Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rick Ross - Teflon Don

Rick Ross gained considerable notoriety after he was outed as the only rapper in the known history of hip-hop to have  fabricated and/or exaggerated his drug-selling, crime-kingpin past. It is a well-known fact that rappers never make songs claiming things they never did nor adopt exaggerated cartoonish personas for the sake of their music. Many a loyal fan were aghast at the incredible revelations that Ross (not even his real name) did not in fact move cocaine between Miami and South America in such massive quantities that he was friends with ousted Panamanian dictator Manuel Noreaga, and Colombian drug cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar. It was also suspected that Ross does not have million-dollar piles of cash laying round his house nor does he sleep with a different XXL Eye Candy model every night. Even the title of his latest album - Teflon Don - was controversial since no rapper till then had ever taken on a name or used an album title or spit lyrics that  paid homage to past legendary and sometimes fictitious gangsters.

Suffice to say this is the only Rick Ross I find worth listening to all the way through. It's not that the songs are any different in theme or content from his 3 previous albums - but what Ross does on this album is hit harder than he has ever before. From the first track to the last Ross rips on the high-flying  beats spinning incredible tales of crime and debauchery and death. Ross' rhyme skills have come a long way from Port of Miami and it seems he can hold his own against anybody these days.

I'm not particularly a fan of the message that rappers like Ross send kids about what's important in life, but I mean you don't send kids to watch Scarface or The Godfather in order to learn life skills (or at least you shouldn't.) This is adult entertainment for adults.

It's not very original or ambitious but the point is that Ross has finally done a complete album and pretty much answered his critics. To me this is what I like the most about him - he refused to back down in the face of criticism and attacks. There's a couple of weak tracks like M.C. Hammer and the B.M.F-style pounding beats get used too often but this is clearly one of the best rap albums of 2010 and should have gotten Grammy nod.


The really ironic thing is that Ross might be the most genuine, 'realest' rapper in the game today. The music and videos of Teflon Don are so over-the-top and dramatic that no-one could really connect any of it to what real-life is. Rick Ross delivers pure unabashed entertainment and that is what rap should be about.

Monday, June 06, 2011

It's better to be good

There's a phrase that people use in every arena of competitive human life, from pro basketball to warfare: it's better to be lucky than good. When two NBA superstars battle each other to a standstill with their supreme skills, and some 36 year-old washed up veteran on a minimum contract hits the game-winning shot from way outside his range, you hear it. When the newest, greenest kid in the squad gets shot at point-blank range and the round ricochets off his helmet and into ground leaving him without a scratch, you hear it. 'Good' meaning smart, skilled, experienced, strong. But there's another way to look at it - the other meaning of good - something that you can apply to the whole of life I think.

When I was in Standard 4 - I guess I was 8 or 9 - I had this teacher called Miss Nagir. I can't remember if she was married or not because we called all our teachers Miss, but anyway she was very forward-thinking about some things. I say this because I remember we had a spelling test where we had to spell the words PENIS and VAGINA and CLITORIS; which for many of us was the first time we were hearing those words and had no idea what they meant, which caused all kinds of hilarity for the rest of kids who knew what they were. I can't imagine the looks on some of the parents' faces when they asked their kids what they did in school that day. But anyway she had this policy where all desks had to be co-ed - one boy and one girl to a desk. Which was quite exciting for many of us because it would be the first time we would actually not be sitting with somebody who was the same sex as us. Growing up as we did in a small village, we were always shy and tentative with regard to the opposite sex. Maybe it's different in the schools in bigger places. So anyway I had to sit next to this girl named Maria and we started talking and at some point she showed me how she could whistle with her fingers and asked me if I knew who taught her how to whistle. I said no and then she said "my boyfriend." All I remember doing is picking back up the thing I was reading and thinking to myself what an odd thing that was to say to somebody you just met and what a curious thing it must be to be a girl.

I didn't get it then and I still don't. I've never been good with that stuff and I never will be. Part of the reason I like working with computers and math and stuff is that it's always a binary, black-and-white thing: you're either right or wrong. Your program either works or it doesn't, your proof is either correct or flawed, you either understand something or you don't. A model or theory or design either succeeds or it doesn't. Even with trying to write it's always you either suck at it or you don't and most people can't really conceal it one way or the other. My whole life I've always loved knowledge like that. I really never had any opportunity to practice those shadow arts of looks and signs that men and women use on one another, speak in secret alphabets as Jim Morrison put it. People who really know me know that I'm pretty blunt and forceful with regard to showing my feelings. I also never had much use for deceit or manipulation or scheming. You can't scheme your way in or out of set theory or system administration or quantum physics. So this is the model I always applied, quite disastrously, to everything in life when I was younger.

