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It’s All One Thing #77: Hippies

 

I’ve had to listen to people beating up on hippies for the last 45 years. I remember back in the mid-seventies
I had to meet my ex-wife at the bank in Downtown Crossing which was just Washington Street then.
I’d just gotten off one of the many night shifts I worked over the years and with that horrible empty belly
staying up all night gives you I bought the only take-out food available a carefully considered fish sandwich
from McDonald’s. As I squatted by the bank’s revolving door caught like a vampire that’s stayed out way too early
as the sun came up over the glass fungi of the big buildings to catch me in its glare, a pack of young suburban
kids came by and one of them commented on my pony tail, “There’s a hippy and he’s eating a McDonald’s”.
Caught and then caught again. That’s how simple it all was then. But then the complexity of it all was always
the most wonderful thing even as almost everyone seemed so dedicated both without and then within
to reducing the movement to its lowest common denominator cultural or political wing. I was so glad, glad, glad
that for once I finally got to hear all the things said I never thought I would hear. I knew most of the people who
suddenly turned up at parties wearing beads and headbands their hair was not really long enough to warrant
wouldn’t be there when we really needed them. I knew the belly of the beast was a much too vast and empty
space to change its leviathan nature anytime too soon as if we could ever really escape the monster
but only like Jonah still seething in our own rebellion contemplate our own navels in the belly of the whale.
Damned if we did, Damned if we didn’t. Damn it all to Hell if we did know something. There was monster on the
loose. With our head in a noose. They did have the guns but we had the numbers. It’s the Vision Thing, man.
Radical come from ROOT and there was something older than consumer commercial co-option causing a bad
case of heartburn in the belly of the principle imperialist power. I’ve never forgotten. What a wonderful time to be
alive. And much more alive then when we were all either a bunch of spoiled ivy-league ingrates or working class
dropout loafers, bums or dilettantes, slumming or four flushers. Some of us were, of course, but at least
we weren’t cold blooded mercenary mental midgets taking the future of the next seven generations on trust
from people who couldn’t see past yesterday’s bottom line or the niceties tomorrow’s real politic. I will always
remember those days of my young manhood as waves of ecological-political-feminist, revelation the whole
bottom of the cultural bag falling out and in shreds and its contents ever so much more than the empty form
that held it and within its constraining bondage it spit out on the shore the only answer to its own dilemma
a counter-culture beyond its mere discontents.

 

James Van Looy has been a fixture in Boston’s poetry venues since the 1970s. He is a member of Cosmic Spelunker Theater and has run poetry workshops for Boston area homeless people at Pine Street Inn and St. Francis House since 1992. His work appears weekly in Oddball Magazine.

 

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A Twist of JP Lime: The Fresh Prince of Storytelling

 

DJ Jazzy Jeff, the man I consider to be the best DJ ever to do it, recently mentioned that his homeboy, and partner inWill and Jazzy rhyme of course, Will Smith is one of the top 5 storytellers Hip Hop’s ever known. As a big fan of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, I’m always happy to come across stories like this because I personally feel that neither get the credit they deserve as true pioneers of Rap. As I’ve already mentioned, Jazzy Jeff has always been fantastic on the turntables, his trademark Transformer Scratch being my favorite example of skills, and with his Vinyl Destination series he does a great job of traveling the globe to bring us great stories and performances that keep something I like to call True School Hip Hop alive.

As far as Will goes, we all know he’s one of Hollywood’s top actors, but it’s when he’s in the news for Hip Hop that I’m most intrigued. As such, when I came across Jazzy Jeff’s comments I started thinking about some of Will’s storytelling moments on the mic. With that in mind, here’s a by no means exhaustive list of songs where Will Smith captures a moment and crafts a picturesque tale along with some standout lyrics that display Will’s brilliance at his craft.

Just The Two Of Us

On the first verse of this ode to his son, Will beautifully captures the strong emotions of angst, pride, and love that engulfed him when he became a father. He details the moment he first held his son, the car ride home from the hospital, and his first night with the newborn. He describes struggling with the car seat, being frustrated in traffic by aggressive drivers, and being so overcome with emotions that he couldn’t get any sleep. Poetic, vivid, and strong lyrics certainly drive this verse and as such it stands as a prime example of Will Smith’s storytelling talents.

