“I might smoke a spliff, but I won’t sniff” – Grand Puba
I am of the belief that who you are as a teenager is basically who you are for life.
I am dumbfounded when I run into people who tell me they have never been in a fight in their entire lives. But it’s not like I grew up in a horrible neighborhood. Many of my teenage years were spent in Kenner, LA.
I grew up in a place that was below middle class. I stayed off of Idaho and 25th Street, in some apartments that had seen better days. I was a few blocks away from a canal, so I spent much of my time catching turtles and snakes. When I was not doing that, I was fishing either on the Mississippi River, Lake Ponchatrain, Lafreniere Park or the Parish Line. My Parish Line fishing spot was near the home of one of my good friends.
The people in my neighborhood thought I was weird because I liked reptiles and because I had no N’awlins accent. But being cool with my boy in another neighborhood got me in close with his crew, regardless of hobbies or vernacular. My friend had rank because he did some pretty courageous things. He also beat up some people everyone was afraid of. No one really messed with him.
He did all of the dirt during the week. On the weekends, we were out trying to outfish each other. These times were golden. Not only because I was growing into myself, but hip hop was also at its peak.
Everyone listened to hip hop. Everyone was influenced by MCs and the way they dealt with life. Many of us had no father at home, so hip hop acted as a viable substitute. This was the time when it was a noble trait for MCs to be intelligent. I don’t think Chuck D realized how much power he had over us.
I remember vividly the scene in my boy’s room, when our group listened to and began actively debating the line I began this piece with. We had all been indoctrinated by Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign through our public school curriculum. So it was a big deal for someone in our little crew to smoke weed. One guy had already started smoking, and used the music to somehow justify it. In his mind, Puba was a righteous brother, and if Puba could do drugs and still remain righteous, he too could smoke and remain righteous.
Then Cypress Hill came out…And dedicated their first single to David Duke when they were on Yo Mtv Raps…
Today, my boy and many of the dudes from that neighborhood struggle with addiction problems. Some deal drugs. Some live on the streets. Some are dead. We are ultimately in control of our destinies, so I am not trying to blame Puba for their fates. I’m just saying. There are many weed heads who never try anything stronger. But there are also many who do.
“No I don’t smoke weed or cess / Cause it’s known to give a brother brain damage” – Dr. Dre