Someone asked me recently if I talked to my kids about Michael Jackson and the impact he had on me and people of my generation. I told the person, “No, we had things to do. I hadn’t seen them very much over the last week, so I just wanted that time to let them know we’re cool.” While hanging out with them, I realized that they really did grow up with a love for MJ in a strange way, especially since so much of their current music is influenced by Michael. People who’ve ever listened through an entire album of bachata will notice that someone’ll play a quick MJ riff just to establish their American cultural relevance. Every so often, a pop diva will take a revamped break beat from a dope MJ song and make it even doper … but make us miss MJ that much more. Yet, there’s still this lingering feeling from them that, because he was an accused child molester or because he was accused of not being Black enough in the annals of the Grand Annals of the Ubiquitous Black Tribunal, kids shouldn’t have any reverence for him whatsoever.
To accentuate that point, someone on Twitter said (to paraphrase), “A real n***a doesn’t have MJ as their profile pic or background.” Again, I’m not posting this random Twitterer as the Great Leader or even a Representative in this fake court, but I guess if MJ is not really Black, we should truly question what Blackness means. Is it definable by some tenets that no one really has a true grasp on? Let’s think about that together, huh?
1) Is the music Black enough? Well, MJ has done a lot of work with different rappers, underground and mainstream. Plus, as far as R&B, he innovated and renovated at will with just the sound of his falsetto. The rest of these real n****s have a few good punchlines, and maybe a video, but don’t go beyond that creatively. They don’t push limits; they stay well within them.
2) MJ had his gimmicks; the crotch grab, the shmon, the tight clothing, the monkey, the jheri curl … For every reinvention he had for himself, he had a gimmick or 5 for it. Yet, he also had a few things everyone bit off him, like the red jacket, the piano / Mickey Mouse shirts, the moonwalk (which he borrowed from a Vegas show, no less), and a patent for the technology that let him lean past his center of balance in the video “Smooth Criminal.” No, really. These real n****s have a list of gimmicks like using the n-word just to rhyme. Not to mention the baggy clothes, the big chain, the ice grill … wait, is any of that really innovative? Really? I guess real n****s aren’t innovative.
3) MJ gave millions to funds for humanitarian efforts in the continent of Africa and also gave money for the United Negro College Fund, and not just in the thousands, but in the millions. He’ll freely transform into a Black Panther at the end of Black or White, tell KKK members he’s not scared of them, cite “Mama se mama sah mama ku sah” when others wouldn’t dare use African references in their music, and frequently have Black women as his counterpart in romantic songs and videos. (“Liberian Girl” and “Remember The Time” come to mind immediately). Real n****s on the other hand make videos that perpetuate the light-skinned vs. dark-skinned ideals of beauty prominent in so many rap videos, that would be a book in and of itself. And real n****s donate money to political parties that directly oppose their music … just so they’ll get left alone. MJ wasn’t Black enough I guess.
4) MJ supposedly touched kids (even when there’s irrefutable evidence towards the contrary) so I guess he had to be hung for that, right? A real n***a wouldn’t need to settle out of court or deliver messages through TV interviews just to justify his own success. He would just need to make a club record that sounds exactly like the last few ones, and then ghostwrite a few more that sound just like those, and make the other people he settles his lawsuits with vow to keep their mouths shut so they can’t testify at the next one. Or even just issue a blanket apology for having underage girls on stage. It’s no dirt on their shoulder. A real n***a just does NOT care.
Much like the rest of us who’ve written about him extensively and are absolute fans of his work, I can’t make any excuses for some of his more eccentric behaviors. He didn’t live in the same world we lived in, and the more money he made, the stranger he became. Yet, when I see my kids, the same ones who rock beads and crosses, listen to the bland repetitive music real n****s make, and yet have this subtle appreciation for this legend, I know Michael Jackson’s legacy as a musician and performer wasn’t in vain.
Michael Jackson’s Blackness comes in the form of how many Blacks he’s inspired. Even the real n****s.
Jose, who laughs at cats who call him a plagiarist …