The Culture of Blackness…Loving Mozzy and Luther
The past few weeks I have been listening to love and pain. With intention, I have been listening to two artist who each reflect both in their music. The two extremes in life which inform so much of how we show up for ourselves and in the world. Love – to love, to be loved, to experience love; familia love, intimate partner love, friendship love, community love, love of that thing or things….my hood, my sorority/fraternity, my Alum Mater, a vacation spot, a book, a movie. So many types of love, so many things to love.
Love can be euphoric, and love can be devastating. Love is both joy and pain. If you listen closely, there is overlap in the two artist who, at a glance, would seemingly have only in common Black and male. Which is the point, Black is the starting point for pain, for sure. Love may or may not be experienced. Healthy Black Love, I have no scientific data. I do have 60 years of being Black and journeying with thousands of other Black people. Trauma, often, trumps our attempts at Healthy Black Love.
Mozzy represents the love for community, the love for the bond that happens when you experience deep pain together. The way those “outside’ move. He is a great storyteller with the right amount of other gifted artists, featured in his music. What intrigued me was the uniqueness of his voice coupled with his Cali swag and the fact that you can understand what he is saying. Granted, I don’t always know what he means. I began listening to him about three years ago. Crazy a man in Michigan put me on to Mozzy right around the time a youngster, from around the way, name came up with as possibly collaborating with Mozzy. I hadn’t heard of him before that.
Mozzy’s music is clear. The complexity of being Black men. The conflict with men who look like them. The same world so many Black and Brown men are familiar with. Men experience so much loss and pain together. The pain he talks about, I have a personal knowledge of. My own loss and the loss of the young people I worked with for so many years. I remember when I first became aware someone my son personally knew someone who was murdered. My son was 20 years old. Like I said, that was the first I knew of. That was 2006.
Mozzy consistently refers to the pain of the mother burying their sons. The code, the responsibility of the hood to make sure everything is covered. His voice is representing the pain and the stories of so many men I have worked with over the years.
The language he uses, the way he tells stories of the inner and intricate workings of the hood. I hope his music is healing for him. He shares the complexity of the mind, the reality of the mind, the presence and importance of hood rules.
Every month, I receive an email from Prison Policy Initiative. Every email contains a list of new reports adding to their Research Library. Each time I receive the email, I think about the sheer number of reports that have come through my email. All this data and research. It is great current trends are including those formerly incarcerated. I always wonder if anyone is talking to the Mozzys of the hood? Is anyone talking to the community? The funding that is poured into research is beneficial to those whose lives and communities you are studying and reporting about how?
Mozzy talks about the hood, prison, moving, making it, going back, giving back. He made it out and got dragged back into the madness as he is currently serving Federal time. What good is that going to do? His explanation for carrying a weapon is what I have heard a thousand times over. He’s a target, for a lot of reasons. The amerikkkan system says once you have a felony conviction you are unable to legally own a gun. There are very few exceptions.
Cops can literally kill people and keep their jobs. In the rare instances they are fired, there is nothing to prevent him from being a cop someplace else. Listen amerikkka, you would be better off deading the conversation and being honest.
“Dear Black, Brown and Ingenious People,
We are going to continue to oppress and kill Black and Brown people, continue to relegate Native Ingenious People to limited areas. As it is can no longer legal to enslave people, we will continue to over incarcerate. We will continue to allow employers to not pay a livable wage. And we will absolutely continue to give corporations huge tax breaks.
We can only be our capitalistic best when others are oppressed and suffer.
White Supremist Capitalist”
Mozzy’s music covers a gamut of universally common experiences, mentalities, survival methods and mechanisms. Working with Black and Brown men all over the country, the conditions overlap, region to region; city to city; hood to hood; block to block. What are men to do with all their pain, all their grief? Hell, what are any of us to do with it?
A great woman once said, “Hope Carries Us”. You have to hear it to hold on to it; to be carried by it.
The up close and personal experiences of tragedy, family, loyalty, hood, culture, pain, loss is continuously intertwined. Black men cycling in and out of county jails and prisons. The cultures there. The way I have had a front row seat to these same exact things for so many years. Journeying with men on both sides of a war when they are not even aware of The War we have been fighting for 400 years.
You have to go away to step away because proximity will have you back in it. Staying connected cause they are our people, yet finding where we can breath and be. I don’t personally know Mozzy. Listening to his music and watching an interview he gave this summer are my limited exposure. What I know for sure is, he is a gifted storyteller with a unique sound. The content is raw, pure and true. And, sadly, universal.
With the same intensity Mozzy describes hood life and Black culture, Luther reminds me of Black Love in all its intensity, beauty and complexity. The highs and lows, the magic and the comfort. The joy and the pain. The idea of love. The fantasy of love. The image of love.
Luther is feel good music and will have you thinking of past heartache and heartbreak. Luther is Black culture; every Black person has a favorite Luther song. Luther, like Mozzy, is an incredible storyteller. Luther’s music is going to cover the range of love the way Mozzy’s covers the gamut of the pain of hood living. Desiring Love. Chasing Love. Sexy Love. Hurt in Love. Getting Over Love. Reminiscing Love. Oh, Luther is going to cover all your love needs.
And, of course, our beloved Luther is versatile. There are the folks who quite enjoy “Havin’ A Good Time” Luther. We have duet Luther. So much Luther to love, appreciate and choose from. We older folks have journeyed with Luther. We remember which were the wedding songs, which songs were guaranteed to be heard at every function. I have been with Luther since college. I still remember the guy I was digging take somebody else onto the dance floor when the DJ played, “Don’t you remember you told me, you loved me, Baaaybeee…”. “Charlie’s” was the name of the spot. Everybody from San Jose State and Moffett Field would be there on Thursday nights. We used to say, “Thursday is ‘Ladies’ Night’ all over the world”. If you have ever experienced this, you know how devastated I was for months and couldn’t stand hearing the song for years.
Luther Vandross is family. He is someone Black kids were “raised on”, cleaned up on Saturday mornings listen to. Luther is unconditional Black love.
Each of my kids likely has a Luther story related to me and growing up. Some of them also have their own, personal Luther song/experience. It was Vinnie walked down the aisle on his wedding day to Luther’s “Bad Boy/Having A Party”. It was on a random Monday night one summer when JeNae signed “Wait for Love” like she felt it in her soul. Captured on video to remain forever in the family video archives.
Christmas Luther, from a family that doesn’t listen to Christmas music outside of our favorite Christmas “church” songs. The only Christmas album every one of us know word for word, song for song. Luther Christmas is liable to found playing in July. He brought an entirely new level of Soulful Christmas. That album has something forever one during that time of year.
DeRay McKesson, sometime during or following the Ferguson Uprisings, coined the phrase, “I love your Blackness and mine”. Your Blackness and mine is loving Luther and Mozzy. This 60-year-old, Blackity Black woman has been giving equal time and attention to both as of late. Two Black men representing exactly how NOT monolithic we are as a people. Those same men also represent the commonality of our culture and our experiences. I am also keenly aware there are plenty Black people who could not connect with nor relate to any part of Mozzy’s stories, his words. Conversely, people who can connect with Mozzy’s world know very few, if any, people whose lives have NOT been touched by most of what Mozzy is rapping about.
The intersection of Blackness, followed by Black joy and Black pain is where community exists. I will venture to say most of the people who listen to Mozzy will know who Luther is but likely don’t listen to him on the regular. Most of the folks who know every lyric and run to all of Luther likely don’t know who Mozzy is.
Nevertheless, all the Black people I am talknbout know Blackness, including, directly/indirectly, Black Joy and Black Pain.
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