The Rap Sheet

What's crunk, what's bootleg and what do those words mean anyway?

Sylvia again claims they can relate to it. This is obviously key for them.

"Paul Revere," The Asylum Street Spankers

Now, I absolutely expect them to reject this Austin band's antique acoustic stylings. I anticipate whines about banjos and twangy guitars. But what I'm hoping for is perhaps a pleasant surprise when they hear a new twist on an old rap favorite, the Beastie Boys' "Paul Revere." I preface the track by explaining this is a cover of a song they know and that I want them to tell me as soon as they recognize it.

What do five Oak Cliff teens think of today's music? You can't dance to Britney Spears, and the Polyphonic Spree is for "lame white boys," but OutKast brings us all together.
What do five Oak Cliff teens think of today's music? You can't dance to Britney Spears, and the Polyphonic Spree is for "lame white boys," but OutKast brings us all together.

We're dangerously far into the song before Sedarius offers, tentatively, "Is it something from Happy Days?"

"Naw," Lekira argues, "it's from Grease. It's Elvis."

That's not completely absurd. This version does have a rockabilly, boogie-ish beat. But inside, I cringe. I tell them the original is a rap song. With looks of pure surprise, they lean in closer.

Sedarius blurts out with pride, "Run-DMC!"

I tell him no, but this group was big at the same time as Run-DMC.

Furrowed brows. I offer more hints, saying this was by the first big white rap act.

"Ice T," Nancy says, and the others nod.

"Ice T isn't white," I tell her.

"No, he's white. I know that."

I wonder if she's thinking of Vanilla Ice but let it go.

Finally, I stop the song and play them the original. They giggle as they realize how the version we just heard morphs so neatly back into rap. Sylvia says she recognizes the beat from a video game. Still no takers on the artist, though. I give up and tell them it's the Beastie Boys.

Blank stares.

"You guys don't know the Beastie Boys?"

Sedarius speaks up for the group. "We're young, miss. We were barely born when Run-DMC came out."


"Stuck in Thee Garage," The Dirtbombs

On the heels of the Beastie Boys debacle I present them with "Stuck in Thee Garage" by garage rockers the Dirtbombs. I know how they feel about rock and roll. I know they hate guitars. But I can't wait to unleash the fact that Mick Collins, quite possibly modern rock's savior, is a "brother."

"That's too annoying," says Nancy. "It makes your head hurt."

Now there's irony for you: teenagers repeating an older generation's opinion of rock and roll.

"The singer and guitarist is black," I tell them.

"He's not black," Sedarius counters.

"What made him do this?" Lekira asks, pained.

I offer that he's breaking some ground, countering the stereotype that black artists do only rap or R&B.

"Well, he should give it up," Sedarius says, unimpressed.

"He's making us look bad," Lekira agrees. So much for diversity.

"Roses," OutKast

I've pretty much resigned myself to closed minds for today, so I leave our encounter on a pleasant note. This song brings smiles and seat-dancing all around.

"The way he talks about her reminds you of how we do [each other] in school," Sylvia says.

I ask if the sudden mainstream acceptance of OutKast strikes them as "bootleg" (see: lame, bad), and Sedarius shakes his head. "Everybody likes to listen to OutKast. White folks, black folks, Hispanic folks. That's something good."

Still, no love for Mick Collins? Damn.

Let's summarize what we learned today, class. Crunk is where it's at. If it doesn't have a beat and you can't dance to it, it's outta there like a hippie sing-a-long. It saddens me to know that these kids don't know the origins of their favorite music. But I have hope. Someday they'll come around to rock and, maybe, learn that rap was once revolutionary. I let my flock loose to the heat of their last summer before high school--a summer that found me mesmerized by Paul's Boutique. Today, I leave with my interview tape in hand--and crank up the Beasties for the ride home.

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