Tupac) is too easy to play; a sped-up soul sample and a couple of Jesus references and you'll be makin' all the critics cry big crocodile tears of empathy. Which is fine and all of course. But when the Geto Boys' "I Tried" kicked its introspective beats through the speakers of the kitchen boombox tonight, I almost lost my shit.
The new Geto Boys album came out today; buy the damned thing. Buy two and give one to a friend. Scarface produced much of it, and his raps are all gold; Willie Dee sounds more convincing recalling gangster days than he did when they were closer to his daily experience; and Bushwick, of course, everybody loves Bushwick, which is who I came to talk about.
Not to do the "haha rapping psycho midget" riff, either, although i'd be lying if I tried to pretend the cover of We Can't Be Stopped doesn't crack my ass up every time I see it. And I don't wanna do the Bushwick-as-street-Baudelaire number that Greil Marcus flexed when "Mind Playin' Tricks On Me" came out, though I will rep for Greil Marcus even if it gets me laughed at. I didn't want to interrupt Huehueteotl if I could help it, but on hearing Bushwick's verse on "I Tried," which is the best and saddest song I have heard so far in this young year, I knew I had to tell somebody. And so I wrote two thousand words, most of which have now been deleted, because none of them did justice to the hard, real, eventually unraveling but finally unmistakeable truth in Bushwick's hard-won verse. The best lines here — start, say, with the one that doesn't even try to rhyme — are almost impossible to take. So take it away, Bill, and God bless your ass for not just lying down where all the ladders start but actually pitching a fucking tent there.
I've always been a trooper, never givin' up
but the last few years have been really rough
felt like givin' up a couple of times
take a jump off - land a slug deep up in my mind
fuck it, I'm dyin', done with strugglin' for mine
sleepin' on fans' floors, ain't no use to me lyin'
changed my name for anonymity's sake,
but a four-feet dwarf on television's hard to miss
I get pissed over little shit -
little shit drive me crazy,
then I start thinkin' 'bout my babies
I can't go to jail - I can't die -
who better to teach 'em 'bout this cruel world than I?
their mama won't let me see 'em 'til I pay my support
'cause once you give life, life is bigger than yours
maybe I'm not all you expect me to be
but when it's done and said, ultimately, Daddy tried.
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