I know, now, that many if not most women wake up in the morning and before they put on their makeup they put on this lying mask and they go through the day with it on, lying to their parents and friends but most of all to themselves. They try their best to cover up how ugly and deficient they are inside with pretensions and charm, and many times they succeed. This isn't something that I knew when I was younger because I was just fortunate or unfortunate enough not to grow up with women like that. The women who raised me, for whatever reason, had very little use for artifice or deception or even nuance, either for the sake of their family or the men who loved them. If you did good they told you and if you screwed up they told you, usually several times, in quite a loud and forceful voice, and that was it. Whatever their faults and shortcomings my family was always open and honest about everything. Coincidentally or not these women didn't seem to invest much time in envy. When the people they knew were happy, they were happy for them, and when they were hurting or brought low, they tried to comfort and pull them up.

So, for better or worse this is how I was raised. I'm not being simplistic when I say that I don't understand envy because it is the truth. I guess I envy Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg or whoever's dating Taylor Swift...except that I really don't and I never will. I want to get my own things in life - I want to create new things. I want somebody who loves me for who I am - the real things inside me. I don't have any interest in what other people have and I never will. The three things that I have always wanted to do in life from since I knew myself were to understand, create, and love. I don't have a lot of interest in anything else. But there are a heck of a lot of men and women who seem to be only interested in destroying things, deceiving people, hatred, malice, and envy.

I also don't understand women who like to hurt their friends because of envy. For better or for worse I've always been very black-and-white with my friends. It is inconceivable to me to try to hurt in any way somebody who I thought of as my friend, especially for the sole reason that he or she had something that other people liked and I did not have. Of course people aren't black and white and part of the wisdom that you get as you get older is that there are different types of friends - different levels of trust. Women I guess if they're lucky learn this from early on, but I daresay many men do not not. I can never understand why somebody would actively work towards hurting her own friend who trusts her a lot, just because of envy. This is the one thing I find unforgivable about envious people - they have no concept of what it means to create your own destiny. They see life just as whatever you can get by whatever means. But I mean that's just how the world is. If you're lucky enough to be smart and wise you might be able to avoid trusting these people, but if you're not then you will basically end up hurting yourself and the people who really care about you.

The wisdom of this world is survival of the fittest - you have to be smart and strong to survive. But it seems to me, no matter how smart you are, you are always going to meet people who are just stupid and low-minded enough to connive and scheme and do and say anything to satisfy their small minds. No matter how strong you are, you're always going to meet people who are going to exploit your vulnerabilities and betray your trust. But I believe, just like C.S. Lewis wrote in his Narnia books, that there is a wisdom that is older than this world. I believe that the one thing you can teach your kids to equip them for dealing with this world, the most important bit of wisdom you can impart to them, the thing that my family always taught me, is that goodness always wins in the end. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far you fall, no matter how irreparable the things you do may seem, in the end life is a circle. Everyone will get what is coming to them.

I really, really used to wish I was smarter and stronger when I was younger - I might have been able to avoid a whole ton of hurt and pain both for myself and for the people I really cared about. But the thing that I've realized is that it's not really about that - those aren't the most important things. I'd like to posit that trying your best to do the right thing, to help others, to at least avoiding harming others, to be sympathetic with other people's joy, to not be envious, to believe in the right thing; to me that is more important than being really smart and really strong. Samson was the strongest man in the whole Bible - no army could defeat him - but he still got deceived by somebody he thought he could trust. But in the end God still crushed his enemies; not because he was the strongest but because God believed him to be good inside. And the truth is that I've never seen the stupid, small-minded, ugly women who wanted to hurt me and their friends for no good reason except pure malice and envy, succeed in anything they do. And I have never seen the women who were pure and beautiful and perfect inside not be blessed and happy. So as far as I see, I'm not very strong or smart especially where women are concerned, but I did always try my stupid black-and-white best to do the right thing. And that has always been the most important thing.