"Diamonds & Wood" is an ongoing series in which music critic Shea Serrano breaks down the 5 hip-hop tracks you need to hear this week.
So, it turns out kids are racist. Or, more specifically, the kids that I know, anyway. Or, even more specifically, this one kid that I know.
In the summers, I teach a creative writing class to 6th, 7th and 8th graders. It sounds dreadful, but it's actually a lot of fun. I mean, it's a volunteer course, so the kids that come aren't the ones that don't like school, the little fuckers that actively avoid learning. These are the weird ones, the good ones, the ones that show up and wreck academic shit all over your face.
Anyway, a couple of years ago I started this beginning-of-the-class routine. It began as an ice breaker activity, but has morphed into something considerably more substantial. Maybe once a week or so, we start class with a hypothetical question. It took a time or two for them to figure out the template (mostly, they'd just try and change the parameters of whatever fictional situation was placed in front of them to make it more appeasing), but once they got it it immediately became one of the more enjoyable parts of class.
Generally, we talk about variations of the same two hypotheticals. That might be because they're still just tiny teenagers, but more likely it's because I think every hypothetical situation spirals back to one of those two things. Those things being:
1. Questions that test the linearity of your morality.
Somehow, these almost always include a baby. Would you kill baby Hitler if given the opportunity, and would it matter that you couldn't use any sort of weapon to do so? Would you eat a baby if you were going to starve to death? Would you feed a baby to your baby if the only other option was that your baby would die of starvation, and would it matter if the baby that was potentially going to be eaten was your sister's baby? Things like that.
2. Questions that tinker with the boundaries of the space-time continuum.
My favorite one so far: If you successfully build a time machine tonight, and you get in it and go three hours into the future and visit yourself, and while you're hanging out with Future You, you reach into your pocket, pull out your cell phone and call your own number, would Future You's phone ring, or would it just go straight to your voicemail like it does when you're in the present?
Nearly all of the time it's me offering the discussion prompt, but recently a boy, who we'll call Jonathon because his name is Jonathon, came in with one. He walked in all cherry-cheeked and said, "Mr. Serrano, I have a hypothetical question for the class today," and I was like, "Fuck you, bitch. That's my game," but really I was like, "Great, sir. Let's get everyone in and ready and then you can go."
We got everyone in and ready and then he went. This won't be an exact quote because I'm not in the habit of writing down everything that everybody says to me, but it'll be close enough:
"Okay, let's say you and your friend have to deliver a package to some guys. You don't know what's in the package, but you're pretty sure it's drugs."
The school where this class is held is in a pretty rough neighborhood, so right about at this point I'm paying attention hardcore because I'm about 85 percent sure he's talking about a crime he's committed recently.
"And let's say that your friend abandons you to go see some girl, and you end up getting beat up and the package gets stolen, so now you owe some big black guy a lot of money or a lot of drugs."
And here's where I realized he was just describing the plot of You Got Served, not something that happened to him.
"So you and you friend get into a big fight. And you try and get the money, but you can't get enough. So some gangsters show up at your house one night, and they gather everyone inside into one room. They tie you all up and they start beating everyone up. They're shouting, 'Where's the money?! We want our money?!' They're roughing you up real bad. After 30 minutes they finally stop. They pick you up and untie your hands. And then they say, 'You have a choice.' You say, 'Okay.' And they say, 'You owe us a lot of money. So we can either murder your whole family and burn your whole house down...or you can have sex with a black guy!'"
EITHER YOUR WHOLE FAMILY WILL BE MURDERED OR YOU HAVE TO HAVE SEX WITH A BLACK GUY.
That was his hypothetical. In his brain, those two things are just equally horrendous.
Fuckin' kids, man. Even the good ones are bad.
1. Rick Ross, "Sixteen," featuring Andre 3000
Ricky's God Forgives, I Don't leaked. I didn't illegally download it, but if I did I'd say you should grab a copy when it comes out. He doesn't really do anything new on it (it's not seismically cool like the one with "Hustlin'" on it and it won't cause any seismic shifts like Teflon Don did), but he typically does everything well enough for listeners not to get bored.
p.s. The opening bar from Andre is just so pivotal. He goes kind of bonkers on here. We missed you, 'Dre.
2. Mikkey Halsted, "W.M.F."
Your workout song for the week. Fun. Beyond that though, it's interesting too if only because Halsted has figured out a way to sound like Blueprint 3 Jay-Z and every regional drug rapper of the last three years at the same time. It's an interesting template, I mean.
3. 2 Chainz, "Birthday Song," featuring Kanye West
"She got a big booty so I call her Big Booty." – 2 Chainz
Let's all go home. 2 Chainz is the best.
4. Mookie Jones, "When I Want," featuring Smoke DZA
Been a fan of the laissez-faire atmospherics Mookie Jones has nearly perfected for a long time now. He has a tape coming out called Mack that will float all through your tape deck, I'm certain.
5. Mysonne, "Money"
My brain is telling me to run the opposite direction, but something in my protons is attracted to Mysonne's john-every-manness. He's just really good at sounding like he's not doing anything, and I think that might be harder than it seems. I don't know. It might be just because after he said "Hocus pocus, n***a" I kept picturing this really aggressive magician at a children party doing all kinds of hoodrat shit.
"Oh, you wanna see a magic trick? Sure, check this out." *leans forward, punches an eight-year-old in the chest* "Hocus pocus, n***a." Ill. Mysonne is my favorite rapper of all-time.
Shea Serrano is a writer living in Houston, TX. His work has appeared in the Houston Press, LA Weekly, Village Voice, XXL, The Source, Grantland and more. You can follow him on Twitter here.