Thursday, May 25, 2006

khulami phases

or, a bildungsroman for black girls e'rywhere
open letter #8

dear ms. hill,

in the autumn of 1998, i scraped up eighteen bucks to buy your first solo album. i walked from earhart hall to a little music shop at purdue west. i ran back to that closet officially known as a dorm room, tore open your cd, and put it in my stereo. the miseducation... remained in heavy rotation for the next nine months. after that, i started my own crusade of sorts. yours was the first album i sort of forced folk to listen to. i'm not really into persuading people, but somehow i convinced my dad to rent a car for me in his name, and let me drive the seven hours from west lafayette to cleveland just to see the first leg of your tour. during the late summer of 1999, i sat for hours listening to the radio, hoping to get through to get a pair of free tickets, because neither shonda nor i had enough dough to buy passes for your indinanapolis show. i won. almost got kicked out of that ampitheater for seat-hopping just to get closer to the stage. endured the humidity of an indiana august. yes... with that first spin, i implicitly and explicitly pledged to fuck with you no matter what.

and then...your self-imposed exile.

at first, i didn't get it. oh, i speculated with the best of them. where'd you go? why? lamented the three chords that seemingly characterized each song of your unplugged 2.0 album. blamed it on a marley. whatever. at the same time i "defended" you. no one could say a bad thing about the artist formerly known as l. boogie in my presence. yeah (comma) yo. i was on one.

and then...a sunday night in september 2004.

i hadn't seen you perform live in five years. i was so excited; nervous that you'd cancel at the last minute. i didn't care what you sang/rapped, just as long as you did it. i don't believe artists are beholden to their audience. it's unfair for you to be bound to old material if you are no longer in that space. i know the "ex factor" days have come and gone. i just wanted to see you. we waited, and then you walked on stage... sang one of the sweetest, most honest songs i've ever heard:
if they only owned love, shown love, grown love, like this before
if they only knew love, true love, to love, like this before
if they only gave love, saved love, brave love, like this before
if they only called love, love love, called love, like this before
your voice, like your eyes, seemed tenuous, tender, slightly melancholy. though you looked at and responded to the audience, you seemingly weren't there for us. no more was the 20 piece band with two djs. just you, and a couple musicians there to back you up. you weren't putting on a show. and though i'm sure many of the folks in the audience left disappointed that l. boogie wasn't entirely in the building, i must say that i was just really appreciative for your time.

see, i've glanced at the "post-exile" articles. i try my best to empathize, though i completely understand that your experience is totally out of my realm of imagination. i think i comprehend. circa 1998 you seemed to have this aura of accessibility, availability. what a toll that must have taken on a young black woman in her mid-twenties. we are taught from such a young age to be caretakers, to think of others' needs before our own. to sacrifice. we're guilted into not taking care of ourselves. and then it's too late. one need only to stand at a bus stop on the southside of chicago to see how the years, the decades, the generations of giving to and living for others has manifested on our bodies. we look tired, worn, in search of a rest unattainable through peaceful slumber.

i see the exile, the distance, the requirement that we/they call you ms. hill as necessary for you to save your own life. and i can dig that. you make music, maybe we buy your album. but essentially, you owe us nothing. i mean that earnestly. your art, your music is just a manifestation of you trying to be authentic at all times. and i can dig that. i'm just so glad that you came along when you did, and that you've refused to be anything other than who you are. you're a model for trying to live living. the struggle isn't in keeping it real, it is keeping it real. and maybe if others "knew love, true love, to love" like this before, they/we would understand you, ourselves, the world a bit better. either way, thanx.

happy birthday.

other joints:
open letter #1
open letter #2
open letter #3
open letter #4
open letter #5
open letter #6
open letter #7

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


Blogger Hollambeeee said...

though i generally can't fuck with ms hill, i think this is beautiful...and i didn't know she was a gemini...

wonder twin powers, activate!!! (yeah...i'm a gem too...lmao)

26/5/06 18:56  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope this brings back memories for you because this is the recording of that song from that concert:

By the way the song is called the passion, it's actually a studio recording of that song, anyways I loved reading your open later, take care.

26/5/06 19:06  
Blogger Harold Gibson said...

Do we always have to fight to keep it real? Nikki Giovanni once wrote a poem about, I believe it was, Aretha Franklin needing to take some time because we would use her up simply because we loved her so much.

Maybe this is why Whitney is so messed up. Did she keep giving til she gave in?


Question for you Ms. Summer do you feel a great affinity with Ms. Hill given your recent self exile?

26/5/06 20:26  
Blogger Miss Jessi said...

Beautiful. Nuff said.

28/5/06 13:36  
Blogger summer m. said...

@holla: thx. you gotta start fuckin' with miss hill (comma) yo.

@anon: thank you so much for the link. do you have her best of double disc? there's a version of the song on there, too. def. check it out if you haven't.

@harold: my self-exile is by no means analogous to miss hill's. i'm just saying i think i understand...

@miss jessi: thank you. i don't think it post is one of my best, but i just wanted to say happy birthday to my favorite musician.

28/5/06 21:44  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Words ooze mello sexy cool on the page and you make my mind visualize your pain and your excitement, I like that!!!

29/5/06 02:32  
Blogger Jdid said...

never heard that song but i feel you on this. lauryn just has to do what she is comfortable with. sure everyone wants a new album, another miseducation, another fugees album but seasons change mad and things re-arrange so if lauryn wants to not deal with the shady record business just leave her be and let he do what she wants to. amen

29/5/06 05:59  

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