Shape-Ups

Where I grew up, there were a lot of white guys with their hair buzzed close and their edges shaped up. Whether they knew it or not, they were emulating young black people living in New York City. I think the eminence of black culture as popular culture softened my awareness of the potential for close-mindedness and racism in my hometown.

My classmates’ insistence on Eminem’s “ownership” of rap music was definitely a dogwhistle, but I’d usually try to settle on seeing the logic in white people relating to a white rapper more than any other. I naively viewed a lot of appropriation as the organic cultural synthesis I had always learned about — The Melting Pot, from kindergarten.

As fashion transformed, the sinister nature of it all became clearer to me. These guys grew their hair out like Zack Morris, or like Hitler, but they still listened to rap music, on one condition: it had to be rap music made by dead gatekeepers they could commandeer as vehicles for their comprehensive scolding of the living black people around them.

Way to spoil my memories of L cruising to Pac. Eugh.