Buy Me An Ocean

Half is a talented rapper, and the plan was that his first album was going to be the vehicle that took him and his crew out of poverty. They didn’t necessarily all want out of the projects, because this is where they “kept it real” and if you lose the streets, you lose your credibility. But the whole crew for sure wanted to blow up and get rich. At one point in the Stairwell Interview, I asked Half what he was going to do if he got rich. He said that he would be responsible, invest his money so he’s make even more, and then he might go out and buy himself an ocean, and then he laughed. I loved that.

It would never occur to me to buy an ocean, even as a joke, because I’m a middle class white chick so I think more of the middle ground, like owning a house, but Half grew up sharing a spoon with seven other people, and standing in the cheese line for his grandmother trying to pretend like they really weren’t that poor, so buying an ocean makes a lot of sense to me because it is the vastness, or endlessness of a particular kind of wealth that I believe he was dreaming of.

When you go into the pj’s like I did with a rose colored middle class activist perspective, even though you say it ain’t so, you sort of think you know what’s going on, particularly if you have a film crew with you. But just like with Louie and James, I was perpetually surprised by what was going on in Half’s neighborhood and what was happening to me. I really liked Half. I thought he was smart, articulate and attractive and wanted him to like me back. Not in a romantic way, but he was compelling and interesting and just a little bit distant, plus he gave me respect.

Half’s respect came with a lot of waiting. He was on hip hop time and I was on we got five hours to get what we need and the get the hell out of here and get back to my safe little haven time. So in the interim, I got to know his crew, who was often hanging around the corner store, across from his building in Crown Heights. And just like with Half, I started to really like most of them. Even Dooliani, Half’s hype man.

Dooliani always had his face in the camera. He was belligerent. Usually drunk or stoned. Very dark skinned. With gold teeth. At first I sort of thought of him as middle class white America’s worst nightmare. He was so volatile and couldn’t string a sentence together coherently between the constant weed and the alcohol consumption. But something happened over a pretty short period of time, and I could see Dooliani’s vulnerability, his loyalty and his voracious need for attention, and despite his aggression, I gave up trying to get away from him and went with his wildness. And before I knew it, I began to feel enormously fond of him.

And of course Shelby was always with me, watching my back, making me laugh, and carrying a gun in case anyone got out of hand. I had the delusion of safety, even though I knew it wasn’t really true. I can’t tell you when it happened, but at some point along the way, after spending so much time with Half, Doo, Blood Sport, Spank, Unique, Troop and the rest of the guys, I realized that I didn’t just like them, I actually loved them. Individually and collectively. Shelby too. I think it was how open they were with me—a white chick almost 20 years older than some of them. They let me into their soft parts, their hilarious parts and their broken hearts. I could feel the vastness of their hurt, most of them were fatherless and had grown up watching people they loved die, and although it wasn’t my experience, I identified with their pain. And their wonderfulness.

And if I had I the resources, I would have buy them all an ocean.  For real.

Read Gangsta Gift

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