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Good Reads: Profiles

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by brandonsneed, Jun 17, 2012.

  1. brandonsneed

    brandonsneed Member

    Ben over at Gangrey.com started up a great post where folks are posting profiles that one should read for a little inspiration. Here's the link to the page: http://gangrey.com/?p=4151

    Links to the profiles are below, which I copied-and-pasted from the rockin' dudes and dudettes over there. It'd be cool if you fine folks added your own, too.

    Carlos Slim: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/06/01/090601fa_fact_wright?currentPage=all

    Jon Stewart: http://nymag.com/arts/tv/profiles/68086/

    Dave Sheinin on Bryce Harper: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/10/AR2011031005325.html

    Dave Sheinin on Aquille Carr: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/meet-aquille-carr-baltimores-crimestopper-a-youtube-sensation-and-at-5-7-basketballs-next-big-thing/2012/01/11/gIQAPhoGuP_story.html

    Tom Junod on Roger Ailes: http://www.esquire.com/features/roger-ailes-0211

    David Finkel on Larry King: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/27/AR2006112700884.html

    Gene Weingarten on Great Zuchinni: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/18/AR2006011801434.html

    Tom Wolfe on Junior Johnson: http://www.esquire.com/features/life-of-junior-johnson-tom-wolfe-0365

    Gay Talese on Sinatra and DiMaggio: http://www.esquire.com/features/ESQ1003-OCT_SINATRA_rev_ and http://www.randomhouse.com/kvpa/talese/essays/dimaggio.html

    Gary Smith on a convicted high school basketball star, a Mennonite basketball coach and a man who couldn’t read: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1008297/index.htm http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1021912/index.htm http://www.johncorcoranfoundation.com/pdfs/John_Corcoran_Esquire.pdf

    Chris Jones on Roger Ebert: http://www.esquire.com/features/roger-ebert-0310

    Gary Smith on Mia Hamm: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/web/COM1001475/index.htm

    There's a lot more over there, but I'm hungry so I'm going to eat dinner now. Enjoy.
  2. mocheeks10

    mocheeks10 Member

    Read some of those. The one Tom Wolfe did about Junior Johnson is incredible. Ditto for the one Chris Jones did about Ebert.
  3. franticscribe

    franticscribe Well-Known Member

    The already linked profile of Junior Johnson by Tom Wolfe has always been my favorite.

    But No. 2, hands down, for me is Calvin Trillin's profile of Edna Buchanan:


    If you're looking for good profiles to read to improve your craft/gain inspiration, The New Yorker put out a book many years ago of some of its best profiles edited by David Remnick. It's outstanding.
  4. Riptide

    Riptide Well-Known Member

    Great thread idea!
  5. brandonsneed

    brandonsneed Member

    Hey Franticissimo, is this the one you're talking about?

  6. franticscribe

    franticscribe Well-Known Member

    Yup. That's the one.
  7. brandonsneed

    brandonsneed Member

    Sweet. Ordered it.
  8. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    A few favorites of mine (sans links because I'm on a phone):

    W.C. Heinz on Bummy Davis
    Rick Reilly on Marge Schott
    Gary Smith on Mike Tyson
    Tom Wolfe on Junior Johnson
    Charles P. Pierce on Rohan Marley
    S.L. Price on Urban Meyer
    Frank Deford on Billy Conn

    John Jeremiah Sullivan on Axl Rose
    Tom Junod on Mister Rogers
    Gay Talese on Frank Sinatra
    Pat Jordan on a child beauty padgent contestant
  9. brandonsneed

    brandonsneed Member

    From Gangrey, again, a 1999 profile of Li'l Bow Wow by Tom Junod.

    It's a 6,000-word rap. And it is amazing.

