18Mar/094

Lord Finesse, Big L, & Youth Crime

Lord Finesse “Shorties Kaught In The System (S.K.I.T.S.)”
Lord Finesse “Shorties Kaught In The System (S.K.I.T.S.)” REMIX
Big L “Street Struck”
All three songs zipped in one file

Sociologist Robert R. Alford once described how the media recasts scholarly theories as dogmatic truths that influence policymaking. Legal scholar Michael Lindsey wrote scathingly about one such concept, “super predator,” which was introduced by Princeton University poli-sci professor John Dilulio in an article published in The Weekly Standard in late 1995:

… Dilulio defined his title phrase as a cohort of youthful offenders created from a moral poverty … In academia, creating drama around an issue to ensure that editors will accept it is sometimes necessary … this hyperbole did not end with Dilulio’s article … U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum of Florida introduced the Violent Youth Predator Act of 1996 … References to youthful offenders has escalated from “delinquents” to “super-predators.” Politicians, news commentators, journalists, and justice and law enforcement officials, now use Dilulio’s postulated projections as a statement of fact.
This vision of a “demographic time bomb” lurking “on the horizon,” comprised of youths who “quite literally have no concept of the future” is at once poetic, vicious, and calculated.
Dilulio does not mention music, but his “moral poverty” theory resembles studies like “The Moynihan Report” that according to Tricia Rose advance notions of a dysfunctional black culture that arises (against all logic) apart from social institutions. Rap is alleged to be this culture’s “greatest contemporary promoter”; its reception as literal autobiography, she argues, is informed by historical assumptions that black men are ” ‘naturally’ violent.”
When authored by self-described insiders, such diatribes give rise to reductive binaries that persist despite being regularly disparaged by astute critics. Scrutiny is averted from “positive” songs that encourage the conflation of real crime with its verbal representation, or romanticize a prior decade. Such stances are vulnerable to co-optation by right-leaning anti-youth pundits. Hardly harmless.
Any rap lyric can be sold through charismatic, convincing authenticity. Academic texts are no different. Obtuse works can “cross over” if peppered with panache. Tucked between Dilulio’s jargon slinging and number crunching is a stylized memoir: the kid from a low-rent ethnic white Philly ‘hood grows into the fearless researcher who is “almost killed” conducting research in a prison. To build his case and his credibility, Dilulio cites folks with unimpeachable stripes: cons, cops, and then-Philly D.A. Lynne Abraham, known as “suite and street smart.” She asserts that youth crime waves are led by “youngsters who pack guns instead of lunches,” nearly mirroring Philly rapper Jamal’s lyric “I’m never packing pop tarts for lunch, I’m packing .38 specials” on Illegal’s “Back In The Day.”
Dilulio and the Posse’s wry pastiche also brings to mind Lord Finesse’s “Shorties Kaught In The System,” a grim account of high school dropouts who prefer shooting Glocks to skelly tops from the alarmingly titled State Of Emergency: Society In Crisis compilation. The ever-virtuosic Finesse offers rhymed statistics (“eighty out of a hundred/ all they wanna do is clock dough, scoop bitches, and get blunted”) while appealing to his audience’s sense of fearful urgency and insider authenticity (“if you ain’t from the ghetto this undercover/ but in ninety-four, shit is realer than a motherfucker”). Dilulio could well have quoted him. While “S.K.I.T.S.” is not a commentary on music nor the exact type of song that is frequently championed by purists to discredit newer trends, it stands as a forceful indictment of youth culture, ripe for the picking.
Finesse is redeemable, though. He is guilty of romanticizing his not-too-distant adolescence, but he acknowledges that violence is a systemic problem. He ascribes a level of resourcefulness and intelligence to troubled youths that Dilulio does not (“It ain’t about IQ/ some of them are making more than doctors/ and didn’t graduate high school”). In real life, he served as a mentor to Big L, who appears on the hook of the “S.K.I.T.S.” remix as the contrary young voice (“I don’t give a fuck…”). On the Finesse-produced “Street Struck,” Big L credits rap with steering him from crime; Finesse’s warmhearted concern for his disciple is corroborated by L’s mother.
The sad irony is that Big L was shot to death in 1999, most likely over a dispute that did not directly involve him. His verses on “Street Struck” are poignant, empathetic, hopeful, less judgemental and ultimately more incisive than what we hear from his elder mentor on the same subject. Although the song is a departure from Big L’s typically sadistic narratives, the trajectory of his life illuminates several truths that should be more obvious, namely that kids who consume and create violent rap are (like anyone else) complex human beings who mostly wish to pursue wealth and happiness, are fully capable of discerning fictive expression from actual reality, experience stress and frustration when presumed to be less than human, and bleed when shot.
And their bleeding is not stopped by a conscious lyric, a poorly executed album concept, or bad comedy. — Thun
— Thun

