Wednesday, May 10, 2006


or, letting go of latifah
open letter #7

dearest queen,

this is difficult for me to write. though i've a proclivity for the written word, i've never composed a break up letter until now. but i fear i must. it's [dramatic pause] imperative, the right thing to do. on one level, i'd like to say we're different people now; that we've grown apart; that it's me, not you. all of the things people say when they're trying to a explain to a lover why it must end, why they both must just move on to other people, places, spaces. if this were a movie, i could imagine several perfectly plausible songs that slowly swell into the extra-diegetic background: "i will always love you," "voyage to atlantis". oh, there are many. yet at this juncture candid reality is very necessary,"more necessary than violence on the amistad" if you will. so, let me just be frank:

i just cain't fuck withchu no mo'.

call me a renigger (read: reneger), i don't give a damn. but, dana, you've put a homegyrl in a fucked up position. surely many will say i shoulda given it up, turned it loose longlong time ago. i mean, i ain't see taxi, but i saw beauty shop. if i were a camel, that shit would've broken that bridge called my back. but on (some of) the realest shit i've said this year: you broke my heart.

let's recount our love affair, shall we?

what's it been, queen? nearly seventeen years i imagine. the summer of 1989. my stepbrother's aunt was our babysitter, and fortunately for me, she fucked with yo! mtv raps and rap city. i think i first saw your "dance for me video" on the latter show. you wore a muhfuckin' crown (comma) yo, and that shit was dy-lan. you looked regal (duh), dignified, and i had never seen anyone like you. more hypnotized than biggie could ever make me, at a mere nine years old, i was singing "ooooh ladies first, ladies first," with no real grasp of how powerful such a mantra was/is.

between you and lana, i knew i could love h.e.r., because i thought she was made for me. to continue with this popularmusiclyric-ridden post, i thought i was made to love her and she me. i had no idea you were an alternative, counter narrative; took for granted that you were a woman in a boy's game. until, of course, i got older and i wrote you thank you notes. as i got grown (rhyme got strong, mind got blown), and came to grips with the idea that hip hop, as tricia rose so aptly put it, "is the musical equivalent to chitterlings," i recognized just how puissantly (oooh, sexy) powerful you (all) were.

as hip hop (or rap or whatever) married (or shacked up with or knocked up or whatever) r&b, i watched the new jacks (or whoever), saw the game shift, peeped how the music got copped (or co-opted into the superstructure or whatever), and observed that for such actions to occur, material like yours (is that kente cloth?) had to be discarded and/or (further) marginalized to make (even more) room for violence, misogyny and tons of other forms of "artistic" (self-) hatred. because hell, that shit sells. that's tough.

so if the game changes, if the high skool kids can jump straight into the league, how does a veteran player like you remain relevent? i suppose you observe then follow suit. rappers-turned-actors? ok. i was with you. it's no golden girls, but thanx to oxygen (did i just admit to watching the oprah channel?), i'm pretty sure i've seen every episode of living single. whenever tnt airs it, i seem to catch set it off (to have never kissed/fucked with a woman, you play a lady lover really well, btw.), and, believe it or not, though i can't remember the movie for the life of me, i fucked with living out loud. saw it at least five times. i even have the soundtrack.

but then you produce your first movie and we get... bringing down the house? that's even tougher. i didn't go to the theatre to see it; i risked life and limb and rented it from a blockbuster where i know i have at least 25 bux in late fees. (congrats on that naacp image award, btw.) did you seriously play someone named aunt shaneequa? can you please explain that whole "moniker/my nigga" joke in beauty shop? now don't get me wrong, i love to see black people onscreen. coonery would be easier to resist if it weren't so damn entertaining. i know you don't think i spent $9.25 on akeelah and the bee because i thought that shit was gonna be a great portrayal of black folk. i paid 10 dollars to see some stereotypical nig shit; it's fodder for my cinema commentary enjoyed by moviegoers within earshot. but i digress. my point? i never anticipated such things from the queen. granted, if we've learned anything from madonna, it's that reinvention is imperative to stay afloat. but how are we reinventing ourselves? are we simply recycling old images? crowns for weave ponytails? look, y'all, aunt jemima can rap!!

jay-z said i can't knock the hustle. i say i can. well, maybe not. one could argue, for instance, that the late 80s/early 90s latifah was an act. the crown? simply an afrocentric headpiece, perhaps. songs like "ladies first"? merely the women's department of the native tongues. who was i, who am i to infuse meaning into such performance? please don't misunderstand. i am forever grateful for the timeliness of your arrival onto the hip hop scene. i just assumed that it meant as much to you as it did to me. perhaps it's like getting to know your parent once you've become an adult. you can lament coming to terms with the fact maybe pops wasn't a superhero after all, or maybe you can accept him as a human being and move from there. i'm trying to do the latter with you, but admittedly it's been really hard.

