Back when I was actively pursuing rap music as a means to pay my bills, it wasn’t much for someone to show me love for something I said. I believe most of it was contrived, but even if it was genuine, I’m a pretty humble dude. I can take a compliment, even if it makes me a little uncomfortable. Truth be told, I never had my heart set on making much money off of rapping, I just wanted the acknowledgment that I was good at it. & that’s exactly what I got, but I digress.
Years ago, when I first began jumping on people’s songs (who weren’t an immediate part of our rap crew), I’d occasionally come across cats who knew me from the music. It didn’t happen daily, but enough to let me know that somebody somewhere was listening. This was the tail end of the CD era, & the ‘Net hadn’t yet localized all rap music, so for someone to hear a song meant that someone had to be playing it. In this particular case, someone also had to have said my name, because they knew it.
One day, a dude who I didn’t know said, “Oh shit, you’re Tony Grands?” I nodded, attempting to maintain the recommended level of MC nonchalance. He didn’t have the requisite “So what. I rap, too” attitude I’d grown accustomed to. & he wasn’t one of those overly gracious fellows who seem too happy about nothing in particular. This dude appeared sort of surprised, as if he wanted to chuckle. Which he kind of did. He stuck out his hand for dap, & we shook hands & he gave me the oddest compliment I’ve received to date.
“You tight. Sound like you’d be a big black nigga, though.”
I imagine that’s what people thought to themselves the first time RZA said to them “Yo sun, this the nigga that was on that track, U-God…” Or perhaps how the rest of the world felt when they heard Drake’s verse about catching “a body (like that).” Light skinned dudes who rap aggressively get looked at like the pretty girls that are shaped like tackling dummies, or the last bag of shake weed left in the shoe box. The consensus seems to be that we collectively rock sandals year ’round & sleep with teddy bears. No dice, though. Also, just because we turn red under stressful situations doesn’t mean we bruise easily. Nevertheless, it’s another subsidiary of what I call “Snipes-Williams Complex,” a phenomenon started when Nino stabbed Kareem in “New Jack City.” Hip Hop takes that scene to heart as closely as it does the “Say ‘Hello’ to my lil friend” clip from it’s favorite movie. Ever since then, beige cats in rap have been relegated to explosive outbursts to prove themselves, like Benzino & Bow Wow & Chris Brown have been known to do. (I told y’all Chris Brown was going to lose it.) If not that then it’s a slight self-mockery, with such names as “Yella” & “Redhead.” In fact, imagine my surprise when I found out that Aloe Blacc was really a dark skinned guy. I was expecting a tiny redbone fellow.
& for the record, I’m well aware that most African-American communal conflicts derive from some sort of pre-existing slave mentality, but that’s way deeper than I’m willing to go on a Tuesday morning. With that said, the light skinned rapper is & always will be overlooked, no matter his miniature accolades or his colossal failures, but we at R&WIFDP #salute him. Shouts out to Redhead Kingpin, Knoccturnal, J. Cole, Benzino, U-God, Tash, Cory Gunz, & the rest of the bunch who have more skills per song than they do melanin per square inch.