Menace: A Multi-Part Sociological History (exhibits H-L)

February 4, 2010

In all honesty, when I started this project two summers ago, I did not consciously intend for it to take as long to complete as the Menace/All City/City Stars video. I’m not nearly that “meta.”

However, it certainly seems appropriate. I had the outline on my wall the whole time; other shit just kept coming up. Now, the time is right. I will try to post five exhibits per week until I get to exhibit “AA.”* Who knows if I will adhere to that schedule, though. Again, this doesn’t seem inappropriate. Setting and reaching short-term goals and building them into long-term goals is not very menace tech.

To refresh your memory, the original post, including a rationale for this shit and exhibits A-G, can be found here.

*possibly expanding to AB to include the recent Fabian Alomar Skate Talk episode, around which I am still trying to wrap my head.

Exhibit H: The Black Panther Party/origin of The Crips & The Bloods

The popular imagination conceptualizes the Crips and Bloods as kids with an appetite for destruction collaborating with sophisticated, heavily-armed crack dealers. However, as documented in the fucking outstanding documentary Bastards of the Party,

the crips were started by some LA ex-panther dudes. Similarly to American Gangster (more on that later), this documentary relates a highly nuanced saga of the Los Angeles metropolis dating back to the initial African-American migration to LA. It also delves into the relationship of LA law enforcement with various street cultures–for example, Central Ave., the music scene of which chief William Parker tried to irradicate back in the 1940’s and whatnot. As with skating, what superficially appears to be a nonsensical, boneheaded subculture is in actuality a contextualized product of the preceding and concurrent political/historical events. In addition, Bastards of the Parts documents the ways in which the LA law enforcement community has long promoted an antagonistic relationship with the communities it presumably protects and serves.

Exhibit I: N.W.A.

I remember very clearly the first time I heard Straight Outta Compton. My friend let me listen to it on the bus (always sat in the back) one day in seventh grade. At that point, I watched Yo!MTV Raps and Rap City semi-religiously, but the combination of actually holding the cassette tape, that chemical smell  that eminated from the cassette and packaging**, and the lyrics and subject matter fuckin’ blew my mind. It was a new level of badass. Truth be told, my musical tastes have not developed much since them. Crack, automatic weapons, malt liquor, Raiders merchandise–this was the archetypal manifestation of the LA vibe, and it is hard to imagine Menace taking the conceptual direction it did without that particular cultural  influence.

**What the hell was that? Some kind of metal? When I used to buy blank tapes by the brick, I always got Type I; Type IV/”metal” were the best though. What metal was in them? What the hell was up with that? We just accepted that at face value; metal=top notch sound quality. Sometimes I miss the reassuring “ka-chunk” of playing an audio cassette. I used to have five to seven e’S and DC shoeboxes filled with audio cassettes.

Exhibit J: American Gangster–The Television Series

Probably the most underrated, under-watched series of all time, American Gangster tells, through Ving Rhames’ authoritative narration, stories of the underlife of 20th Century America that would probably otherwise be lost to the sands of time. Case in point: the origin of crack.

International law enforcement organizations banned the import into Columbia of various chemicals (ether or some shit) used in the production of powerdered cocaine.  Diverted to the Bahamas, narcotrafficers concocted something called “base rock,” and the rest is history.

The above invention was detailed in the epic Ricky “Freeway” Ross episode, which details the rise and fall of the most prolific narcotrafficer in the history of Los Angeles. It is safe to say that Ross contributed as much as anyone to the landscape in which menace tech was created.  However, just as the Baltimore narcotrafficers depicted in The Wire were entangled in a web of insidious geopolitical wrangling, so were Ross and the crack craze of the late Eighties/early Nineties affected by a similar “dark alliance. “As Gary Webb meticulously, exhaustively documented in his book of the same title, the United States Central Intelligence Agency allegedly facilitated the infusion of cocaine into southern California by Contra-backing narcotrafficers. The Contras, “freedom fighters” engaged in a conflict with the Nicaraguan dictatorship, fit nicely into Reagan’s “cowboys and indians” perception of international policy.

ANYWAY, while incarcerated, Ross started a blog, which was updated more frequently than those of many non-incarcerated persons. However, since his release, he seems to have turned his attention elsewhere–like hanging with NBA dudes:

paging David Stern

You can probably locate American Gangster if you are adept at navigating a cable menu system; I have seen it on BET, “BETJ,” the “Bio” channel, and “Centric,” where Miami Vice has also found a home.

Exhibit K: Ban ThisThe first glimpse of “LA”-ness, as refracted through Stacy Peralta’s highly polished cinematic vision. Gabe, who will appear later in this exhibit list, was totally the best here.

Exhibit L: World Industries founded

In sharp contrast to Stacy Peralta’s management style, only Rocco’s hypermaterialistic yet laissez-faire modus operandi could have facilitated such a venture as Menace. His progressive hiring practices, as praised by Mr. Singleton in the 20 Shot commentary in the World box set, are also noteworthy. Hard to believe that, as mentioned in The Man Who Souled the World, World lost one millions dollars the year 20 Shot came out. However, as I noted in the documentary review linked above, perhaps Rocco’s inclination to go jetskiing in Catalina instead of adopting a more hands-on approach prevented Menace from self-actualization. This became all the more apparent after Fabian Alomar’s epic, must-see, appointment-viewing appearance on Skate Talk (more on that later). Along the lines of Alomar’s  20/20 hindsight reflection, the collection of strong personalities on Menace warranted an even stronger personality in a management role. A gentleman with the nickname/animal avatar “the bunny rabbit”? Perhaps not the most sound choice.

5 Responses to “Menace: A Multi-Part Sociological History (exhibits H-L)”

  1. smorales said

    M-Q coming soon? Yes that Fabian skate talk was pretty remarkable.

  2. kareem lands trick over the menace bump to sideways garbagecan : Joey goes “Yeah Niggah!”

  3. george said

    Fuck this is so damn sick..

  4. There is a difference between becoming “sober” (abstaining from alcohol) and “recovering” from dipsomania. Recovery demands modifications in your thought process, healing and filling the emptiness that alcohol fills with something else that is not a person, spot or thing. For spiritually-based recovery platforms such as A.A. and Women for Sobriety, this would involve a spiritual wakening and making alterations in your life that would contribute to a contrasting reward system than boozing.

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