so listen, i ain't mad because i think you fell off once you hit the mainstream. and i couldn't care less about whether you confirm or deny your alleged rainbow coalition membership. personally, i have no stake in you coming out; if folks don't wanna come out, that's their business. it's not even about how (un)real you keep it. so when i think about why we gotta break up, it's not because i think you lied to me by pretending to be someone you weren't at the beginning of our relationship. do you, homie. this is all me. i made you the metonym for some moment in time i'd romanticized and was trying my hardest to hold onto. like, iono, some seaweed you grab for in an effort to not be swept away by the tide. for me, you were the personfication of the last part of a movement i might be able to call my own. (not that i'm interested in ownership...) and for a minute i thought this move of yours was simply indicative of my own mantra that nothing is sacred. not only do i realize how true that is, but i was taken aback by the thought that maybe you weren't sacred in the first place. so i won't knock the hustle. instead i'll just say it's over. we have to break up.

and, no. we can't be friends.

be easy,
summer m., h.e.r. ex-lover

the above mentioned love note to latifah:
i used to love h.e.r.: more reflections on hip hop

other open letters:
open letter #1
open letter #2
open letter #3
open letter #4
open letter #5
open letter #6

language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison


Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh, summer. this almost made me cry. you are ***such*** a great writer.

l, rrrrrrr

10/5/06 23:19  
Blogger nubian said...

wait until, welfare queen, comes out. you could hate her anymore.

btw, i read your first open letter. i can't stop laughing.

you are such an excellent writer

10/5/06 23:26  
Blogger nubian said...

anymore should be some more...

10/5/06 23:27  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

amazing!!! please for the love of god send it!!!!!


10/5/06 23:43  
Blogger Hollambeeee said...

i can't wait for you to be published so people all over can read YOUR shit... said everything about the Queen that i have thought in the past regarding her performance...great job Sum...

10/5/06 23:52  
Blogger Harold Gibson said...

Damn Summer the gang really loves you. And so do I for recognizing that there is nothing as lame as a former rapper who used to be relevant but who gets bit by the bug. After her academy award nominated turn in Chicage she has been an utter disgrace. I'm glad you kicked that fine(She's still a beautiful woman) chick to the curb on the real.

11/5/06 04:19  
Anonymous pclarity said...

Way to some up the conflict. I had to let go after watching (flinching through) The Cookout. And I was ride or die for that woman. Sadness.

11/5/06 07:03  
Blogger Miss Jessi said...

This is why I lurve you Summer... I'm so glad you're back

11/5/06 08:36  
Blogger Alii said...

youre a beautiful writer...This is one of my favorites.


11/5/06 09:35  
Blogger Kilimanjaro: High and Lo said...

this really should be published and good to see you're writing again.

11/5/06 15:51  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two soul claps on this one. I thought I was the only one who remembered the Queen before she started singing for pizza hut :)

11/5/06 19:03  
Blogger Larry D. Lyons II said...

hypertext allusion = sick.
the sentiment? timely and much appreciated

thanks for this.

11/5/06 20:19  
Blogger nubian said...

or the wack ass walmart commercials...

11/5/06 22:11  
Blogger Phoenix said...

thanks for keeping it real on all occasions (and keeping it real on christmas as jah-boogie likes to say).

welcome back.

12/5/06 14:46  
Blogger summer m. said...

@rrrr: thanx. that means a lot coming from you.

@nubian: gracias.

@holla: 'preciate the positive feedback.

@harold: yeah, playa. i had to do it.

@p: i was, too. she got ridiculous, though.

@miss jessi: i'm glad you're glad.

@alii: thank you, baby.

@kili: i'm glad to be writing again. thanx for the vote of support.

@anon: you're not the only one. a lot of us remember the crown-rocking queen. i miss her.

@larry: thanx for stopping by.

@nubian: that wal-mart shit knida made me wanna take a life.

@phoenix: i try.

12/5/06 15:05  
Anonymous Yvette said...

This. Is. Wonderful.

Mind if I co-sign on this letter?

19/5/06 13:39  
Blogger verbify said...

Amazing and lyrical (forgive the pun) letter. I could easily see this as a piece of slam.

19/5/06 16:33  
Blogger summer m. said...

@yvette: feel free to cosign.

@verbify: thanx. you won't catch me at a slam, however.

19/5/06 19:02  
Blogger Maxjulian said...

that was the mf'ing shit!

19/5/06 20:16  

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