    1 If you could live any way you want, if you could live any way you please, if money was a virus and you caught the disease, if your money scrubbed you so clean and new, you smelled Bubblicious and so did your crew, if you spent your life just licking your lips, laughing at the crackers taking little sips, and when you had to choose between Bentley and Benz, you said, Take the Ferrari”… what do you do then? Because when you could get takeout from the restaurant you own, and when your fingers do the walking, they go to “Crabs, Stone, and when you could order caviar in your all-meat sub, would you eat your dinner at a gentlemen’s club? You know, the kind of place with “upscale” pretensions, the kind of place that thrives during concrete conventions, with an army of strippers, all casually gesturing–hey, if silicone were steroids, this would be pro wrestling …. And now, to a special room reserved for “VIPs” comes Atlanta’s hip-hop impresario, Jermaine Dupri.
    “Any way he wants? …. Any way he pleases?” Shit, Jermaine’s got clout like the winning team’s got Jesus. And almost every night, he’s here with his crew, because on his solo album, Life in 1472, he drops some rhymes on how he lives the life, “eating crab and watching bitches shake shit all night.” So now here he is, ’cause the night’s still young, and strippers are to rappers as archetypes are to Jung. And for Jermaine, this Gold Club’s just another of his mitzvahs–, it don’t matter that tonight’s two nights before Christmas. He’s got the private room, bodyguard at the door, he’s got preferential treatment, like Gotti at Scores, he’s got this crazy white bitch, bucking in some homey’s lap, while the rest of his crew takes a fucking nap.All she’s wearing is white boots, laced up to her knees, and if she says, “Brother, may I?” well, she don’t say, “Please.” Because while she’s grinding the homey’s joint to glory, she’s also telling Jermaine some stupid-assed story, which, despite the fact she might be hooked on phonics, comes out of her mouth in the purest ebonics.
    See, now that rap is the music for children of all ages, it’s pretty easy to see that this shit is contagious, and if you give it to a Frenchman, whose tongue is simon-pure, soon it’s, “Wuzzup, nigga?” instead of “Mais bien sur,” and though this stripper is probably from some farm in Alabama, she’s trying to sound like the baddest mammajamma, so that even the homey in the grip of her thighs starts making faces and rolling his eyes. But Jermaine listens to her story, ’cause he’s the kindest of dudes–he just happens to like strip joints (for the music and the food). And now he’s hungry, so he orders the jumbo platter of crab o and giggles when a damn reporter offers to pay the tab, because the platter, when it comes, is so damn large, . it would get its own space in Evander’s garage, and that kingcrab leg, it’s so damned heavy, it’s like the sparerib that tips over Fred Flintstone’s Chevy.
    Now, Jermaine’s got his own company, So So Def, and when cliques have beefs, he’s the motherfucking ref, and now, when it’s nearly three in the morning, he’s the only member of his crew who’s not yawning, and when all the other homeys make motions to leave–like, “Hey, Jermaine, it’s motherfucking Christmas Eve!”–Jermaine (who calls himself “Don Chi Chi” and comes on like a mobster) is eating crab, saying, “This sure beats Red Lobster!”

