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Sometimes I like to watch the videos produced by L.A.'s leading gangster rappers. You know: The men in hooded sweats and shiny medallions, their women dancing half-naked beside expensive cars.
I find it inspiring. I mean each represents a tiny rags-to-riches fantasy. Each says, "Now I'm the best. Now I'm the most. Now I chug Dom Perignon."
Critics complain that rap has less and less to do with rebellion and more and more to do with name brands. This may be the last gasp of a dying form, but the Urban Man can only applaud the shift. Like many, I appreciate rap's increasingly pure expression of personal ambition. I mean, okay those ambitions often include murder, rape, and terrifying drugs... but surely, we all believe in following our dreams.
Again last Wednesday, right around 3pm, the Urban Man found himself running low on ambition. Really, it can happen even to the most dedicated Angeleno, though it usually occurs closer to 4:30. For a moment, I lost my desire for real estate and small silver automobiles. Abstract concepts began to crowd my brain. I thought, "Gee, I've never read Proust."
Right away, I jumped in my hooptie and headed for the local hip-hop music store, where I knew I'd find large posters of men shoving diamond rings in my face. Where a thousand songs would chronicle, in delicious code, the alpha male's journey from crunk to cabbage, from rags to Benjamins, from crib to posse, chronic to caviar. Where a guy could imagine himself fly, killer, tight, jiggy, fresh, dope, phat, and wicked. Where testosterone would hang so heavy I could light it with a match.
This store's a tiny hole-in-the-wall where they're not used to middle-aged white guys appearing mid-afternoon--and when the owner tries to sell me an old R&B compilation, I have to wave him off. I tell him I need someone with grilled teeth spitting his best flow into a stunned microphone. I need a lyric about conquered friends and ceaseless fornication.
You know, something inspiring, preferably by a nice local.
Hearing this, the owner smiles, reaches up on the shelf and pulls down the latest CD from a man who has the letters L.A. tattooed on his right cheek. He poses with a large pistol shoved into his boxer shorts, his muscles flexed, his Vans kicking. A really glittering piece hangs down his bare chest.
Once locked securely in my whip, I pop it into the changer, where I hear:
Louis Vuitton kicks, Louis Vuitton frames.
Louis Vuitton belt hold the forty-five.
You know who I am, I'm Mr. Westside.
And I think, how heartwarming. I mean, in a time when famous authors turn out to be plagiarists, priests turn out to be pedophiles, Baptist preachers turn out to be gay meth addicts, and patriots turn out to be giddy war profiteers, the guy or gal who advocates pure ambition is the only guy or gal we can really trust.
We love our Donald Trumps and Paris Hiltons for the same reason we love our gangster rappers: They believe in self-glorification. They say it's the one quality we should all accept at face value, the one virtue we can really get behind.
I figure that's why people celebrated Greek heroes and Roman generals, folks equally straightforward about their desires.
I mean, gangster or not, nothing's as honest as ambition.
I take the long way back, so I can cruise a few unforgiving L.A. streets and open the windows to let the full heat of this man pound into city. Outside my office, I sit and replay the choicest bits. Then, finding the proper balance return to his hormonal system, the Urban Man heads happily back to work.
Copyright © 2007 Marc Porter Zasada. All rights reserved.>
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