Crack Pipes and Small Whales

I am sitting in a classroom listening to my co-worker talk to students about how low-income communities have more access to drug paraphernalia than they do grocery stores that sale organic produce. I am sitting slouched, perhaps a little too comfortable with the facts. The co-facilitator pulls out a 4 inch glass cylinder and asks the class what it is. On most occasions, students stare intensely at the object for a few seconds, shout “pipe”, “glass” or “glass pipe”. The facilitators say “yes” for affirmation and congratulate them for not having guessed “small whale”.

Today, one student in particular skips past the jargon of a D.A.R.E. commercial, and dives right into what are the first few seconds of Pusha T’s most recent music video. “Crack pipe!” he guesses. “Yes, you’re absolutely right”, says the co-facilitator. I am silent and still sitting hunched over.

The student proceeds to tell us everything we are about to say, plus most of the things we were not prepared to talk about: what goes inside of the crack pipe, how to efficiently use it, and the manner in which it loses its transparency once the smoke hits the glass. This is all accompanied by animated hand gestures, just in case the visual learners (read me) get lost in the details.

I realize that all the while he’s been talking, I’ve tucked my breath away into the pocket of a previous moment. I am stuck on his words and the smile they are wrapped in. He seems to be doused in what I assume is pride of his extensive knowledge of crack pipes. I almost want to interrupt the workshop, and verify whether my assumption is correct. I choose not to and continue to sit with a slight hunch.

In addition to the young man’s spiel, there are videos such as “Young Wild and Free” with Snoop Dogg, Whiz Khalifa and Bruno Mars (dir. by Dylan “Pook” Brown, who’s directed several of Snoop’s videos over the past four years) that leave me feeling like the entire culture of African Americans has been deduced to a field of watermelons feeding off one another. These videos and their colloquial counterparts, offer me the space to question: at what point does the story-telling of drug abuse become less of a documentary art and more of a glorified disenfranchisement?

For some, the question of what constitutes genuine expression of a drug-ridden lifestyle is sensitive and slightly played out. I understand, and invite you to swim with me (and possibly have a water fight) for at least one more paragraph.

The narrative of Pusha T’s “Exodus 23:1” fathers that of the high school student. In less than fifteen seconds, the video yells “Crack pipe” (albeit makeshift), and before the beat drops, the viewer is already placed in an environment where once the smoke hits, reality becomes cloudier than usual. Pusha’s lyrics are more documentary, exposing a grim reality often experienced by those struggling with drug addiction. His lyrics and video are stripped of the fabrication many rappers and high school students cloak themselves in to appear culturally astute and relevant. With that said, “Exodus 23:1” (dir. by Samuel Rogers) revives the art of documenting lived experiences as opposed to regurgitating the murmurs of stale imaginations. And I appreciate this in a way that simulates a field of watermelons hugging one another to the point of copulation. Irrespective of who’s watching.

But this is only my opinion. Which is obvious. And clearly not that of a small whale. Feel free to disagree. I prefer if you do.

Sort of.

If your heart has yet to descend into a pit of culturally sensitive watermelon seeds, proceed to experience yet another narrative.

(In the case you are seeing a third video…I am not sure what is up with that. Perhaps when I upgrade, and begin paying for this here blog, random advertisements will no longer be a problem. If you do not see a third video, then I apologize for the chatter and wish you a happy journey onto the next post)


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