    2 NOW, FOR ALL Y’ALL WHO DON’T KNOW WHO JERMAINE IS–well, you ain’t dead yet, just on intravenous, and we’ll call the doctor, and instead of sutures, we’ll ask him to give you a glimpse of the future. ’Cause just like his rival, Sean Combs (aka “Puffy”), Jermaine’s shaping the mind of your sweet daughter, Muffy, with his raps and his glossy R&B productions, giving the youth of America vital instruction on the American Dream, circa Y2K, when rock ‘n’ roll’s as old-school as Robert Goulet. See, Jermaine, he don’t do this shit alone–hell, he’d do solitary with a pager and a phone. It’s almost like he’s this whole new species: the first human being with a cellphone prosthesis. A psychologist would call him “outerdirected,” though his fellas just say, “Motherfucker’s connected.” He’s a commercial rapper, not at all like Wu-Tang (his biggest hit song:”Money Ain’t a Thang”), but where he courts little Muffy–where he tries to seduce her–is as Atlanta’s leading hip-hop producer. And though you might think his power is strictly local, he’s twenty-six years old and a certified mogul, and he says if you come to him and want to start rapping. ”If I got to steal your soul, I’ll make sure it happens.”
    So there’s a second character in this play or drama, and just like Jermaine he lives at home with his mama, or else he lives with Jermaine when he comes to Atlanta and thinks of Jermaine as his personal Santa. And he’s in Atlanta all the damn time, because word is Jermaine’s gonna feast on his rhymes–he’s this skinny little fella, hardly any fat in him, but word is Jermaine’s gonna make him go platinum, like he did with Kris Kross, Da Brat, and Usher, like he did with Mariah (but did he bum-rush her?). This brand-new rapper is supposedly a def MC who’s already got his rapper’s secret identity, the way Bruce Wayne’s got Batman and Bond’s got 007–hey, the references are apt: This rapper’s only eleven.
    It’s like he shows up one day, with his past all hazy, onstage in Atlanta with Jermaine and Jay-Z, and though the boy has flow, no motherkissing doubt, isn’t it kind of late for a little tyke to be out? He’s got a real hard vibe and eyes meant for fame, he’s got long braided hair, he’s got the motherfucking name, he’s got tomorrow’s Air Jordans, he’s got the Timberland boots, he’s got diamonds in his ears, he’s buying Fubu suits. And he’s going with Jermaine just about everyplace he go, because though he lives in Ohio, he hates the damn snow. So when JD has a birthday and politely extends invitations to two thousand of his closest friends for a party he’s having at symphony hall, celebrating glitz, glamour, and unmitigated gall, the kid’s right there with him–”Would you look what he bought her?” r (See, Bow Wow’s so pretty they think he’s his daughter.) And when he meets the celebs, his ice ain’t meltin’, even when it’s, “This here’s Mariah, and this here’s Elton.” A child like that, he’s gonna have his hit. ”But would you look at his eyes? It’s like they seen some shit.” He don’t move an inch, he’s always watching Jermaine, like someone tempered by fire, impervious to pain, and he’s like a hardened veteran with his concentration, ’cause you can’t be a child in this hiphop nation. And even a few months later, when ’tis the season, well, you always know the kid’s there for a reason. At Jermaine’s Christmas party, it’s three in the morning, and the club’s closing down, the lights blinking in warning. Bow Wow’s still as a statue, like a sculptor chiseled him, standing behind Jermaine like a Fruit of damn Islam, ’cause Jermaine’s the DJ, he’s scratching his vinyl, and with that crazy little nigga no party is final. And at an hour when Bow Wow should be dreaming of toys, it’s “All you niggas making money, make some motherfucking noise!”
    And now it’s two days later, the kid’s looking at the menu, sitting with JD in some salmony venue. And the waiter is poofing, he’s selling squid ink and jus, and the special today is bone-marrow mousse. You see, Jermaine takes him here to see what he chooses–the kind of information JD always uses–and he wants to see if this kid has been around, but when he pours oil on his bread plate, it’s like, “Oil? From the ground?” Remember: It’s anything he wants, anything he pleases, but when the waiter flounces back, he orders “burger with cheeses,” because he’s a kid after all, and that’s what he eats, and if Jermaine wants to transform him, it’s far from complete. He don’t even look like a rapper, ‘cept around his neck there’s a medallion so heavy, it drags his head to the deck. It’s made out of platinum and specially mounted with 131 diamonds. (Bow Wow’s mother knows: She counted.) Jermaine gave it as a present or as a down payment on a house, and the thing is in the shape of Mickey fucking Mouse. And there’s the look in the kid’s eyes when he talks about the past–it’s a heartbreaking look, like, “Oh, this won’t last.” See, when you ask this little boy where he comes from, he gets all serious, like he’s got a conundrum, and he starts biting his nails, like Shaquille laying bricks, and he says, “I could have been a millionaire when I was six.”

