My 19 year old daughter took me to see Kanye West and Jay-Z last night. This is the truth. At the dinner we had before the concert she gave me a tutorial on some of the language and what it means and a small history of old school rap i.e. Jay-Z and how Kanye changed rap from the streets to popular poetry. As she was talking to me I was looking at her remembering her first concert. She was 6 and I took HER to see the “Spice Girls” (indulgent but historical at the same time). I also took her to see Britney Spears twice, Janet Jackson, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers and several Summer Jams. She went to see the Back Street Boys and Shakira with other parents; all by the age of 13. Now she was taking her mother to a concert ….this concept blew my mind. I would never have taken my mother to a concert at 19, and here she was taking pictures with me on her I Phone.
I kept thinking about all the times in the car when she was younger, she would turn up the volume (and the bass) when a rap song came on the radio. I thought the songs were completely inappropriate (especially the messages about women). She would yell back “it’s poetry Mom”. I shook my head and thought she’ll figure it out. I would say “every song sounds the same and has the same beat”, and she would say “it’s about the words Mom”.
Let’s go back to how we got the tickets to this show (which by the way she saw in DC a few weeks ago when she was at school). I was early when I was on my way topic her up at the airport on Sunday, so I stopped by the store to check in on things. While standing there in walks Kanye West and entourage. He was pleasant and introduced himself to me and complimented the store. All I could do was think about how I could get my daughter and get back so she could meet one of her favorite ….favorite…rappers? I jumped in the car and in a flash brought her back. With all the confidence in the world I watched her stick out her hand and introduce herself to him. Taking her lead I too started a discussion about his first attempt at fashion with a show in Paris this past October. Though the show was an OK first try, I thought his media response was dead on…”it was just his first attempt and fashion is about trying and learning from your mistakes”. He then picked up the conversation and went on about how nothing was going to stop him and he learnt so much, and his next go around would be better. I commented on his confidence and then he challenged me to come to a concert to see how much he changed rap music. I went and it did change my view of rap music. But another surprise was my daughter’s expression of satisfaction that she had introduced me to an experience, as I had done when she was young. As they always say, you are never too young to learn.
Here’s what I discovered. There must be thousands of words in every rap song. When the music started (the floor was shaking) the audience was shouting back the words to the performers. They knew every word, every nuance to every line. There were no musicians , no dancers, no strong melodies, just two people manning the synthesizers and the performers with their words. So THIS was the poetry she was talking about. This was what moved this generation into memorizing hundreds of songs… it was exhilarating . These two performers had to be in the best shape to go on like this for 2 1/2 hours…. no stimulants here or they couldn’t get the words out…their energy was pure and real, and the audience was the same way.
Here they are just sitting while the crowd was standing and completely motivated by their words. The encore was a process of the two of them singing the same song over and over, to beat the fact that they repeated it 5 times in Miami…Boston can claim that they repeated it 6 times, a record, and the audience shouted each time, like it was the first. The name of the song “Paris” the hook is “That Shit Cray”….i.e. That Shit’s Crazy…..it really was.