"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.
It would appear that, to be reductive, either everyone on Earth is very nice, very awful or I am a useless, invisible human. This is no empty claim, mind you. This isn’t some tawdry, superfluous grasp at butterfly wings. This is based on empiricism. To wit: For the last four weeks, I’ve been conducting an experiment. Wait, to be clear, I’m being very generous with the definition by using the term “conducting”. “Conducting” would imply that there is a purposeful intention. That’s not the case though. My involvement with this particular experiment is of the same nature as my relationship with abstinence in high school—I didn’t choose that shit, it chose me. Remarkably, both that and this basically revolve around the same wiry, muscle-less mass known as my body.
At any rate, the experiment: I’ve been alternating between the same two pairs of pants everyday for the past 28 days, and will continue to do so until someone around me that isn’t my wife feels compelled to say something about it. (I suppose that means the point of this experiment is to see how much pressure can be indirectly applied towards practical and in-passing decency, or that maybe it’s even an examination of how long it takes before something trivial becomes something important, though I’d certainly never explain it either of those ways to anyone were they to ask.)
The pants are pretty unremarkable. They’re, like, Dockers, except they’re Levis. When I bought them in August of last year as part of my back to work ritual, one pair was tan and the other pair was navy blue. I’ve worn them so much though (and have not washed them one single time because I don’t know) that they’ve become approximations of tan and navy blue. I certainly bought more than two pairs of pants for work (four, playa), but these are the only two that fit anymore because it’s WAY better to eat cheese and cake and steak and cheesecake and cheesesteak than it is to run wind sprints.
So, I wear them every day. EVERY, DAY. I figured if I made it past wearing them consecutively on concurrent days without any work people mentioning anything to me, then I’d be good for at least a week. (They’ll assume you woke up late and grabbed the first thing you saw, my brain reasoned.) I didn’t figure, though, that it’d be this long.
It was funny and nice at first. (Haha, these people aren’t saying anything about my clearly dirty pants. Isn’t that nice.) And it was even a little exciting. I felt like dirty James Bond, slithering around in slim-fit sin, trying to keep people from noticing my awful secret floating around in the open air. But then it became weird. (It’s been nine days. What’s going on?) And then it became sad. (SIXTEEN DAYS? Not a word? You’re ignoring me on purpose, you fuckers.) And now it is crushing my entire everything because either people have noticed and they’ve just elected not to say anything, or nobody has noticed, in which case: Why am I even alive?
Not Saying Anything Because People Are Trying To Be Nice
This seems especially unlikely, given that I spend a large portion of my day teaching underprivileged teenagers, a population of people that actively try to verbally demolish as many people as possible. My favorite thing from this school year: When this very teeny-tiny girl responded to a much larger boy’s needling by shouting, “Go finger yourself!” at him. The only thing his brain could think to do was turn his cheeks cherry red.
Not Saying Anything Because People Noticed, But Didn’t Care
I mean, how can a human see another human wearing the same clothes for a month and not think something is askew. What if it’s because my house burned down with my clothes and my family inside? You’re not going to speak on my tragedy? What if it’s because I had to sell all of my clothes to help pay off a gambling debt that my brother owed so they wouldn’t murder his daughter? That’d make me one noble motherfucker, and you’re just gonna let that walk by without commenting. What if it’s because on my way to get ALL of my clothes dry cleaned I noticed that a plane had crashed into a tall building and then when the firemen got there to rescue everyone trapped way high up they realized their ladder didn’t work so I gave them all my clothes to make a rope for everyone to climb down and then it turned out that THE PRESIDENT WAS ONE OF THE PEOPLE TRAPPED AND HE HAD WITH HIM THE ANTI-LAUNCH CODES THEY NEEDED TO PREVENT THE NEXT WORLD WAR?! HOLY FUCK I’M A NATIONAL HERO.
Nobody Has Noticed
Goddamn you, everyone. Goddamn you, experiments. Goddamn you, Obama.
On that note, let's dive into some sad rap music this week.
1. Puff Daddy, “I’ll Be Missing You”
I remember watching this video about 7,000 times as a kid with a buddy named Barry. Barry raced dirt bikes (he was my one white friend). He was the tits. His dad was like Paul Bunyan, but with a bigger chest. He was HYPERINTIMIDATING. One time while racing Barry had a pretty gnarly wreck. It was pretty clear to everyone that he was hurt. Barry’s dad walked out onto the track, stared at the dirt bike until it picked itself up and rode itself back to the pit, then looked at his hurt, crying, broken son and said, “Stop being a pussy.” Barry got up and tried to walk off. The medic came out, examined him for two seconds, then declared he’d obliterated his collar bone. Barry’s dad’s immediate response: “I know.”
HE KNEW HIS SON HAD BROKEN HIS COLLARBONE AND HE RESPONDED BY CALLING HIM A PUSSY. Love.
2. Flipsyde, “Happy Birthday”
Not really about birthdays, but definitely about birthdays.
3. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, “Crossroads”
I wasn’t the only that was like, “WHAAAAAAT THE FUUUUCCKK?!” when the guy takes his jacket off at the end and his wings pop out and you realize he’s an angel, right?
Note: If I wasn’t still NUCLEARANGRY about my grandmother dying, I’d have made a joke about him coming to get her. But I still am. Sorry.
4. Immortal Technique, “Dance With The Devil”
I don’t know. I guess?
5. Z-Ro, “Life Is A Bitch”
I spent, like, I think the first three or four years of my writing career deifying Z-Ro, one of Southern rap’s greatest characters. I also spent that same amount of time perpetuating the belief that he is/was basically a megamonster. He was always just so interesting and talented and everythingEverythingEVERYTHING. I’d tried to interview him before for stories, and had even gone to a couple of his events where he was supposed to be, but never could get connected. When I finally had the chance to talk to him (I was covering a video he was part of) I was totally cool about the intro. I was ready for it. He was like, “Hey.” And I was like, “Hey.” But then he did something I didn’t expect. He reached his fist out for a fist bump. I panicked. My brain scrambled. Inside I was all like, OH MY GOD WHAT DO I DO WHAT IS THIS GESTURE HOW DOES IT WORK HOW HOW DO I RESPOND DO I START SINGING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM DO I RECITE THE 50 STATES WHATWHATWHAT? I reached back out of instinct. But instead of bumping it I grabbed it like a doorknob and sort of shook it.
My whole life.
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.