    3 NOW, FROM THE BEGINNING, THERE WAS A CONCERN: If a kid listens to hip-hop, like, what does he learn? Commentators asking if it’s good for the people, like hip-hop’s a church, with a motherfucking steeple–Bill Bennett, DeLores Tucker, you know, that ilk, talking like all music should be motherfucking milk. Well, listen up, laydeez, with your backyard bug zappers, take a look at your son–he’s already a rapper. Take a look at this table, in this Ohio school, black kids, white kids, all acting ghetto cool, like going to the lunchroom means laying down beats, as much as it means eating mystery meats. Yeah, the food still sucks, it’s like Ken-L Ration, but now you hear the soundtrack of our miscegenation, in the form of the beat that one kid makes with his hands, you know, the hip-hop beat that his parents can’t stand. And so it’s kind of like doo-wop or maybe like punk, kids making homemade music to that tick-tick-thunk, yeah, tick-tick-thunk, right there on the table, from the fists of a child dreaming of diamonds and sable. And all the boys going around, talking about their flow, ‘ ‘cept for Wes–”He listen to country, so what do he know?” Bunch of sixth-grade knuckleheads, trading knee-slappers–: they don’t know that in their midst is a genuine rapper.
    Now, he’s the smallest of the boys, but he’s easy to recognize–he’s the one with the hair, he’s the one with the eyes. He’s the one who looks like he’s made out of gold, he’s the one who’s already bought, already sold. He’s grown up fast, wondering, “What happens if my star dims?” and he dreams of hiring his best friends to bodyguard him. See, he’s an only child who dreams about sisters and brothers, who tells strangers he has siblings, according to his mother, who likes to buy gifts for people he just met, ’cause if they don’t know him now, they just don’t know him yet. And maybe that’s why as he calls this lunchroom crew to order, he tells them to speak into some old guy’s tape recorder. Any kid sits down, he says, “Tell him your name!” like they’re all gonna rise to riches, bitches, and fame, because he knows that in hip-hop a name is more than a fact; it’s the beginning of the rhyme, it’s the beginning of the act. So now all these kids, one by one they confess: It’s “Brian,” “Scott,” “Eric,” “James,” “Kenny,” and “Wes,” all except one bruiser, whose T-shirt says, STEVE AUSTIN GONNA SLAY THEE; he looks at the recorder, says, “Fuck you, pay me.” Now, the one called Bow Wow, he says his name is Shad (not to get too ecumenical, but it rhymes with “God”), because he hasn’t told these boys his secret ID,. and in school he’s “Shad Moss” until “Bow Wow” is meant to be..’ Because what’s he gonna say–”I got my name from Snoop” ?–to a bunch of boys as country as a chicken coop?
    But that’s right, Snoop Dogg himself gave him his moniker; he’s even got the pictures his mother took with her Konica of him hanging with Snoop, Suge Knight, and Dr. D-R-E when he was with Death Row Records, a genuine DPG. That’s “Dogg Pound Gangsta” to you, if you a civilian, if you don’t know that “Death Row” also meant “selling a million,” if you don’t know it meant all sorts of mean gangsta shit, so your soul went to the devil when you got your first hit. But he was just a little kid then, and now he’s all grown up, and he’s deep in his comeback, now that JD has shown up. So he figures he’ll tell his homeys at least the start of his tale, about being in Death Row like Jonah in the whale. See, all little kids like to state their ambition–”I want to be a fireman!” or “I want to be pitchin’!” But at an age when kids dream of being cowboys (not rustlers), Bow Wow told the world, “I want to be a motherfucking hustia!” On the album called Doggystyle, the one Snoop put out first, he was just six years old, and Snoop hired him to curse. He also went on Arsenio, like Snoop’s little caboose, and then starred in the video for the song “Gin and Juice.” Now when he mentions that clip, he’s like a ghost who says “Boo!” Wide-eyed white kid at the table says, “That was you?” But another kid pipes up, like he’s getting played for the fool–”If that was you, why you still going to this ghetto school?” Now, this is pretty funny, ’cause the school’s middle class, and where the ghetto’s got concrete, this has trees and grass., But when some new kid asks, “How’s this a ghetto, please?” the kids sing in unison: ”They serve us crusty cheese! They give us mushy salad! There’s water on the floor!” Yeah, the world is a ghetto–all props to War. And then the class clown named Kenny, he’s trying to school us, says, “We all ghetto now, and we all ghetto fabulous!”
    So now they all go to the auditorium, with Bow Wow as their leader, his girlfriend’s in there, and he’d like to meet her, to tell her friends he’s a rapper, for confession brings relief. Well, he does and guess what? The news invites disbelief. The girls are all grinning, with their rapt mocking faces, with their glittery skin, with their glittery braces, like Shad is some band nerd, trying to play “Taps” for them, until a girl volunteers, she’ll believe if he raps for them. ”Rap for us, Bow Wow,” that’s the chant of these girls. ”Rap! Rap! Rap!”–that’s the chant of the world. But Bow Wow don’t say nothing, he don’t rap nor sing; hey, recess is over–the bell’s gonna ring.

