"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.
I suppose this is a fashion-related mishap, but I think it might really be a life-related mishap:
I want to be cool. Like, bad.
And I don't mean hip cool, like, "Oh, look at me, I'm 30, but I wear Vans and my kids know the words to Cheap Trick songs." I mean traditionally cool. James Dean's hair cool. Paul Newman's smile cool. Mos Def's Afrocentricity cool. That kind of cool.
I don't know if everyone else does, but I know that I want to. Now, I suspect that actively chasing cool is not the way to attain it, but whatthefuckever. I plot for that shit. I think about it all the time. I want things to happen to me like they do in the movies.
[scene opens; a man is sitting on the edge of a bed in a hospital looking despondent; he's wearing a nice suit, but his jacket is cast aside and his shirt's top two buttons are undone]
[the man, possibly late sixties, runs his fingers through his hair, pausing momentarily to scratch the back of his head; his eyes are red]
Man: [heavy sigh]
[a doctor enters; he's staring at a clipboard]
Doctor: I have some bad news, Mr. Giorgio. As we thought, it's cancer. And it's spreading.
Man: How long do I have?
[doctor flips through some of the pages, not really looking at anything]
Doctor: Six months.
Doctor: We'll have a counselor come by. She's very good in these types of situations. Six months isn't a lot of time, but it's something.
Man: …Well…[sighs]. So I'll be dead in six months? Did you know that I've controlled this city's underbelly for forty years?
Doctor: I did, sir. Everyone does.
Man: I've forced senators and judges and cops to do my bidding. The Japanese mafia crumbled at my feet. But my own white blood cells…I can't control them. Irony is a real bitch.
Doctor: That's one way to loo—
[BAM! THE DOOR GETS KICKED IN; A MAN IS STANDING THERE; ALL WE SEE IS A SILHOUETTE; WE CAN TELL HE'S HOLDING A LARGE GUN]
Man: NO! NOT LIKE THIS! I TOLD YOU I WAS GON—
[BOOM! THE MAN WITH CANCER IS SHOT IN THE CHEST WITH A BIG GUN AT CLOSE RANGE! HIS EVERYTHING IS EVERYWHERE!]
[The man in the doorway takes off his sunglasses; he glances at his wrist, then he looks at the doctor, eyes squinted slightly]
The Man With The Gun: Looks like my watch is six months fast.
Blam-o! That's me. I'm the man with the gun. I need that in my life.
You know what's the closest I've come to that in the last year, though? When I stopped at McDonald's on my way home from work to buy a cheeseburger, that I'd planned to secretly eat before dinner, and the cashier accidentally put two in the bag. And I was genuinely about that shit. I'm saying, FREE BURGER, son.
Little picture: Great. Big picture: Sucks.
These days, I think the closest I can get to being traditionally cool is being labeled "dad cool," and gah. Being "dad cool" is the worst. Dad cool is the Joe Glass of coolness. It's not even a thing, really. I mean, Joe Glass never even blocked. He just stood there like a jackass waiting to get knocked out.
I remember taking my sons to a birthday party for one of their friends a few years ago. Dad gravity eventually pulled me towards this hapless group of veteran dads standing in the backyard. From afar, everything looked perfectly reasonable. Up close though, up close that shit was the saddest thing you've ever seen.
They were all just standing there like zombies, glassy-eyed, pretending to care about cell phone service plans while wordlessly trying to figure out how they ended up on sentry duty outside of a bouncy house at a two-year-old's birthday party instead of driving racecars up mountains like God intended.
That particular group's leader was this guy named David, and the only reason he was the leader was because he was the first one to tuck his glasses into the back of his shirt collar. Tucking your glasses into the back of your shirt collar is basically the highest level of "dad cool" there is. The other dads looked at him like he'd picked up a Volvo and thrown it past Saturn. Philosophically, that's just not where you want to go.
I knew that then. I know it more now.
Which is why I went and bought a scarf.
I saw Kanye with one. I saw David Beckham with one. I saw Brad Pitt with one.
I wanted one that I'd seen on Sid Mashburn's site, but ended up with one from Urban Outfitters because it was on clearance for 800% less.
It doesn't look cool on me, though. In fact, it looks legitimately stupid.
I tried to wear a bandanna around my neck once after I saw Juvenile do it in the "Back That Azz Up" video. I looked like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo. This was worse than that. I looked like the guy on the Red Baron pizza box, except without any of the grit or character. I COULDN'T EVEN BE AS COOL AS A GUY ON A FUCKING PIZZA BOX.
My whole life.
1. Kanye West, "New God Flow," featuring Pusha T
The most anticipated* song of this whole past week. Kanye is that dude. (Ignore the last minute. He goes into a military stomp that…I don't know. Just ignore it. Or don't. I don't care. I'm not your dad.)
*Rick Ross's new track, "Hold Me Down," was a shoe-in for a spot on this week's list. He'd done a solid job pumping it up and up and up. But then he released it and people listened to it and holy fuck it's terrible. Don't even bother looking for it. Or do. I don't care. I'm not your dad. It's weird that I've had to tell you that twice already, chillbros.
2. Chief Keef and Fat Trel, "Russian Roulette"
Chief Keef is trying HARD to hold onto his "I Don't Like" buzz. He's outdone here by the enigmatic Fat Trel, though.
Oh, also, pretty much not excited whatsoever about the number of dude nips in this video.
3. Bonde do Role, "Bang," featuring Das Racist
I suppose this song's categorization as rap is as tenuous as something really tenuous, but you get it. Just a neat little punch of a song. Your white friends are going to think it's just stellar. It just sounds SO good coming out of the speakers of a Mini Cooper, is what I'm saying.
4. Papya, "Serenity," featuring Emilio Rojas
First time [BOMP BOMP*] I thought [BOMP BOMP] Emilio Rojas [BOMP BOMP] really flexed [BOMP BOMP] in the last few months. [BOMP BOMP]
*These BOMP BOMP's are not going to make any sense if you don't listen to the song.
5. Freddie Gibbs, "Face Down"
Quick note: During the first verse, Gibbs makes reference to someone named "Ganksta N.I.P." N.I.P. is hyperlocal Southern rap legend. He was signed to Houston's Rap-A-Lot label in the nineties, and is most famous for (a) his role in founding the horrorcore rap genre; and (b) writing Bushwick Bill's "Chuckie." N.I.P. is as legit as they come. I interviewed him once for a story. We sat in his car outside of a barbershop and talked for an hour or so. At one point during the conversation, he was holding a fistful of pocket knives. I don't imagine I'd have been any more nervous than if I'd have been in a car with several angry bears.
BONUS: Slim Thug and Z-Ro, "Summertime"
Z-Ro has never earned the praise nationally that he's deserved for some time now. Listen through the first section of this song and try not to develop a music erection. Or whatever the female equivalent*. I don't know what it is. Sorry. I'm not a doctor.
*If I was a woman, I would absolutely say, "Oh man, I just got a total boner" anytime I became aroused. That shit would slay.
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.