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4 Responses to “Lord Finesse, Big L, & Youth Crime”

  1. The Big Sleep says:

    Nice write up, I had been waitin' for this one.

    For a rare third 2005 interview (not for All Hip Hop or Support Online Hip Hop) with Gilda "Pinky Terry", Big L's mother, one was translated from the German magazine Juice earlier this year in honor of the one year anniversary of her death last month.

    In the interview she publicly goes more in depth than ever before into Lamont "Big L" Coleman's murder and what she thinks may have been the cause and/or reason for it.

    Provided, proofread and edited by me and scanned by Soobax, translated by noea (of the BigLOnline.com forums).

    Readable up on the L forums or on my site biglrarities.blogspot.com

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. Thun says:

    Thanks for the info, Big Sleep, I should have consulted your blog for info!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. The Big Sleep says:

    Sure man, anytime. I actually just threw it up on my site somewhat recently. And thanks for doin' what you do.

    Excerpts of the interview, for the lazy:

    Juice Magazine: To end all the rumors, what were the exact circumstances your son died under?

    Gilda Terry: Lamont was shot in front of our house on the 15th of February, 1999. He was shot out of a moving car. Several bullets hit him in the upper part of the body and face. He was killed immediately.

    Juice Magazine: It's been said that the assassin didn't even want L. Is that true?

    Gilda Terry: Yes, everything points to his brother Leroy as the main target. He was involved in several drug deals.

    Juice Magazine: How many children do you have?

    Gilda Terry: Three sons. Lamont, the youngest, Leroy and an older brother.

    Juice Magazine: Did they all live together with you in your house?

    Gilda Terry: No, only Lamont. After work I wanted to watch a movie on TV on the evening he was shot. Lamont was in his room and wrote lyrics, like every day. Whether he was going out to the drugstore or if they called him on the cellphone and trapped him I don't know. When he was about to leave the house he said: "See you later mom"…that was the last time I heard his voice.

    Juice Magazine: On almost every track L gave shout outs to his "big brother Big Lee", how was the relationship between them both?

    Gilda Terry: Leroy was eight years older. Lamont saw him as his mentor, some kind of father he never had. Unfortunately…otherwise I wouldn't be sitting here right now. Without Leroy my baby would be alive. Leroy was the troublemaker, not Lamont. He had good grades; I never had to pick him up because he did something stupid. Actually he sat most of the time in his room and wrote lyrics.

    Juice Magazine: You said Leroy was the troublemaker?

    Gilda Terry: Yes. Only a few know that Leroy died in March, 2001. Two years before they had killed Lamont, because he was the nearest person to him and an easy target. 2001 they reached their aim.

    Juice Magazine: Renata, do you think the same person did these two murders?

    Renata Lowenbraun Esq.: Honestly I've got no idea. There is a suspect but not enough evidence. So…

    Gilda Terry: The case isn't closed yet. And I'm not giving up. I know that there were witnesses on the streets who saw everything out of their window. They must have seen the car and shooter. Now or later somebody is going to call the police to get their conscience clean.

    Juice Magazine: What about Gerald Woodley? We hear that name very often.

    Gilda Terry: That's the name of the suspect. But he was convicted in the Bronx because of drug dealing and not murder. They let him go, because there wasn't enough evidence. It's a fact that he got something to do with this murder. But nobody can say if he pulled the trigger. Yes, not even if he was there around the time of the shooting.

    Juice Magazine: Does the police keep you up to date with information about the investigation?

    Gilda Terry: Bullshit! I had to go out for myself for information. And to show them that I won't stop, I'm calling the police regularly. Because if I didn't do that, they would close the case.

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  4. Vcyne says:

    Very dope post! Wait for some more, paece

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