    4 NOW, WE’LL START THIS SECTION IN MEDIA RES, and if you don’t know Latin, get out my face, or if you want to go where the rhymes are dope, get out your Norton Anthology, read Alexander Pope (that old gent had the couplets, he had the hit list; too bad the rhyming Englishman probably also had syphilis), because we’re not about the words now, we’re about the tunes, we’re gonna send bad-boy Jermaine to his motherfucking room–no, not like his dad nor like Tina, his mother, nor like his imaginary sisters nor like his imaginary brother. See, Jermaine’s an only child, just like Bow Wow is, too, and like Bow Wow he’s little, about five feet two, dark skin, braided hair, with sort of bulgy eyes, but you can ask Mariah Carey: It’s not about size. The fella’s been the shit since he was soiling diapers; by the time he was toddling, he was a little pied piper. His father is in the biz, so he grew up with music, and if he hears a song once, he knows if radio can use it, ’cause it’s all instinct with him, it’s all solar plexus, and if he’s searching for a hit, he don’t have to use Nexis. His house is modest, and he lives downstairs from his mother, and his studio and his bedroom are right next to each other. Yeah, at the bottom of his house, right there in its bowels, right next to the bathroom, with the JD-embroidered towels, is the studio where Jermaine works, where he goes all night long, where he’s working right now, turning beats into a song, so that the house is shaking, with the lights all blazing, and Jermaine’s as happy as a frat boy at a hazing. The first thing he tells his artists is Don’t sleep, don’t even try–”you’ll have plenty of time to go to sleep when you die.” Oh sure, he’ll vacation, he just came back from St. Bart’s–you know, the kind of place where they arrest you for farts, the kind of place where you got to pay to look scruffy-he was kicking down there with Russell Simmons and Puffy, and with L. A. Reid, dividing spoils over libations, yep, one of those things you call a working vacation.
    And tonight he’s back to work, doing a remix–pronto–working with his crew like the Lone Ranger with Tonto. Now, you may ask, Hey, what the hell’s a remix? Well, it’s something like unwinding some swell double helix: You take the song’s heart out, you put your own heart in, and then the record company gets to sell it again. JD’s the Remix King: He gets a chance he never fails one, and so he has become a sort of Hip-Hop Pygmalion. See, he doesn’t limit his remixes to someone else’s tunes; no, he remixes his artists, whom he feeds with a spoon. And so if he likes going to strip joints for a little T&A, what he really loves is messing with folks’ DNA. Inside his little studio there’s no picture of girlfriend or wife, just cards from rappers and singers–”Thank you for changing my life.” He’s been a wizard so long, he’s almost old-school, a hip-hop rabbi with an R&B shul, and back when Melanie Griffith didn’t need Oil of Olay, he was buying his first drum machine on layaway. He was only twelve years old, dancing on the Fresh Fest tour, because he’s always been about getting asses on the floor. And just seven years later, he was walking in the mall, when he saw two little homeys just having a ball, and a bunch of little kids following everything they do, so Jermaine Dupri decided to follow them, too. They reminded him of himself, yeah, that’s what he thought, but to make them more like him–well, that’s what he sought. So to get their attention, like that old lady with the Clapper, he walked up and asked them, “Hey, do you want to be rappers?”
    He didn’t come on like no gangsta, talking Glocks or gats, he was just a mild-mannered nigga in a big floppy hat. And he brought the kids to his house, had Tina teach ‘em to dance, and then made them fashion victims, wearing backward pants.And when it came to rapping, he put his rhymes in their mouths, then it was like, Yo, motherfucker! Hip-hop in the South!See, the two boys, called Kris Kross, were barely adolescent, but Jermaine wrote “Jump” for six million prepubescents, and so began the rise of Atlanta’s hiphop economy, which will always be bullish, just as long as there’s wannabes, with Jermaine at the center, calling himself “the Wizard of Oz” (though he has to admit, he passed on Left Eye, Chilli, and T-Boz), and with Chuck D and Too Short in ATL to cap their careers–ask Chuck D why, he says, “More colored folks here!” So now after New York and L. A., make Atlanta number three. ”What about New Orleans?” Hey, fuck Master P.
    Now, some say rap’s not music, because it’s often played with machines and therefore sounds downright hostile to human beings, but now, in the studio… well, critics probably haven’t seen this–Jermaine, in the studio, is like some mercenary genius. Because though he don’t take drugs and rarely gets drunk, his eyes roll back in his head at the tick-tick-thunk. It’s like jazz in the studio, though it’s samplers ‘stead of horns, and though the beat never changes, it’s like it’s waiting to be born.And Jermaine listens to that shit for like hours, dancing, scratching, and sweating till he be needing a shower, waiting for something to happen, “listening for the hit,” until at five in the morning he says, “Yeah, I think that’s it.’ It was like a ghost dance or something–there was nothing said; Jermaine says his crew knows what to do from “the bobbing of my head.” So now the crew takes a break, starts playing with JD’s toys–that house like the playpen of the world’s richest little boy. Then one of them asks, “Did anyone catch that diss by Chris Tucker? Another says, “Yeah, that high-voiced nigga one funny motherfucker. He was talking ’bout Jermaine, saying the music, it’s so sweet but he’s so small the picture on his license shows his feet!” Now the crew’s all falling out laughing, slapping each other five, saying Jermaine’s got fifty fucking cars he’s too short to drive, and Jermaine’s standing there about the size of Cupid, and he sounds like a little kid when he says, “Y’all are stupid.”

