As a young man growing up within the throngs of the Midwestern urban landscape, I fell in love with two mediums: comic books and hip hop music. I must say that I’m really not sure one came before the other. I recall fondly hearing Rapper’s Delight as I sucked lollipops in my basement while I watched TV. I also remember retreating to the outside compartment labeled “under the house” where my oldest brother house many of his comics. These were the two memories that would shape my behavior going forward.
As I transitioned toward a colorful preteen existence, so did my taste in comics. I witnessed my mind transformed by the images of a George Perez penciled Teen Titans and a Chris Claremont written X-Men. I found a better understanding of comic noir from Frank Miller’s Daredevil and Howard Chaykin’s The Shadow. My tastes evolved as much as the hero line up and existence of The X-Men. Hell, I almost cried at the death of Super Girl during Crisis of Infinite Earths. In short, the timeline of comic book lore was symbiotic to my own evolution.
The same thing can be said for my musical tastes. In the beginning, there was the love for all things Run D.M.C., LL Cool J, and even Too Short. Further along the road, Public Enemy told me to Fight The Power while the Geto Boys made me understand that there was a real Gangster of Love. DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince made me enjoy my youth. De La Soul helped me embrace that I was “different”. Just like the comics, the hip hop music I listened to ordered my steps.
And then came one of the most meaningful comics to ever appear right after my realization that Public Enemy was a classic hip hop group: Brother Man.
Brother Man was something that was extremely enthralling because of what it represented: a holy trinity. It combined the lore of comics with the encapsulating culture of hip hop and the harsh realities of the American inner city. The funky fresh fashions of the Big City community matched the determination of a mysterious hero with an audacity for hope. I didn’t fall in love with Brother Man because it was Black. I fell in love with the comic because it was “my Black”.
Brother Man was my experience.
Now that I am older, I realized that my experiences have expanded. And with that expansion is a deeper overall understanding of where I stand. This understanding will be broken down into 20 epiphanies to help me realize what is most important.
The Twenty Epiphanies this Hip Hop/Comic Nerd of Color Realized
Now, let me point out these epiphanies:
- Nerd culture is not homogenous – Look: everyone does not like everything. So, it is inane to expect people to be into what you spazz out over. If both parties enjoy the same type of comics/cartoons/anime, then great. If not, then great. Having different tastes is what makes this a beautiful thing.
- Batman is iconic for a reason – Bruce Wayne is your rich playboy with gadgets turned hero. But, let’s be realistic. He is adored because of sheer will and a problem-prevention attitude. He was probably figured out how to defeat you while you make your egg white omelet with spinach. Plus, he can take your chick.
- People in hip hop can be ahistorical – People will make some amazingly bad statements for the sake of having an opinion. Whether it is “who invented this style” to “hip hop back in the day didn’t have all this violence and materialism in the music”, somebody will forget how things really were. Blame it on nostalgia. Blame it on ignorance. Still, a lot that is going on now has been going on back then.
- Kool Keith should be lauded more – Just as people celebrate Wu-Tang Clan and ATCQ, Kool Keith should be one of hip hop’s most celebrated. He is the man that created one of hip hop’s most useful tool: the alter ego. Hell, even his alter egos have had some success in the hip hop stratosphere (Dr. Octagon, Dr. Doom). Plus, how many hip hop artists would have the gall to make a song called Blue Flowers?
- Younger generations will always feel differently about music – This is something that is guaranteed. You cannot expect them to like what older hip hop heads adored. Vince Staples not caring for many of the hip hop darlings of 1995 doesn’t make him clueless. It means he represents a different time period. People like what they like.
- Younger generations will always feel differently about comics – The same thing as I said above. Just deal with it.
- Rob Liefeld fooled a lot of kids – Rob Liefeld helped lead the charge for independent-artists-by-major-publisher-greatness through Image. He also created characters like Cable and Deadpool. Yet, he is known for something else: being a horrible comic book artist. And many kids bought his stuff up by the millions. What were we thinking?
- Frank Miller is the biggest disappointment in comics – Frank Miller is responsible for a lot of my childhood memories of noir and gritty circumstances. Now? He’s a shell of himself that has wasted away due to ignorance and racial hatred. You would think he would have realized the truth about life. Then again, see Holy Terror for proof of the latter.
- Black people should complain less about diversity in comics – Here is the thing about that: I’m not saying to not have an opinion. I’m not even saying to cover your mouth. I am saying that complaining is pointless in 2015 and beyond. Don’t like something? Keep your dollars in your pocket. Or you can always do the following…
- Black people should start supporting more Black owned and operated comic brands: many of us are missing out because we have been brainwashed to believe that Marvel and DC is the only game in town. Brother Man proved that to be untrue decades ago. There are plenty of other titles to support that is rich in art, storylines, and Black references. Try supporting them.
- People should complain less about hip hop – hip hop is not dead and it never was. The problem is that, unlike the 80’s and 90’s, the sound isn’t diverse on the big playing field. Too many sound the same. Yet, there are plenty of artists that would satisfy your palette of music if you gave them a chance. The first step comes with turning off the radio. Which reminds me…
- Major radio sucks ass – That’s it. It sucks ass.
- Marvel and DC are the mismatch made in heaven – Marvel is killing it with the movies. DC has WAY better cartoons. Both of them are doing their thing (more or less) with the TV shows. Maybe they should just focus on what makes them great? That’s just me, though.
- Netflix is batting 1.000 with the Marvel based TV shows – Daredevil was superb. Jessica Jones was very original in its approach. Both have won rave reviews and viewership because of it. A lot of it has to do with the humanizing factor of their heroes. And then there is the other part that I plan on mentioning…
- Netflix creates some of the best comic book villains – Outside of Heath Ledger’s Joker, how many people will be as great as what Netflix’s villains look like? Kingpin was a momma’s boy with a penchant for vengeance and murder. Kilgrave was an obsessive with deadly sociopathic tendencies. You add power(s) to the equation and you have some drastically bloody situations happening. This is what happens when your villains have backstory and girth.
- Less mixtapes, more albums – albums don’t sell like they used to. Part of the reason is the quality of the music. The other part of it is this culture of free music. I know that sales are down, but don’t people think they should start selling albums with quality music? You know that mixtape is only going to take you so far unless it’s either highly impressive or you are established. Plus, your mixtape should never be better than your album. But it is in too many cases.
- Black people will have control when we establish our own – Our own radio stations. Our own publishing houses. Our own entertainment conglomerates. When we own, we grow. When you don’t own, you don’t grow; you wait and see. It is time for ownership.
- Support those that are doing it on their own – You can buy Marvel and DC. When you get tired of them, though? I think you should go to places like Peep Game Comix for a new fix on something different.
- The same goes for music – And if you need help with that, there are always sites like com and okayplayer.com to give assistance.
- Media is what you make of it – The greatest thing you can do is shift through the trash and find the treasure. Realizing what is, and isn’t, good for you is the best thing ever. After you figure all of that out, make sure you find what piques your interests.
‘Nuff Said and ‘Nuff Respect!!!