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Hip Hop Fridays: I'm A Black Nerd and Proud Of It by FX

I never fit the narrow definitions of what a stereotypical Black person should be.

I remember back in the day when Menace II Society came out and the idea of the gangsta was solidified in Larenz Tate’s chilling portrayal of O Dog. Even before that movie, rap groups like N.W.A. , Above the Law and the Geto Boys had an impression on me that I could not shake. Deep down I wanted to be a thug, a gangsta’. I was going to intimidate people, especially white folks. I wanted to blast a gat, pimp all the honey’s, wear my thugged out clothes and whoop indiscriminate ass. There was only one problem, in reality I was a shy nerd.

The fact of the matter is I grew up in a predominantly middle class Black neighborhood. I never gang banged, I was never a thug or gangsta’. I went to Catholic grammar school and high schools. In grammar school I ranked high in numerous science fairs and excelled in English and spelling which has infused into me the habitual use of standard English.

The other factor in my life that made me what I am is a presence that unfortunately many in the Black experience do not have: a father. My father was a strict man that focused on intelligence, reading and discipline, values in which he adamantly taught me. My parents sheltered me from the vices and negatives in the street. It was ok for me to participate in neighborhood softball and football games, (I’m one Black male that sucks at basketball) but when the other brothers went to take care of Blackstone Ranger business or Gangster Disciple business, I just went into the house and did my homework or rode my bike with the younger children.

Obviously this sheltered bookworm life made me very unpopular with my peers and a virtual non entity with girls, all of whom just branded me crazy, lame or a neutral. Neutral is a term that many gang bangers used to describe those who were not in gangs.

I have never been to jail, I don’t have a police record, I never spent an inordinate amount of time in the streets....and I like that. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the fact that I, as a Black male did not fall into the many traps society has set up for me and my brothers. I have a father and a mother to thank for that. I’m proud of the way I came up, it is a badge of honor. Today I am still looked upon as an outsider, something different even among my closest friends. I can say that certain aspects of my life run opposite to what society’s pop culture and even what many Black people themselves deem "black" or a "nigga keepin’ it real". I represent a segment of Black people that is heavily marginalized, relegated to invisibility and barely represented.

I do not wear white tee’s, or throwbacks. Nor do I wear Roca Wear, Pele Pele, Avirex, Wu Wear, Phat Farm or Ecko. I wear my pants on my ass. I have no intention of ever viewing nor holding in high value many of the t.v. shows and movies put out by Black contributions to pop culture. That means Friday After Next, State Property, Paid in Full, Johnson Family Vacation, Cookout, Two Can Play That Game, One on One, The Parkers, Pimps Up Hoes Down, American Pimp, Method and Red, Soul Plane and other shows or movies will probably never leave an imprint upon my memory.

Unfortunately I have become disillusioned with Hip Hop. Due to the direction that Hip Hop has taken over the past 10 years, I can no longer consider myself Hip Hop as I was back in the day when the music meant something. There are only a very select few artists that I religiously collect material from. Instead I have a collection of music that spans from symphony to jazz to all forms of rock. While brothers ride through the hood blaring Twista, G-Unit, Game, and Lil Jon, I’m the buzz killer riding through Black neighborhoods blasting Mudvayne, Tricky, Rage Against The Machine and Jimi Hendrix.

Does all this make me or any brother or sister like me an "oreo", a "sell out" or an "uncle tom"? Absolutely not. If I decide to use standard English, that does not depreciate my inherent Blackness even though I switch up and use slang. If I choose to use a song by Hatebreed as part of the soundtrack of my life, I am not living an anti-black cultural experience. As far as academic excellence is concerned, a sister or brother exhibits the highest levels of Blackness by excelling in their respective grade levels. I refuse to accept the idea that negative conduct is the sole expression and definition of Black people and being "black". Does this mean that I look down on my sisters and brothers who express the things I do not partake in? Hell no.

I do me, I listen to my music, I wear my clothes that symbolize me and I express myself in the ways I deem appropriate and respectful. Yet no one should look down upon a brother who wears their pants sagging. A sister should not be disrespected because she is a single mother at a young age. Black youths should not have to be harassed by police nor anyone if they look a certain way. However, these and other more extreme examples of conduct from some Black people should not be considered The expression of what blackness is. The problem lies in a society that celebrates and manufactures the negatives of human behavior and subconsciously brands this ignorance "black" in the minds of susceptible audiences. We see it in movies starring majority Black casts, and of course the music, Hip Hop and Rhythm and Blues in particular.

Absolutely no segment of Black people has a monopoly on defining or dictating the Black experience. All of us by virtue of our existence testify to the Black experience for where ever Black people are be it the streets or corporate America our presence will become another chapter in our collective history. The essence of who and what we are is in the acquiescence to our Afrikan history, our culture and most of all, a love of ourselves and our people. Accepting who we are and having a loyalty to our people and an active participation in our advancement and eventual freedom is the essence of being Black no matter where we are on the radar of life. There’s nothing to gain from tearing each other down in a vain attempt to define a subjective "race" that is more defined by our enemies than our own collective mind.

In the meantime while everyone else races towards a false idea of what "black" is, the geek shall inherit the earth.

FX is a staff writer for Frontline Magazine and the producer of Shock of the Hour t.v. and video series. He can be reached at SOTH624@YAHOO.COM

Friday, February 24, 2006

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