AIN'T NOTHIN WRONG or MY THIEVING MOTHER
My mother believed the Michael Jackson song "Beat It" was about masturbation. "I don't know if I like you listening to that," she said, "because I don't think you know what it means." I didn't. I was nine years old. I spent years working to decipher what she thought those lyrics were saying.
"Beat It" is a much different song by my mom's reading. If she presented her interpretation as an academic paper, she might title it "No One Has to Be Defeated: Michael Jackson as Self-Pleasure Advocate." Jackson would urge masturbation as a reaction to fear, to conflict, which would take us back to a primal, yet non-violent state. It doesn't matter who's wrong or right, just beat it.
My mom believed the EU song "Da Butt" was an ode to anal sex, some kind of homosexual anthem. This time it was misheard lyrics. Instead of "Doin da butt" she was sure they said "Do it in the butt," like:
Do it in the butt
While most people my age left that song behind them in junior high, I still listen to it from time to time, always with Mom's lyrics in my head. Ain't nothing wrong. Do it in the butt all night long.
By the time Tipper Gore and the PMRC were slapping labels on CDs and whining about 2 Live Crew to the Supreme Court, Mom had given up. I could read her the lyrics to NWA's "Fuck tha Police" and she'd just shake her head like, what has the world come to, but at the same time like she really didn't care anymore. She'd actually come with me to the record store in the mall to buy me the uncensored versions of albums that were full of dead air and bleeps when I bought them at K-Mart. As she drove me home I'd blast Geto Boys and Eazy-E. I even caught her laughing at the vulgarity sometimes. Out loud when the Pharcyde says "never been a bitch so I don't act bitchy. Smooth on the vinyl like Lionel Ritchie."
Yep, and one time she tried to steal a computer from my school. When they were renovating the building over the summer, they allowed their best and brightest, their gifted and talented students to take home computers to bring back in August. I still had mine in November and in computer class they'd make me sit at the desk with no machine, because they knew. Everyone did. I'd get calls from the principal and mom would say, "Tell him I'm not here." I didn't even use the computer by that point. It was a shitty Commodore with no j on the keyboard and exactly one program, "Trivia Blast!"
I didn't want this computer, but Mom didn't want to give it back. And it wasn't just laziness. School officials volunteered to come pick it up and she still said no. Maybe deep down she was influenced by my rap music, by all that hardcore gangsta shit I was bumping in her Olds Calais as she drove me home from the mall. That was how she got down: stealing computers, and keeping it thugged out.
AIN'T NOTHIN WRONG was read to much belly-aching laughter this past weekend, 13 Aug 2004, to a small circle of folks at Boxcar Books in Bloomington, IN. If you've not been there, tis highly recommended. And we'd all like to say thanks, Mr. Hess.