    5 BUT NOW WE’LL CHANGE FOCUS, GO BACK TO THE BEGINNING, because you know that hip-hop is all about winning.”The American Dream”–you always see it written in quotes, but only when the writer’s in position to gloat. ’Cause if you deem such dreams corny as a silo, well, you don’t know what it’s like to be from Columbus, Ohio, like this woman named Teresa, working three jobs because she’s afraid of being left behind with the mob–no, not “mob” meaning “gangsters,” pulling scams; “mob” meaning “losers,” eating nothing but Spam. So that when her son Shad is born, as if in golden raiment, she accepts his beauty as compensation, or payment. The child is “special,” “advanced,” born dreaming of riches, and sometimes at night, when Teresa’s washing the dishes, and she’s afraid her life is on the short end of maybe, she’ll turn to Shad and say, “Rap for me, baby.”
    See, from the moment he heard rap, that shit just stomped him, and at four years old, he’s memorized all of Straight Outta Compton, and though when he’s at home, he’s a merry little prankster, he starts entering talent contests under the name of Kid Gangsta. And in 1993, when Death Row Records comes to town, with Suge Knight, Dre, Snoop, and the mighty Dogg Pound, and the MC asks the crowd to send a local rapper to the stage, they pick Kid Gangsta off the floor, though he’s six years of age. He gets passed overhead, like it’s some sort of ritual (who knew that virgin sacrifice could be this habitual?), and when he starts rapping, no one laughs–he’s not funny; no, he’s got this command, so they start throwing money. He’s standing onstage, like the Pinball Wizard in Tommy, and when he goes home, he says, “I did it, Mommy!” He says they’re all at the hotel waiting for Teresa to come back, because Death Row wants him as the tour’s opening act. See, Snoop took one look at Shad and was immediately besotted: He has the looks, the charisma–this kid’s just got it.” And so like in Greek mythology, Athena born in Zeus’s brain, Snoop says, “Kid Gangsta? Uh-uh. I’m giving you a name,” and like Dick Button flipping his wig over a triple salchow, he tells Shad, “You look just like me. You’re a little Bow Wow.” So Teresa drives to the hotel, asks, “How long do we wait? …. Three hundred pounds of Suge Knight says, “Bus leaves at eight.” So is it, “Whoop, There It Is”? No, it’s “Whoop, There He Goes.” Next morning Bow Wow’s on the bus with a case full of clothes, and for him it hardly matters that he’s been discovered, because he thinks that in Snoop he’s found his big brother. But then the tour gets canceled–”anticipation of violence”–and after all that expectation: nothing but silence.
    Bow Wow moves to L. A. with his mother, Teresa, goes to the studio every day but winds up eating cold pizza. ’Cause Snoop gets charged with murder, has to be an escape artist, and so he forgets how tender this little boy’s heart is, and though Suge puts him up in a hotel, Which is luxury-snobby, Bow Wow spends a lot of time by himself in the lobby. His life is a banquet of candy bars and Skittles, and he whiles away the hours telling patrons jokes and riddles. And Death Row has no fear of this little boy running wild–no, what scares them is that he might act like a child. And when he falls for the hotel manager, and she for him, a Death Row bodyguard won’t even let her teach him to swim, because he belongs to the Row, and he might drown in the pool, and when Teresa’s not there, he doesn’t even go to school. See, he was supposed to sign with Death Row and right away start rappin’, but now he barely sees Snoop, and it’s like: What happened? So Teresa goes back to Ohio, still hopeful for the best–she gets the name Bow wow tattooed to her leg and her chest–and she makes the decision to leave her son behind, because though he’s eight years old now, it might still be his time, and there’s a couple offering him a nice place to go, these two aspiring rappers by the name of Tommy and Lo. He lives in their house, in a quiet part of South Central, and the love he feels for them, well, it’s elemental, and so he’s happy, though he keeps waiting for Snoop to phone, and eventually his mother summons him home, where one day he gets news no child should have to hear:Tommy and Lo are both dead, each shot behind the ear. It was an execution-style thing, a real duct-tape affair–and Teresa knows she’d have lost her son if he’d stayed out there, and the city of L. A. becomes the one thing Bow Wow truly fears, and the kid doesn’t stop crying for like three solid years, so that the day he signs with Jermaine and has something to show, he looks at the sky and says, “See? I did it, Tommy and Lo!”
    Now Teresa got a good job, and she’s married a good man, but she still thinks that for her son God has got a plan, so when JD came around, she was like, “Shad’s got a brand-new start,” she’s still got the words BOW WOW tattooed right above her heart. And when she says, “Rap for me, baby,” his rhymes are ripe with brilliance, whether due to loss of childhood or maybe childhood’s resilience. Because when you meet him in Ohio, you don’t expect no Little Bo-peep, but when you open his bedroom door, he’s playing hide-and-seek. And if his innocence is broken, like a bottle into shards, why’s he offering you the best of his collected baseball cards? And all the time you’re with him, he barely mentions Snoop; he’d rather show all the dunks he’s learned on his Nerf b-ball hoop. And so with legs splayed like Michael Jordan, through the air he hurtles, and when he touches ground, he says: ”Now, do you want to meet my turtle?”

