The Future Becomes The Present and The Past Finally Rests
It’s been a little while.
It’s Go Time.
So, on Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 the world watched as the 44th President of the United States of America, Barack Hussein Obama, was sworn in.
I gotta admit, it was pretty awesome.
For those who have forgotten, and for those who are brand new, I’m a bit of an Emo feller. No, I don’t wear uber-tight jeans or eyeliner or have that stupid haircut–I’m just emotionally honest. I love what I love, I don’t have reservations about being said, and being an Internet Tough Guy is the stupid shit since Jim Jones did his “Swagga Like Us” take-off.
That being said, I was overwhelmed a few times during the Inauguration. It was inspiring seeing so many people gathered and cheering on Obama. It made my eyes well up seeing other people so overrun with emotions–everything from gratitude to elation. What happened yesterday was amazing, the happy ending to something that began in February 2007.
I believe very strongly in communal experience. It’s not a “tribal” thing, it’s not a “trendy bandwagon” thing, it’s not a “safety in numbers” thing. No sir. There is something beautiful and peaceful about sharing a common belief or common interest. Yes, my Kanye West standom is legendary and largely bulletproof, but being at the Glow In The Dark tour in Madison Square Garden with 20,000 people made the whole experience better.
Sooo, holding hands with my father while Obama took the Oath of Office, and seeing so many people there with a belief not in a man, but in the ideals he espoused–hope, responsibility, the belief that we can light up a dark world–was incredible.
The Knicks defeated the Bulls on March 9th, 1997. I know this because I called my best friend Joe Turk to rub the victory in his face. He told me to cut it out, that he was having a bad day:
“I got into a fight with my mom, the Bulls lost, and Biggie got killed.”
“Yeah, you didn’t hear? Biggie got shot last nite and he died at the hospital.”
>> >> (fast forward)
It’s now September 1997, the VMAs. Puffy and Ma$e come out to perform their verses from “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems”. They finish their verses, and Puffy runs off to change from a shiny suit to a white suit. He takes the microphone and begins singing “I’ll Be Missing You”. Sting comes out. Faith Evans and 112 come out. At the end of his performance he says, “Clap your hands for Princess Diana. Clap your hands for Gianni Versace. Clap your hands for Tupac Shakur. Clap your hands for The Notorious B.I.G. Clap your hands for everyone we’ve lost.”
Up until this point, I knew it sucked that Biggie died, but I hadn’t really felt anything emotional aside from “Dang, he’s not around anymore”. When that VMA performance was over I was in tears. I felt Puff’s pain. I felt the pain of Voletta Wallace and Faith Evans and Jan (Biggie’s first baby mama). I felt all of their loss, my first step into the world of empathy.
Rap is largely trash nowadays. Every month someone new comes out and bites a Biggie beat or line or samples his voice. Shit, motherfucking Boosie or Webbie or one of those fucks took it upon themselves to redo “Miss U” (disc 2, Life After Death).
BIG’s shadow looms large, and it’s not a stretch to say that his death stunted the growth of hip-hop–maybe not commercially at first, but definitely creatively. Sure, we’ve had breakthroughs and some originality, but not enough to save the artform from fuckery and decline.
Anyway, back in 2007, BIG’s tenth anniversary, the usual celebrations persisted and it felt like the right time to say goodbye to Christopher Wallace. Even still, I myself wasn’t ready to say goodbye to BIG, goodbye to the Bad Boy era, or goodbye to my most formative of years–which happened to coincide with the Rise of Puff’s company as a dominant force. I grew up with Bad Boy music–from “Flava in ya Ear” and “Juicy” all the way through Mario Winans’ “I Don’t Wanna Know”. I was a Bad Boy stan, and Biggie is their patron saint, and I wasn’t ready to let all that go.
January 20th, 2009. Obama gets sworn in at noon, and we finally say goodbye to The Bush Era–a time in which the world got dirtier, meaner, more dangerous, less hopeful. It was a time in which my own life spiraled out of control in every single aspect–from relationships to work to where I lived. I’m not blaming Bush for it, but the timing must be paid attention to. Shit didn’t feel right. Dude didn’t care about the country at large, or the world, or doing the right thing. In my own life, shit was miserable, hellish.
Obama’s in office now, and when he says what he wants to do, I believe him. Sure, the haters and the conspiracy theorists will talk about how he’s not doing anything or can’t do anything or blah blah blah, but despite that, I still believe him. I believe he’ll want to make not only the lives of people around the world better, but make those people better.
I believe that hope is no longer something that can be mocked, something possessed by fewer and fewer every moment. I believe that Hope, True Hope is back.
When Notorious was over last nite I was in tears, listening to Angela Bassett speak in the Voletta Wallace cadence while Biggie’s music played. I listened to her say that B.I.G. was, “…Ready to live.”
What some of, okay, most of you don’t know is that my first album–warts and all–was called Ready To Live. I’m sure people have said that before I did, but hearing that in the movie was powerful, like it was okay to let Biggie’s spirit rest, to wish him a peaceful slumber instead of wishing he was still here.
I said goodbye to Biggie Smalls last nite after watching his bio-pic, and it wasn’t a sad thing. I had a nice trip in the way back machine, and went with two guys I love like brothers, Maverick (father of my oldest nephew) & his real-life brother, B. Smithalini. The communal experience, the affection for a fallen artist impacted all 3. I shed tears, Mav shed tears, and even a stoic Smithalini was moved.
I said hello to Barack Obama yesterday after watching his inauguration. I held the hand of my father, a man who grew up in a racist-ass town being called “Spic”, whose mother once had people drive by her and spit and throw empty bottles and cans at her because she had the nerve to be Puerto Rican. I held his hand and watched everything change right before our eyes, as a Black Man with an African name took the position of most powerful man in the world. A man who is, ironically, considered a “minority”.
The change might not last forever, the honeymoon might not last forever, but for now–Right Now–we have something we haven’t had in a long time. Something I haven’t felt since Christopher Wallace lived and breathed, and for a few years after that stopped.
What I felt was Hope.