Yo, microphone check one two what is this
The five foot assassin with the ruffneck business
I float like gravity, never had a cavity
Got more rhymes than the Winans got family
No need to sweat Arsenio to gain some type of fame
No shame in my game cause I’ll always be the same
Styles upon styles upon styles is what I have
You want to diss the Phifer but you still don’t know the half
I sport New Balance sneakers to avoid a narrow path
Messing round with this you catch the sizing of em?
I never half step cause I’m not a half stepper
Drink a lot of soda so they call me Dr. Pepper
Refuse to compete with BS competition
Your name ain’t Special Ed so won’t you Seckle With the Mission
I never walk the streets, think it’s all about me
Even though deep in my heart, it really could be
I just try my best to like go all out
Some might even say yo shorty black you’re buggin’ out
Zulu Nation, brothers that’s creation
Minds get flooded, ejaculation
Right on the two inch tape
The Abstract poet incognito, runs the cape
Not the best not the worst and occasionally I curse to get my
Point across, so bust, the floss
As I go in between, the grit and the dirt
Listen to the mission listen Miss as I do work,
As I crack the, monotone
Children of the jazz so, get your own
Smoking R&B cause they try to do me
Or the best of the pack but they can’t do rap
For it’s Abstract, original
You can’t get your own and that’s, pitiful
I know I’d be the man if I cold yanked the plug
On R&B, but I can’t and that’s bugged
Buggin’ out, buggin’ out,
Buggin’ out you’re buggin’ out (x8)
Yo when you bug out, you usually have a reason for the action
Sometimes you don’t it’s just for mere satisfaction
People be hounding, always surrounding
Pulsing, just like a migraine pounding
You don’t really fret, you stay in your sense
‘Comafied’ your feeling, of absolute tense
You soar off to another world, deep in your mind
But people seem to take that, as being unkind
Oh yo he’s acting stank, really on a regal?
A man of the fame not a man of the people
Believe that if you want to but I tell you this much
Riding on the train with no dough, sucks
Once again a case of your feet in my Nikes
If a crowd is in my realm I’m saying, mic please
Hip-hop is living, can’t yank the plug
If you do the result, will end up kind of bugged
Yo, I am not an invalid although I used to smoke the weed out
Ali Shaheed Muhammad used to say I had to be out
Scheming on the cookies with the crazy booming back buns
Pushing on the real hardest so we can have the big fun
When I left for Rosie I was Boulevard status
Battling a MC was when Tip was at his baddest
It was one MC after one MC
What the world could they be wanting see from little old me
Do I have the formula to save the world?
Or was it just because I used to swipe the women and all the girls
I’m the type of brother with the crazy extended hand kid
Dissed by all my brothers I was all up what my man did
Supposed to be my man but now I wonder cause you’re feeble
I go out with the strongest and I separate the evils
It’s your brain against my mind, for those about to boot out
All you nasty critters even though you see I bug out
Many years ago I was watching a special live performance of The Doors on television. In retrospect, I’m not sure why that was happening. I was never pensive enough as a teenager to go through a phase where I loved Jim Morrison, and I was never patient enough to listen to The Doors’ music. About 30 seconds into any of their songs, I’m thinking, “why is this organ intro so long?” or “do we really need this much in the way of ambient nature sounds?” or “FOR GOD’S SAKE, WHAT ARE WE DOING WHEN THE MUSIC’S OVER?”
For the record, we’re turning out the lights. Why, I’m not sure. I’ve never gotten that far into the song.
However I personally feel about The Doors, though, the band clearly still has many fervent fans. They had more than enough to warrant a tribute on VH1, anyway, with surviving band members playing Doors classics, and a series of special guests covering Morrison’s vocal duties.
I remember the show less because of the performance and more because of a question from the audience toward the end of the set. And again, I don’t remember the question so much as I remember the statement that preceded it. This Doors fan, who was likely not even born when Jim Morrison died, began his question to keyboardist Ray Manzarek with this: “obviously you probably miss Jim as much as all of us do.”
As a teenager, I cringed to watch Manzarek’s vaguely sarcastic but still kind nod as he rearranged something on his keyboard and refused to make eye contact with the young man until the question was finished. It just seemed such a bizarre statement to make, and I could not believe this audience member did not have enough self-awareness to recognize that his sadness could in no way match the sadness of one of Morrison’s best friends at losing him. Liking — even loving — someone’s music is a bit different than co-founding a band with that person, touring with him for years, and asking him to act as best man at your wedding. Anyone can miss Jim, sure, but no Doors fans should rightfully think it was possible they would miss him more than Manzarek did in that moment. They didn’t know him at all, let alone as well as Manzarek did.
I guess it’s a tricky thing when a musician or actor whose work means a lot to you dies. It’s easy to feel a close connection with a musician who speaks to you in a meaningful way, and to feel the loss of it when that person is gone.
It’s something I’ve been thinking about recently when I read that Malik Izaak Taylor, a.k.a. the Five Foot Assassin, a.k.a. Phife Dawg, had died of complications related to diabetes. He was a founding member of A Tribe Called Quest, one of my favourite groups. He was only 45.
It was a strange moment. I was at work, having a conversation with my officemate as we got ready to leave for the day. I glanced down at the computer to see that the news had come up on the screen: Phife Dawg, 1970-2016. Rest in Power.
So far as I know, my officemate has no particular affection for early ’90s alternative hip hop, so I didn’t say anything at the time. I didn’t cry, and I wasn’t depressed. But I wished that I had just taken the plunge and gone to see Tribe in 2013 when I had the chance. I listened to their first and second albums that night, and I communicated my distress via Facebook, as one is wont to do in this age of social media. And then, I was distressed at how few of my friends seemed to care that he’d died. I realized they must have terrible taste in hip hop not to know this was a tragedy worth mourning. Where was the press’s outpouring of grief for this deeply important actor in the evolution of hip hop?
Well, in Canada at least, the press were having mixed feelings about the death of Rob Ford, not sure how to address the death of a man to whom they’d shown little but contempt. Several newspapers did impressive if not slightly hypocritical about-faces, going from portraying him as a villainous buffoon in life to an endearing everyman in death. His reputation as a crack-smoking madman of a mayor took a back seat to this new and heretofore unrealized image of him as a fixer who deeply cared about the taxpayers.
There’s a strange irony in the way society treats the famous. On the one hand, people can be dreadfully dehumanized while they’re alive, and the press can say all sorts of terrible things about them without reference to the fact that they’re mocking or censuring or disempowering a real person with real feelings and a family. On the other hand, though, when that same person dies there will be an outpouring of grief and pain and feeling from the same papers who mocked and censured in the first place. How much we individuals get swept up in that is up to us, I guess. But either way, we’re ambivalent about just how human we want our celebrities to be.
Ward is a Saskatoon-based freelance writer who spends her days (and most nights) working at a small Catholic college. Her less eloquent thoughts can be found at www.twitter.com/newsetofstrings