    6 NOW, I KNOW THAT AFTER BOW WOW’S TALE, we might need a little levity, but right now the best I can do is offer a little brevity–a short stanza, in which the supporting players take a bow, and submit to the game called “Where are they now?” Now take Death Row, for instance–they have surely changed; and if you read the trades, you know it’s not all growing pains. Motherfuckers used to be, “You want to fuck with us? Try us!” Now Suge’s in jail, his empire’s like the wreck of Ozymandias. They say, “There was once a Bow Wow, but we don’t know where he is.” Asked for further comment: ”Don’t you know what kind of company this is?” And Snoop is still drawling, doing the bounce for Master P, but everyone knows he sounded better G-funking with D-R-E. Snoop remembers Bow Wow, sure, with love and affection–”I tried to give him guidance and positive direction.” And though he was facing a murder rap and all the attendant gloom, “when we was smoking weed and shit, I made sure Bow Wow left the room.” ‘Fact, he was bringing the boy to his own label before that hit the skids, then he gave him to Jermaine because “Jermaine is good for kids.”
    So then how ’bout Kris Kross–like the biggest kid act ever? Remember them in those backward pants? Wasn’t that really clever? Ex-manager talking the other day says when he sees ‘em, he feels funny. ”Well, they’re not really cute anymore. I hope they saved their money.” Yeah, “the light-skinned Chris,” Chris Smith, got some pimples turning twenty, and he still dreams of those unspoiled days before anyone had any–any pimples, any money, anything but dreams and love–before Jermaine chose them in the mall, like an angel from above. ”Did you know JD’s got a picture of my face tattooed on his shoulder?” It’s the only place where Kris Kross hasn’t gotten any older.