From the first time the doctor placed you in my arms
I knew I’d meet death before I’d let you meet harm
Although questions arose in my mind, would I be man enough?
Against wrong, choose right and be standing up
From the hospital that first night
Took a hour just to get the car seat in right
People driving all fast, got me kinda upset
Got you home safe, placed you in your bassinet
That night I don’t think one wink I slept
As I slipped out my bed, to your crib I crept
Touched your head gently, felt my heart melt
Cause I know I loved you more than life itself

Parents Just Don’t Understand

zipsOne of his greatest and most memorable hits, “Parents Just Don’t Understand” serves as the most famous example of The Fresh Prince’s storytelling prowess. In fact, Will’s narrative of teenage rebellion and its inevitable consequences was so well told that pairing it with its colorful video led to the creation of the The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, as confirmed by Jazzy Jeff himself in this piece. Our choice lyrics finds a young Will going at it with his mom over school clothes, as he of course wants the flyest gear available and mom (who of course is more concerned about the family budget) not having it. You can almost see Will squirm as she picks out a pair of Zips.

We headed downtown to the Gallery Mall
MY mom started bugging with the clothes she chose
I didn’t say nothing at first
I just turned up my nose
She said, “What’s wrong? This shirt cost $20”
I said, “Mom, this shirt is plaid with a butterfly collar!”
The next half hour was the same old thing
My mother buying me clothes from 1963
And then she lost her mind and did the ultimate
I asked her for Adidas and she bought me Zips!
I said, “Mom, what are you doing, you’re ruining my rep”
She said, “You’re only sixteen, you don’t have a rep yet”
I said, “Mom, let’s put these clothes back, please”
She said “no, you go to school to learn not for a fashion show”

You Saw My Blinker Bitch

On this track off their 1991 Homebase album, Will calmly, but angrily, and at times sarcastically tells a story about an old lady driving recklessly and causing an accident where his car gets the worst of the damage. With the declaration of “you saw my blinker bitch” closing each verse, it’s one of the few times you ever hear Will swear on a Rap song. He does censor himself however on the first verse, when instead of rapping “mad as shit” he uses the phrase “mad as hell”, despite the rhyme pattern calling for the s word given the previous two lines ended in “car got hit” and “happened so quick.” Gotta love Will. Even when he allowed himself to swear on a track, he still kept it as a PG as possible. In our choice lyrics, we find a pissed off Fresh Prince right after the accident occurred. A sympathetic cop takes the side of the old lady and this infuriates Will even more, but he tries his best to keep his cool. Even Will Smith can’t get the benefit of the doubt when there’s an old (presumably white) lady involved. Fun cinematic rhymes indeed.

We both pulled off on the side of the road
I was hot ready to explode
The only thing stopping me from breaking her nose
Is I was 21 and she was 90 years old
Then the police came turn the lights off
The lady started cryin’ and the cop got soft
The cop said ah it’ll be okay
Wrinkled old bag lookin’ like a charpe

I said wait what’s going on cop
Her car’s fine my car is wrecked
Then I saw what happened in the crash
Her dentures came out her mouth and got stuck in the dash
You hit me I didn’t hit you
Stop holding your neck lady you can’t sue
It’s your fault you caused all this
You saw my blinker bitch

CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON THE FRESH PRINCE OF STORYTELLING…

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We are the Gas. You are the Match by Jason Wright

See this is a scene

“The Blue Sphere” Shahnawaz Achhiwala © 2010

Where dreams take shape

Shift like riots on tv

Where the walrus speaks

And says.

“We are nothing but arms and legs

We are nothing but spikes and pegs”

Drugs and dreads

“We are nothing but what we say we said

And what we did.”

“We are nothing but a gang of green

We are nothing but imbetween”

A flashing icon on a computer screen

We are everything , but the battery”

We are empty, but the weather man

Says Tuesday will shine

suntans and mammograms

a cancer in the stand

A cancer in the stand

A wave of water

With leftover fathers

And microwave mothers

“We are the imbetween

Of a street sign that lights

Neon. And a black and white

Codachrome”

That speaks clingon

Wears nylon

And grows everlong

through a towering massive building

we are nothing and everything.

we are the kings and queens of this fair city

we are the gas and you are the match.

“The Blue Sphere” Shahnawaz Achhiwala © 2010