So, CNN finally dug up Barack Obama's birth certificate, putting an end once and for all to Donald Trump's claim that he isn't eligible to be president, because he wasn't really born in the US. But I'm actually more concerned with how some of these dates match up.
I saw where it says that Barack Obama's mother was 18 years old when he was born, MTV-style, and it occurred to me that she may have been 17 when he was conceived - which may or may not have been illegal in Hawaii. I'm not sure. I don't actually know the legal age of consent for each state by heart, because I'm not such a chauvinist as to think that a woman can't still be attractive past the age of 26.
But then I did the math, counting the months backwards from when the future president was born, and I realized that unless he was born premature (which is less than likely, because I'm not sure if the technology existed yet), he was probably conceived in November of 1960 - the same month his mother turned 18 years old.
I'm pretty much an expert at this point. Feel free to quiz me.
Dirty South supposedly doesn't hit bookstores until May, but I got a chance to check it out early, because Ben Westhoff is my homeboy from way back. Back in '05, he got me into a couple of strip clubs for free, because he'd once written an article about the local mob boss who owned them and his effort to get out the vote in the '04 election, and then later he got me into a Ghostface concert for free, at a time when that was about the only way I was going to a Ghostface concert (a time, in fact, not unlike the present). FML. If he had a sister, I may have even been able to score (with her permission, natch). So feel free to take everything I say about this book with a grain of salt, even though of course I'm about to be very critical of it.
Dirty South is structured as a sort of southern rap version of Our Band Can Your Life, or whatever it was called, that early '00s chronicle of '80s-era post punk, with Uncle Luke, of all people, in the role of Sonic Youth, mentioned in several different chapters, as if music would have ceased to exist if not for him, even though hardly anyone actually listens to Uncle Luke, even back then. Which would of course make Andre 3000 this book's J Mascis, breaking up his group (and thus throwing away a shedload of money) in the most nonconfrontatial manner possible, and often coming off as distant in interviews, not because he's some sort of right brained, misunderstood musical genius, but mostly because he's a little bit slow. You'll have to take my word that this analogy is more accurate than it perhaps sounds. I spent a lot of time thinking about it the other day at the BGM.
The problem with the overall concept of this book is twofold: First of all, southern rap is just plain not a significant enough genre of music to warrant such an in depth exploration. There was a time when you could argue that it did, if only on the grounds that it was such a dominant commercial force in the world of hip-hop (and hence the rest of the music biz), but, thankfully, that time seems to have passed in the time in between when Ben Westhoff came up with the idea for this book and the time when it hits the rack at Borders (assuming that's still a store) next week. Would there still be a chapter on Soulja Boy, if, say, he'd come up with the idea for Dirty South today, for release in 2014? (If you notice, all nonfiction books seem to have been written three years before they were relesed, I guess to give time to hammer out a marketing plan.) He must have been counting on this guy Trae the Truth to record a song anyone heard by the time this book came out. If only that African chick hadn't had his music banned from the radio. No but really, this book would have been of much more use to me on a personal level, if Westhoff had taken the aspects of southern rap that were genuinely noteworthy and folded them into a more general look at hip-hop in the '00s, when most of this book takes place.
Second of all, I notice these chapters tend to vary based on whether or not he could get the artist - or one of the artists' weed carriers, or somebody - to submit to an interview. In general, the more noteworthy an artist, the less likely Ben Westhoff got a chance to speak with him. He got to spend an entire weekend with Uncle Luke, who's apparently been reduced to putting on shows in back rooms of Mexican restaurants that sound like a WSHH cam hoo-er video come to life. Alas, Westhoff is too married (to someone who doesn't understand the concept of sacrifice for journalism) to accept an onstage blowski that Uncle Luke had tried to arrange for him. No Mister Cee. But he couldn't get so much as a phone conversation with St. Louis' own Nelly, who arguably shouldn't have been featured in this book anyway, via "geography." (You try to do someone a favor...) Instead, he got to speak with one of Nelly's Pimp Juice carriers, Murphy Lee, who apparently lives in a warehouse by the freeway, not too far from here, where Nelly keeps his umpteen gold and platinum plaques. If you run into him in the street, he'll give you a free copy of his mixtape. (Remind me not to go out in the street.) I wonder if that's why the chapter on Nelly came off as kinda salty and dismissive, essentially reiterating KRS-One's famous charge that even St. Louis doesn't like Nelly. Not that I necessarily disagree.
The thing is, since no one who doesn't still live in the year 2006 gives a shit about any of these people, the book would have been better off focusing on the people who weren't such dicks (or in jail) that they couldn't participate. It wouldn't have been as comprehensive, but it would have made for a more interesting read. Some of the chapters that didn't include, say, a trip to a strip club with an artist felt as if they consisted primarily of information that I could have just as easily found for myself in the world's most accurate encyclopedia, if I were so interested. Whereas, I felt like some of the chapters that actually did take place inside of strip clubs (or at shows with a similar atmosphere) could have used more vivid imagery. I think I see a way out of this!