Black Daddies Are Like Limewire

Let’s write music together – you and I. Let’s write music laced in punk rock and indie soul. Let’s write music dripping in trap drums and arena rock guitars. Let’s write music that skats like mumble rap and dabs like bebop. Let’s write music that sounds like what it sounds like when the world is ending and we’re stuck reminiscing on the days where Limewire meant eclectic burnt CDs delivered to prom potentials. Remember Limewire? I do.  Limewire had that sour patch style. Sour. Sweet. Gone.

Limewire was to me what Luther Vandross’ father must have been to him. It danced with me when no one else would. It loved me with a love that could only be experienced and remembered rhythmically. It kept me grounded when it seemed as if the World had no ground.

If I could get another chance
Another walk
Another dance with him
I’d play a song that would never ever end
How I’d love love love
To dance with…

–  Luther Vandross, “Dance with My Father”

… Limewire again. But who needs Limewire when streaming is everything and everywhere now? Limewire was replaceable. It was quite simply a networked commodity given to we “the people” for the free. But, ain’t our fathers the same way? Ain’t our fathers (and when I say ours, I am of course talking about black folks) fungible? Replaceable? Capable of being obliterated by the State whenever the State decides that an intervention is necessary? And isn’t an intervention always necessary? Aren’t our fathers illegal a priori? As in, aren’t our fathers a crime? And ain’t the feds always watching as long as we are dancing with our fathers? As long as our fathers have space and time to dance with us?

My father wasn’t much of a dancer. But, he loved music. I used to wake up on weekends to the sounds of my pops playing the keyboard. He always had this bounce and boogie to his step. It was a bob back and forth that let one know that this was an ain’t shit nigga from Queens. And my pops was an ain’t shit nigga because all niggas ain’t shit in an anti-Black world. And my pops was an ain’t shit nigga from Queens because the chronicles of capture, poverty, violence and isolation which characterizes the narrative that can only ever be flesh deep is worn in every song he’s ever written and every beat he’s ever made. Maybe that’s why through all the controversy – the domestic abuse and the incessant cheating on my mother, and the verbal insults and attacks on my conflicting and conflicted performance of masculinity which was always wrapped up (as all black men’s performance of masculinity is) in “the female within” or rather, the fe[men]inity of Blackness – I can’t stop, won’t stop, loving this man. I wonder what a song about that might sound like. I wonder if my pops would fuck with it….

Let’s write music embedded in this ensemble of black chant.

“Where shriek turns speech into song…”

– Fred Moten, In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition

When was the last time you yelled? At the top of your lungs, with the undertone of melody as the underbelly of your every symphonic gesture. I can’t quite remember, but I know that I need it. I need it like a fat kid need cake. I need it like I need to know whether or not the Internet is gonna dig in my ass for using that fatphobic 50 Cent lyric. I need it like SpongeBob needed water in that episode when he thought being cool was subjecting himself to incapacitated breathing. Us black folk know a thing or two about incapacitated breathing. Eric Garner couldn’t breathe. Fanon revolted because he couldn’t breathe. Perhaps, Spongebob was onto something. Niggas is cool because niggas can’t breathe. Niggas write breathless music – music made under the conditions of airlessness, under the weather and waves of anti-Blackness, under the world, underground, in the trap. The trap is Blackness. The mumbles are the sounds and sentiments of a body under endless duress; and each track is a recording of what it sounds like to sing against airlessness.

If I could get another chance
Another walk
Another dance with him
I’d play a song that would never ever end
How I’d love love love
To dance with my father again.

–  Luther Vandross, “Dance With My Father”

Goddamn, I love Luther. I mean I really love him. Like, I wish he was still with us. Like, I wish I could dance with him to this song he made about dancing with his Father. Or rather, I wish I could dance with him and his father or with my Father and his Father and our Fathers as Fathers together. I wish he could have been his full and honest self when he was with us. I wish that blackness and queerness were always already thought to be inextricably tied together as in: I is Black, so I is Queer, since Blackness is always already read as Queer. As in: there ain’t nothing normative about being a Nigga. As in: Queer is what a Nigga is as long as a Nigga signifies something other than being Human. And whereas though my pops would be resistant to such a formulation of thinking/feeling/knowing/being I know my Father knows what it means to know this anti-Knowledge.

My pops loved him some Luther too. But rarely ever bought CDs. I only heard Luther on the radio until I got Limewire and downloaded that shit. I should have put it on a CD and gave it to my pops like what’s good? You tryna dance or naw? He probably wouldn’t have known what to do. He’d probably say that it was some gay shit. I’d probably say “Nigga I know. So what?” He’d probably start to dance with me.

It’s all good though. I’ve written songs with my father. I’ve made music with him. We’ve been in the booth together – just him and I and a microphone. Turning shrieks into speech into song, singing through the wire like Kanye, singing with no air like niggas always do. And I’m happy I have because Black Daddies are like Limewire. Sour. Sweet. Gone. 

 

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