Friday, April 10, 2009

We Owned The 80's - Dope Boys.

This may come as a total surprise to some of you, but I wasn't always the "positive", "progressive", and "level-headed" dude ya'll read on this site each day. Once, long ago, in a land far, far, away (aka: suburban Raleigh, NC), I was a misguided, impressionable youth. Despite having a very stable two-parent household, being academically gifted, and living in a decidedly middle-classed neighborhood, I too was a corruptible young man.

I wanted to be a Dope Boy.[1]

When I hit 11th grade, lots of the guys in my high school began showing up with cool Starter jackets, Enkei rims on their cars, Jordans, and herringbone chains. In the late 80's, all this stuff was popular, so please don't judge me as no bama. Even though I had a car of my own (a maroon Mazda 626 I bought when I was 15 with money earned from an illegal child labor parttime job bagging groceries), and could buy my own clothes, and definitely didn't need the money (we were hardly starving), something about watching the Cool Kids show up everyday flashing their ill-gotten wares was mesmerizing. Sure, they were taking penitentiary chances for short term gain, but I didn't think about that. I just wanted to be down. Every dude (and I do mean every dude) was doin' it.

D-Boys in my hometown weren't the ultra-glorified hyper-masculine version you see on American Gangster. They were respectful and called old ladies "Ma'am". They lived in their mother's basements. They had their baby mamas co-sign for their Buick Regal Grand National. They shopped at Woodall's and New York Fashions. They went to the American Legion Saturday night, and woke up for First Baptist Sunday morning. Rayful Edmond they were not.

Perhaps no guy in and around my small hometown symbolized Dope Boy Flyness better than Montrell Holmes.[2] A twentysomething middle-school dropout from a large family with a long reputation (spanning from great-grandma to elementary school-aged cousins) of taking penitentiary chances, Montrell was without a doubt the coolest Negro ever born in central Nawf Cack. Lightskinnded with wavvy hair and a flowing Ralph Tresvant shag, dude had all the ladies. His pockets was straight. And perhaps most oddly, even though his occupation made him a pariah to the community, Montrell was so damn cool and charming, even chuuuch ladies smiled when he made his occasional visit to Sunday service. If you didn't have a clue of his ruthless reputation of strongarm violence, you'd swear he was a grad student at a nearby HBCU. He was our smalltown version of Nino Brown.

I'm definitely not one to jock another dude's steez, but the guy was cool.

One of my most vivid Montrell memories occurred on one bright Summer day. I was (as usual) in front of my parents ranch-style home washing my car, when I heard a loud wailing in the distance. This had to be 1990 or so, and that En Vogue song, "Hold On" was just becoming popular.

I heard, "when Iiiiiiiiiiiiiii, haaaaaad you..." about 2 blocks away.

I heard, "..But Siiinnncce" about 1 block away.

I heard, "AND I WONDEERRRRRRRR", half a block away.

And when that black Trans-Am on 24's turned the corner, you know what was next.



Montrell's system was bumpin' so loud, the bucket I was washing my car from was rattling. He pulled up next door to pick up Anita, his baby mama, and prolly the baddest 20-something chick in our cul de sac.

The car, which cruised up spaceship quiet, rolled to a stop, but rather than cut the music off, Montrell just left the song, now playing at aircraft engine decibels, playing as he walked inside. This had to be about the most brolic, arrogant, ignant sh*t I'd ever experienced firsthand in my entire young adult life. As he approached the door, he looked over at me, nodded, smiled, mouthed "what's up lil' man?", and walked inside, music still blaring. I felt like I'd just met Barack Obama.

That was one cool assed Negro.

Needless to say, my Dope Boy aspirations never quite panned out. Due to my parents' occupations, nobody would get within 10-feet of asking me to be "down". Hell, I coulda been tryin to cop, but folks were so leery of my Dad, they prolly woulda just passed anyway. A few months later, a next door neighbor of my grandma's was home for Spring Break and told me all about how he was studying Electrical Engineering at his HBCU, and how cool college was, and how much money Engineers made, and how all the cute girls loved guys that made money. My desire to slang crack was instantly replaced by an interest in circuits and semiconductors. When the Clinton Era bought a sustained period of economic prosperity to urban, suburban, and rural America, and the Dope Boy trade experienced a brief decline in headcount during the 90's as Negroes opted instead to get a real job, sans penitentiary chances. And the rest, as they say, is history.

As for Montrell, you can prolly write the end of this story yourself. Have at it. I'll chime in later and tell you what actually happened.

Question: How do you think Montrell's story ended? Got any "I can't believe I looked up to that idiot!" childhood stories of your own? How did En Vogue's "Hold On" and LL Cool J's "Boomin' System" get away with using essentially the same beat?

[1] I'm only about, say, 2% serious about this. My Dad woulda literally killed me if he found some "work" in my dresser drawer. I ain't that stupid.

[2] Not his real name. Emphatically not his real name.

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