Sometimes I just have to rap.
Yes, this means I use extremely bad language to explore wildly inappropriate topics. I’m sorry. I’m not especially proud that I’m a walking Urban Dictionary—capable of going toe-to-toe with Kanye and Jay-Z.
When I need to rap (and it is a need), I’d prefer it to be in the booth, with one headphone held to my ear. I’d take a minute to feel the beat, before saying to my mixer, “Turn me up in my headphones a lil’ bit?”
But typically, I’m just in the car when the mood strikes. And for drama sake, I still ask my invisible producer to turn my mic up.
It’s best after the sun goes down so there is some measure of privacy, but if it’s the middle of the day—and a particularly dramatic number—I’ll just pretend to be on the phone. That way I can hit my verses with a vengeance while other commuters are none the wiser. They might think I have anger issues or feel sorry for whoever is on the other line, but that’s not something a real rapper worries about.
The only potential downfall of using my iPhone as a decoy for my performance is the ever-present fear that I’ll accidentally call my mom and be well into the second verse of an old Eminem song when I hear, “Honey? Anna? Sweetie, what’s wrong—did you say someone at Burger King spit on yo onion ring?! Why are you saying that kids eat up albums like valiums?!”
I also have a fear that I’ll be pulled over. Can you imagine?
Officer: Ma’am, do you know why I pulled you over?
Me: Public cussing?
Officer: Excuse me?
Me: Because I was using foul language and flubbed the hook?
Officer: Ma’am, I have no idea what you’re talking about—but I pulled you over because this is a no-cell-zone.
Me: Oh! I wasn’t talking on my phone.
Officer: Ma’am, I saw you with my own eyes. You were not only talking, but yelling and possibly fighting while on your cell phone.
Me: No, Officer … this is a misunderstanding! I was … rapping.
Officer: I’m sorry?
Me: Yeah, I was, uh, I was performing a Tupac song. Not yelling, just trying to do it justice—it’s very intense. He had a hard life.
Officer: Ma’am, I don’t care if you were rapping, singing or reciting the constitution, this is a no-cell zone.
Me: But that’s the thing, I wasn’t ON my phone. I was just using it to conceal my performance from other drivers. I had a rough day and I needed to rap. I figured if I had my phone to my mouth …”
Officer: Mind if I look at your call log?
Me: Not at all—you’ll see I haven’t made phone call since 2010.”
Needless to say, rapping in the car is not without its problems.
It’s a good thing I went through a little ventriloquist phase growing up. Per my request, my parents bought me an Emmett Kelly, Jr. dummy to see if “this thing could really go somewhere.” I unwrapped him for my birthday and was admittedly scared of his permanently sad face, but it afforded me the opportunity to hone my crafty speaking skills through puppeteering.
To this day I can rap relatively well in public without moving my lips much. The F-word poses problems, understandably, but there are some tried and true work-arounds.
One of my best rap memories was with my friend, Louis. We listened to all kinds of music together. We met at work and lived in a town where the highlight of our week was eating his famous hot wings and then cruising around town listening to music.
Side note: He had such a clunker at one point that every time he made a left turn, his car would honk. We soon learned to stop fighting it and just wave.
Anyway, one day he wanted to play me a song by Notorious B.I.G. and Lil’ Kim. He clearly didn’t know this wasn’t my first rap rodeo. He was low-ridin’ slowly through town with his wrist draped over the steering wheel when it happened. I became Lil’ Kim. I’ll never forget the look of absolute and utter delight on his face when I never missed a beat. He jumped right in and became Biggie. I’m pretty sure that was the moment that sealed our friendship for life.
Side note: I’m dying to meet his beautiful wife in person but fear he’ll want us to perform that song for her. And as it turns out, I still know every word.
Just yesterday, I heard Drake on a verse of someone else’s song, so I “Shazamed” it. After I got the info, I went to iTunes and downloaded it, but the “explicit” version came up first. Since I tend to get the worst of the worst lines stuck in my head (on a loop), I opted for the edited version, to keep my mind slightly more clear of explicit lyrics. I knew Drake’s part would still be pretty much intact, so I wasn’t worried.
When I went to play the edited song I downloaded, so much of the chorus and hook were bleeped out that I literally did NOT know what the song was about. What I’m saying is … I have NO IDEA what I was bobbing my head to because it was just a constant stream of truncated, bleeped words.
For all I know, it was about kittens lapping up milk. It might’ve been a song about the ever-present battle between Lowe’s and Home Depot—and which days we’re supposed to wear blue or orange to prove our allegiance. That’s just it, I don’t know what it was about. I’m relatively certain it was about getting girls, but what if it wasn’t?
What if it talked about some important Mayan predictions or a surefire, proven way to live longer? I mean, I’d want to hear that. I don’t like them bleeping out health tips that might help me retain less water or strengthen my heart. I don’t even care if they’re swearing about it. If they need to spew the F-word before giving a great blood pressure tip, then that’s OK. Don’t deny me info that could keep me from having a colonoscopy just because you want to call me a B. I know I’m bitchy when I’m hungry, so this isn’t news to me. Your words don’t wound me, but denying me sound medical advice does.
What’s that you say? It really is just a song about getting girls? Ahh, I see. Fair enough.
My brother has given me a hard time for years and years over my affinity for rap music. In fact, he’ll be none-too-happy I just added “music” to the word rap. I don’t think he lets a single time we’re together slip by without asking how Snoop Dogg’s doing.
But I can’t help it—it’s in my blood—hip hop, R&B, soul. When I want to zone out during my commute, I’ll put the radio on an old school soul station and know nearly every song. When I want a little more current version of that, I listen to R&B and can’t get enough. When I’ve got energy to burn and beats on my brain, it’s rap to the rescue—for a total escape.
And if you pass me in the car and think I’m chewing someone out? I’m not—it’s just me’n Missy Elliott hangin’ out—doin’ what we were born to do.
I’d love for you to join me on Facebook … it’s good for your health.