    7 DO YOU THINK THAT ANY OF THE HIP-HOP prophets could have possibly foretold the day when America would have a hip-hop Super Bowl? Do you think that even Malcolm saw the day when all the rich corporate debtors were partying their ofay asses to the tune of Jay-Z’s “Can I Get A…”? Do you think that when brother Martin was dropping fast and futuristic, he saw the moment come to pass when capitalism looked so… idealistic? Do you think that when old Booker T. was putting his thinking cap on, he saw the So So Def army on Collins Ave., swigging magnums of Dom? Do you think that W. E. B. DuBois, whose outlook was never sunny, foresaw his talented tenth saying, “Show me the money?” Or that Fred Douglass would be Dirty Birding, worrying about the weather, sayin’ after twenty years of hiphop, it’s the best time to be a black man ever? So all you folks watching the game, with your TV and lasagna, welcome to Miami–the hip-hop nation is upon ya. But before you start worrying, crying, “What we gonna do?” remember what the nation already is: more American than you. You listen to Snoop and DMX, whining, “Mommy, they’re psychotic!” when it’s really just those two crazy dogs barking crazy patriotic, and so Miami is like a swap meet, buncha homeys saying, “What you got?” Puffy Combs: ”I got the villa.” Jermaine Dupri: ”I got the yacht.” Yeah, for seventy thousand smackers, JD’s got a weekend of floating wealth, a boat called the Octopussy–couldn’t have named it better himself. So now we’re stepping aboard this frigate: Yo! Ahoy, maties!–you better start calling cabs for your belowdeck ladies, ’cause at noon, here comes JD’s ma, with her matriarchal clout, meaning that when Tina is coming in, all the hoes is getting out, and this tub is full of homeys waking up, their personal myths enlarging, and by the window at least a dozen cell phones are recharging. There’s PlayStation on the big screen, a battle between “Big Bob” and “Rock,” and there’s three personal bodyguards and at least a half a dozen Glocks. And on the teak deck, there’s white folk in white shorts, serving up the food, and as tasty as this pasta is, well, no one’s trying to be rude, because though the grub is quite exotic, nothing we get in our cribs, we really need some meat for our motherfucking ribs. So no offense intended–though y’all probably don’t get this shit from Sting-but we’re also gonna get a bag of takeout from the local Burger King. And from the speakers around the hot tub, Jagged Edge is crooning loud, and Captain Pierre says that for the Octopussy, “this is… an interesting crowd.”
    Then finally there’s some activity from the grand-master suite; at one o’clock we finally hear the pitter-pat of little feet, and it’s Jermaine, rubbing his eyes, and Bow Wow, finding the head–see, both of them so little, they can sleep in the same bed.And now onto the deck comes the captain of So So Def, having a contest with a little boy to see who does his yo-yo best, “and then they start slap-boxing, like brothers sharing bunks, and when JD gets his jab in, he says, “Ohio niggas are punks.” Yeah, they doing everything together, like the brothers they never had, though some might think that in Jermaine, Bow Wow has found his dad. And Jermaine has the kid in training, working on his dancin’, telling him that come next fall he’ll be bigger than fucking Hanson. And yet Bow Wow still gets nervous, is still biting on his nails, because now, at age eleven, he thinks that at age six he failed, and when he goes to JD’s studio, he wants to open that door, like Burgess Meredith in Rocky II, saying “What are we waitin’ for?” He’s afraid it’s gonna be like L. A.–afraid of all that pain–he don’t know that he’ll keep on waiting, till he turns into Jermaine. It’s how Jermaine works, going back to Kris Kross, the first one: ”Bow Wow and me together will make one powerful person.” And so before Bow Wow can make it, he’s got to reach this goal–he’s got to let Jermaine Dupri get his hands on his soul. And for Jermaine, there’s this question, from the other side of the door: How can the little wizard steal a soul that’s been stolen once before? Step one: take him shopping, show him what he’s got. Step two:let him sleep on the motherfucking yacht. There’s no need for the wizard to slip the boy no potion–he just takes him out Jet Skiing on the motherfucking ocean, and then takes him to a club, where the sistas got no shame, ’cause it’s a bikini contest, sponsored by Jermaine. They both come through the crowd, riding big men’s shoulders, and if one’s eleven, the other don’t look too much older, and he’s probably the only man in the world who can act the mack while he’s riding through a club on piggyback. Now they both go onstage, and Jermaine takes the mike, and he starts telling the contestants exactly what he likes, and Bow Wow’s up there, cool as one of Langley’s spies, though sometimes, when the lights are bright, he covers his eyes. And Jermaine’s saying, “Bitch, is that all you can do? You’re gonna show me everything before we are through.”

    8 IF YOU COULD LIVE ANY WAY YOU WANT, if you could live any way you please, if money was a virus, and all you do is sneeze, would you go to find the very heart of hip-hopping in the fundamental practice of shopping? If you could define what is meant by “having it all,” would you spend the twelve days of Christmas in an Atlanta mall? And if you could lead your crew through any door, would you choose the portal of the Hermes store? It’s pricey in there, and lest anyone starves, you know what the French say: Let them wear scarves. And now to offer Season’s Greetings–comme on dit, “Wuzzup?”–Jermaine’s spending like five hundred bills on a motherfucking cup, while some khaki’d client who’s probably still not hip to the Del-Tones has this look on his pink face like “Negroes with cell phones!”
    ‘Course Jermaine’s on the horn, but now Bow Wow is, too; he’s talking to his mom about something he don’t want to do, because it’s December 23, and she wants him back soon, but “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” is not exactly a hip-hop tune. And so he’s arguing, saying he don’t want to get on a plane, because the weather is bad, and he’s afraid of the rain, and he’s hoping neither Mom nor stepdad Rodney will object to Christmas Eve with the wizard who put Mickey Mouse around his neck.But when the phone rings, it’s Rodney, who knows no dog always gets a bone; ’twas two nights before Christmas–he says, “Bow Wow, come home.”
  10. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    You're using that as an example of concept getting in the way of content, right?
  11. brandonsneed

    brandonsneed Member

    If you wanted to see it that cynically, I guess you could. I thought it was pretty creative and, to be completely frank, kinda ballsy.
  12. dooley_womack1

    dooley_womack1 Well-Known Member

    I would read that and not really care if I learned a damn thing about Bow Wow. Entertaining read (I skimmed it for now).
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