In my Superbowl Sunday post, I mentioned an event that happened in my youth and the ensuing epiphany I experienced while coming to grips with it.
Years later, I was watching the Grammys with my ex and her son. I think it was 1995 or 1996. Anyhow, Coolio won an award for his song Gangsta’s Paradise, featured in the movie Dangerous Minds, starring Michelle Pfeiffer. Anyhow, in his acceptance speech, he said, “I have one thing to say to my homies … ain’t no gangstas living in paradise!”
I said to them, “That is very cool. He’s taking rap music and turning it into something positive. Maybe some kid on the street will hear that and change his life.” My next statement was met by head-shakes, rolling eyes and guffaws from her son (who was around 17 at the time): “If I were to write rap, that’s what I’d try to do. Say something positive.”
Anyhow, Bryan scoffed at me. “Yeah, old white man rap. That would be good.” (As an aside, whoever invents the first “sarcasm” font that becomes the Internet’s accepted norm? They will be rich beyond their wildest dreams!) And I looked at it as sort of a challenge.
A few years earlier, I had started writing poetry as part of therapy. I don’t know how it came to me, but it did. I used to carry a little notebook around, to catch different lines and phrases that would pop into my head. I used to laugh and tell people that I had “mental diarrhea” – stuff would just flow out of my mind!
The next day, the following piece “flowed out of me” (yeah, you’re probably sorry I painted that mental picture for you in the last paragraph, right). I later met a street preacher in East San Jose who expressed an interest in it and gave it to him. Don’t know whatever came of it, because I moved east, but I like to think that it did some good for someone.
So let me tell you what I used to think about street rap.
I thought it had no value. It was just a bunch of crap.
But then I heard Coolio (featuring L.V.)
with his message about gangstas at the Grammys on TV.
I realized that rappin’ could be used just like a tool
to educate young people in a diff’rent type of school.
Now I know you look at me and you’re thinkin’ “He ain’t hip!”
Yeah, it’s over 20 years since I took an acid trip.
And I ain’t no gangsta, but I rumbled once or twice
(and I done a lot of other things that wern’t so very nice.)
I thought they were cool, cause the ones I called “my brothers”
affected my decisions about how I treated others!
And it wasn’t til I made a mistake or two (or three)
that all the consequences started coming back at me.
Yeah, no one kilt my sister in a driveby at my house,
and it wasn’t an assassin that nearly took me out …
it came in a way that was NEVER expected.
It was a voice inside my head that was never detected
until it kept getting louder and LOUDER in my ear.
It was the truth about my actions and it was very tough to hear.
Now don’t discount how I nearly faaced my death.
It wasn’t knives or bullets. It wasn’t speed or meth
that nearly took me out. It was my own two hands,
and my own two eyes that finally coulnd’t stand
to look at the face in the mirror looking back.
I couldn’t stand myself when I looked at all the facts
of what I had become. But then the voice spoke again
and it said, “It’s not too late for you to make a change, my friend!
Make a choice right now to leave the road you’ve taken!”
And I did. It was a miracle. Epiphany. Awakenin!
So don’t listen to your homies if they say, “It’s too late
for you.” Cause it’s not! Hey, unless of course you wait
til the law catches you in the middle of a tag
or worse – they take you off in a zipped up body bag!
Don’t lose the opportunity to start a new life
Don’t miss out on the chance to be a husband. Or a wife.
Or the parent to a little child that’s lookin up to YOU
for guidance. Affection. Direction. (Love, too.)
Make a choice right now to leave that useless crap …
Let your “Ephiphany” be the message of this rap!