Editor’s note: Conrad is a good friend of mine that I’ve been trying to sweet talk/badger into doing something for Counterforce for quite a while now. And he’s been dangling the prospect of doing a post on Sonic Youth in front of me for just as long, but then out of nowhere, he sent me this. I’m not complaining and it’s a pleasure to have him with us.
THE GREATEST HITS OF BLACK PEOPLE IN THE LAST QUARTER CENTURY!
i.e. as long as I’ve been alive.
(This is by no means meant to be an all encompassing list.)
(Nor an all too serious list, or one that had a lot of thought go into it.)
(So no Ben Carson or Al Sharpton, or Maya Angelou, or anyone like that, though they’re all very important people. Just remember: Black people can do anything you can do, maybe better, maybe not better, but with rhythm.)
All right, all right, give yourself a little break from reading about time travel robots and Lost all the time and let’s just fucking do this:
Michael Jackson. The alpha and the omega. Our savior and… sigh… our greatest let down. It’s easy to think of him as a freak now, because he’s kind of turned himself into one, but you know that he was just fucking awesome back in the day. Like when he performed at the Super Bowl, and he started popping up all over the place, Prestige-style, man, I thought that was the coolest thing in the world. It didn’t dawn on me til later that he had doubles (and I say that Saddam Hussein got the doubles idea from the King of Pop).
The Cosby Show. Don’t front on this: The show was awesome, and you know you wanted this to be your family. Everyone did. In fact, just thinking about it has me craving a Jello pudding pop and wanting to go watch Angel Heart again. Plus, a woman once offered me sex because she said I reminded her of Theo.
Eddie Murphy. For fucking serious. Back in the 80s, every black man either looked like this cat, or wanted to. Or they looked like Bobby Brown. That shit was tight.
Professor X & Magneto. I’m a big fan of celebrating our differences and our individual unique whateverness, but I also feel that we need a certain level of colorblindness in the way we deal with the world and people, so that’s why I dig how these X-Men characters can summarize the MLK/Malcolm X debate for just about anyone, especially using a superbrain and raw magnetism.
Philip Bailey and Phil Collins “Easy Lover”
This is great for black people, but it’s just as big a hit for white people as well. Everybody needs all the elements, you know what I’m saying? Everybody needs Earth, Wind & Fire.
I remember this song from my youth but rediscovered it in the last few years thanks to Marco Sparks forcing excessive amounts of Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins down my fucking throat the last few years. And he has a point, I slowly discovered. Pre-Disney Phil Collins was an angry and passionate man, sometimes baring his male pattern baldness and soul for us good people. I think he’s well regarded in quite a few hip hop circles these days. And he’s one of the coolest cats to duet with a black man since Paul McCartney, probably. But more so.
Robert Townsend. This man is a talented actor, writer, comedian, and director, and his film, Hollywood Shuffle, not only exposes the hardships of black actors and the cliches they’d have to deal with it, but it’s fucking hilarious. Plus, he wrote for Eddie Murphy and is responsible (along with Keenan Ivory Wayans, who co-wrote Hollywood Shuffle) for getting jobs for a lot of the prominent black actors working today.
Incognegro by Mat Johnson. This is just an amazing graphic novel about a black reporter who can pass for a white man who goes undercover to investigate and write about lynchings in the South in the 1930s. Everything about it is perfect, but especially how it deals with the fact that so much of what we consider racial problems is problems with class and identity.
Oran “Juice” Jones “I Saw You And Him Walking In The Rain“
I gave you things you couldn’t even pronounce! Here’s some trashy white kids doing an almost shot for shot remake of the video:
It’s safe to say that The Juice ended up being a one hit wonder because, like OJ, he just scared the fuck out of people.
Samuel L. Jackson. Does this even need to be explained? This man is straight versatility. He’s a great actor, but he’ll do just about anything for a paycheck, it seems. Which means he’ll be in a lot of shit movies, but then at the same time, he’ll call up people like George Lucas and do some Force mojo on him and say, “You will put me in your new Star Wars trilogy,” and it happens. Or, “You will make me the new Nick Fury,” and it fucking happens.
Soul Glo! If you know, then you know. You know?
The little sister on Family Matters. Not a greatest hit at all, but just me using this forum to ask where the hell did this girl go? She went upstairs and apparently got swallowed up in a TGIF vortex of some sort Cthulhu-like cathode ray obscurity. And you know where that vortex spits you out? Porn, that’s where.
Prince. Let’s not even pretend I have to explain myself here.
But I will say that I used to have the purple vinyl edition of Purple Rain when I was a kid, and when my brother broke that, I almost threw his ass out of the family. And out of a window.
Aaron McGruder, creator of the Boondocks cartoon strip and cartoon, a constant source of not just excellent entertainment, but also some serious real talk.
Tupac Shakur. The other day, in conversation, Marco says to me, “Tupac is totally one of the most underrated rappers of all time.” I shook my head in exasperation (something I do frequently when dealing with him and said, “First of all, that’s like saying, ‘Gee wilikers, water sure is wet,’ and secondly…”
I mean… Right!?
Race relations. Can’t we all just get along? I think the answer is yes, with some cooperation, some communication, and some understanding and accepting. Laser guns can only help this equation.
Wu-Tang Clan. This is who I’d rather talk about than Tupac. In addition to being nothing to fuck with, I’d use two words to describe this group: Universal. Ill. That’s all that’s necessary.
The Black Kids “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You”
So real. So true. This isn’t Save The Last Dance. I don’t know you. I don’t know your boyfriend. I’ll teach him how to lose his girlfriend but I’m not going to teach him how to move it right. And why are you assuming that I know how to move it right? I mean, I do, but…
In reality, the band’s got a great name, but I find them excessively cheesy.
Fuck yeah, we can. You, me, everyone.
All right, I said way too much here. I may do another installment of this, perhaps a more serious one, perhaps even more ridiculous than this one, but if you have any questions…
And don’t go getting a big head.
Conrad Noir loves you all. He lives in the South and can’t wait to get out of there, and does the tumblr thing right here, but only sometimes.