Time Goes By…

July 19th, 2013 by | Tags: , , , ,

I’m at San Diego right now, chilling in a hotel room. It’s busy, it’s nice, I’m digging seeing the show from this direction. But I need to write, and so I’m writing this:

I love weed songs, from Bone thugs~n~harmony’s “Buddah Lovaz” to Kid Cudi’s “Marijuana.” I’ve had OutKast’s “Crumblin Erb” stuck in my head for a couple weeks now, particularly Sleepy Brown’s work on the chorus, which is one of my favorite of his performances:

There’s only so much time left in this crazy world
I’m just crumblin’ erb
I’m just crumblin’ erb
Niggas killing niggas they don’t understand
What’s the master plan?
I’m just crumblin’ erb
I’m just crumblin’ erb

I’ve been thinking about this song, mostly by mulling over the lyrics as best I can remember. Andre’s “splish/splash/of blood” bars stick out, Big Boi’s first four bars or so are stupendous, “sprinkle sprinkle motherfucker, don’t be crying on me” is one of those things I’d love to say in real life, but what I only just realized now–and please believe by “now” I mean 8:00 on Friday morning, July 19–is that this isn’t a song about the joy of getting high. It’s a weed song, but it’s not a weed song.

I love Meth & Red’s “How High.” It’s an OG weed song as far as I’m concerned, and it’s basically just a regular rap song with tight lyrics that talk about weed. “Crumblin Erb,” like a fistful of other references to weed in rap, isn’t about how being high feels good in and of itself so much as how being high feels good because it pushes back against the pain. It’s melancholy, not exuberant. It’s a coping mechanism.

I feel like I knew this before now, because I’ve honestly listened to pretty much every OutKast song a hundred and fifty-eleven times, the joints on Idlewild included, and they’re one of my favorite groups, so they occupy a lot of space in my head. But I didn’t know it in relation to, say, Tupac’s “Krazy,” which has this for a chorus:

Time goes by, puffin on lye
Hopin that it gets me high
Got a nigga goin cra-zy
Oh yeah, I feel cra-zy

Before segueing directly into these four bars:

Last year was a hard one, but life goes on
Hold my head against the wall, learning right from wrong
They say my ghetto intrumental detrimental to kids
As if they can’t see the misery in which they live

Or this verse from Deck on “CREAM”:

Though I don’t know why I chose to smoke sess
I guess that’s the time when I’m not depressed
But I’m still depressed and I ask what’s it worth?
Ready to give up so I seek the Old Earth
Who explained working hard may help you maintain
to learn to overcome the heartaches and pain
We got stickup kids, corrupt cops, and crack rocks
and stray shots, all on the block that stays hot

Or even Layzie and Krayzie Bone’s couplet toward the end of “Buddah Lovaz”: “It’s a Bone thang how a nigga like me smoke and maintain/ Maintain, maintain.”

“I’m maintaining” is a phrase I love and have used myself, the rap version of “I’m fine.” I can only hear it in El-P’s pitched-down voice from “Tasmanian Pain Coaster” now, part of the first verse on the song. I bit & edited these lyrics from OHHLA but they seem pretty right:

Bumped into this kid I knew, he often would walk strange
So I ignored the blood on his laces so this cat could save face
The dunks and the gaze stayed in an off-grey haze
And the lump in his pocket talked to the ox that he clutched safe
So I saluted him there, waiting for the A
Trapped on the empty platform without the option to escape
Gave him the standard: “Yo, what up man, how you landing?”
And the hypnotized response was no surprise: “I’m maintaining.”
“Yeah, we all do, that’s the standardized refrain
“But on some really real man, good to see you, really, what the dealy deal?”
Oops, fuck, screwed the pooch, asked too much, knew the truth
On the train now, a caboose
In his brain now, no recluse
80 blocks to uptown spot, destination vocal booth
MetroCard like: “You get what you pay for, stupid!”
No excuse
He pulled his hoody off his cabbage, rugged practical
And began to fancy the words I mistakenly jostled loose
The stogie he brazenly lit where he sit looked legit
But when the flame touched to the tip I could smell it’s of another nit
He leaned his head back and inhaled the newpie dip and said:
“The whole design got my mind cryin’, if I’m lying I’m dying.”

Even Kid Cudi’s “Marijuana” leans melancholy. “I-I, I be on it all day like my nigga Big Boi said/ That’s the only thing that keep me level up in my crazy head.”

Lauryn Hill is the queen of this, though. Remember “Ready or Not”? How ill of a way is this to open a verse: “Yo, I play my enemies like a game of chess/ Where I rest no stress if you don’t smoke sess.” I love it so much. Rap music!

I don’t have a point or big revelation here for you at all. I already knew that weed is an amazing coping mechanism, and I knew that rappers sang about that aspect of it regularly. But I was struck by how “Crumblin’ Erb” took root in my head recently and that I never made the obvious connection that the song made between weed and melancholy, between weed and what we like to call The Black Condition.

This is what people mean when they say rap is real or the CNN of the streets. This is rap reflecting life reflecting rap reflecting life.

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2 comments to “Time Goes By…”

  1. If blacks were the culturally politically dominant race, you wouldn’t have 75% of the posts you make on this site and tumblr.

    Just saying.

    There are some of us that want equality, and there are those who are just angry that their ancestors didn’t have the better weapons.

  2. @Donald Degan: and there are some of us that just want deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeez nutz, pimpin