Larry Hoover’s Heaven Is Black America’s Hell.

Yeah, I said it.

My father got most of his drugs by stiff-arming runners. They were boys my age or slightly older who had made that bargain with a corner Faust and were in various stages of understanding the price they had to pay for it. He would target teenagers, small kids, people my size who didn’t look like they would have the wherewithal to shoot him. His routine depended on what stage of drug dementia he was in. On the first of the month, he may pay full price. By the middle of the month, he would try run psych games on kids and tell them to give discounts because he was once an influential black man. Toward the end, he would brutally beat them, knowing they had no network or recourse on the account that their job had made them the wretched of the black earth.

None of the kids were millionaires. None of the kids had lavish parties. When they realized the privilege I had because of my family’s roots in the black community, they responded with violence or even worse. When I wrote the poems that made my first collection (2014’s The Homeboy Songs), I had to get the blood out of my mouth regarding the violence I experienced from them. To paraphrase James Baldwin, it was the first collection I had to write before I could write anything else. I won’t apologize about anything I wrote in it. I had to alchemize the visceral cuts in blood in the art, so they didn’t have a bunch of power over me.

I also knew, however, that many of them were just caught up, children wounded out of their minds trying to find a father, or faced with terrible choices. I have an intimate knowledge behind some of those terrible choices because the cost of my refusal to be a part of that life was that I was forced to regularly give head to two Piru’s. I felt so profoundly for DMX, who was forced to smoke crack at thirteen. Though we had different experiences, I knew what it meant to have a walking death sentence forced upon your brain.

The only reason I bring this up regarding the subject of Kanye West and Aubrey “Drake” Graham is to remind you, the reader, that they are full of shit.

One one end, you have a sadistic middle-class art school kid who made his career with Rhymefest being his socially conscious Cyrano de Bergerac, then transformed into Black music’s most gruesome sadist with half of generation of such antics as his album threatening to stalk and kill his ex-fiance, his track threatening to kill Taylor swift, his transforming Nina Simone’s four women into a song about him sexually assaulting with his hand, defending R Kelly and Bill Cosby, and being such a Donald Trump stan that he was talking about repealing the amendment to free the bondage of his people before the 2018 midterms.

On another, you have someone from the mean streets of…the gated community he lived in because he with the nephew of pop music royalty. The child star neurotic enough to make Richard Lewis look like Toshiro Mifune. Who has enough track record with grooming pre-pubescent Jewish girls to make one wary of him going 500 feet near a Bat mitzvah without the master of ceremonies having a pistol. Whose presence as a street rapper is Ionescan in its absurdity, yet somehow is deemed acceptable because of…pigmentation? If you think anything he says about safe houses, selling crack when he was a teen pop TV star, or being “too sexy for the trap” has any merit, you have not crossed the stage to adulthood.

To put this all together in a benefit concert for the man as responsible as anyone for making Chicago a miserable place to live for so many black folks? I don’t believe in organized religion, but tonight’s Larry Hoover concert is fucking demonic It is difficult to read the gruesome details of his acts and life and not find Hoover someone who has a record of torturing lower to middle-class black folks out of their minds. More than that, Hoover had ridden the radical chic wave before, living the high life in the ’90s and almost being released before FBI wiretaps caught him in 6 cases of murder and embezzlement Yet because a 44-year-old sociopathic man-baby wants to look like he doesn’t hate his people, and a rich creep in his late 30’s wants to look “Authentic,” Hoover is going to treated like he’s Nelson Mandela tonight.

If you are a conservative reading this, you need to take the fucking smirk out of your mouth. I’m not immune to the idea that we need to be talking about what’s going on in streets across America, but your silence in ‘Ye’s championing the man responsible for a great deal of the violence in them is absolute proof that you only care about dead black kids when you need to use them to shut up discussions about racism. I am a child of The Hilltop Action Coalition of Tacoma: I’ve taken part in safe streets marches since I was 12 years old, and so much of social justice is ignoring the pain going on in so many black communities right now. But is that any better than robbing children’s bones from the grave to use them as a shield from talking about racism?

The people celebrating and the people silent about tonight’s Free Larry Hoover concert buy the myth that what happens in Chago is not their fault and that nobody from their economic bracket plays a part in the city’s fate. This is a language very familiar to me: coming home from University Place on the bus, I would see numbers of suburban black and white teenagers who would cruise the neighborhood. They had big mouths, were eager to show you how hard they were and would pull the rank of their caste rapidly if anyone in the community protested them too much. Like their parents who had worked at businesses’ interests outside the neighborhood, they saw Hilltop and its people there as nothing but material, capital to mold for one’s purpose then throw away without any regard. I know people see it differently than I do and deem tonight a concert between 2 of the biggest stars in rap and pop coming together to free a street legend. I see — in West, Drake, and a great deal of his fans — people Dostoevsky would have gone to town on. I might be wrong, however. I’m still kind of…what’s the word?…hood.



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