[Editor's Note: Shea Serrano sometimes writes about Why This Song Sucks, and sometimes about his hilarious and poignant life and times. Better put your shoes on because your socks are about to be blown off.]
Mos Def is one of my all-time favorite rappers. But I didn't start listening to him until college.
I'd like to say the collegial atmosphere made my caveman brain crave something more substantial than Master P's sloppy fury or SPM's vaudevillian charm. Alas, it's not true.
The place where I grew up, most kids didn't go to college. Most couldn't even be bothered to finish high school. (Neither of my parents did, which is why they worked so hard and pushed so hard for my sisters and me to go, I guess). So the bros and dudes that I hung out with, we just weren't all that concerned with GPAs or FAFSA or whatthefuckever. Mostly we just wanted to play basketball and listen to "Ice Cream Man" at a very loud volume. And so that's what I carried with me when I arrived to college.
But then Mos came.
I was not swayed by Mos Def's lyricism or his tone or even his afrocentricism. That's not why I chased down Black On Both Sides, his 1999 solo debut album. I started listening to him for the same reason I've done anything in my life: To see a girl's boobs.
In this case, the boobs belonged to L, the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen and the most mesmerizing too. We had a class together (Sociology). I still remember watching her walk into the room for the first time. I was in a trance. She was thin (but thick in the right places). She was caramel-skinned in a way that I'd only ever seen on television. She had eyes that never chased anything. She was stylish.
And she was graceful; a trained dancer with immaculate posture and endless presence. Her steps were less like steps and more like poetry. She barely appeared to move when she walked. I think she might've actually been floating. I don't know. It's hard to really say because I was so overwhelmed by her everything. I know she glowed though. Oh my God did she glow. She glowed with a distinct, physically discernible warmth. Counting TV and pictures and real life, I'd probably seen somewhere around 50,000 girls up until that point in my life. But she was the first one I SAW.
And she's the one I still see today.
Given her attributes, she'd quickly earned the attention of a number of men when she arrived on campus. Tall men and smart men and handsome men and muscular men and accomplished men and interesting men, they all courted her. No matter. Of all those who pursued her, she ended up with me.
Maybe it's because I appreciated her good taste. She's introduced me to food I'd never tasted, takes me to places I've never been, plays music I've never heard.
Not least of which was Mos Def's and Talib Kweli's Black Star. She brought that into my life and then, realizing how amazing it was, I began to seek out Mos Def on my own, so as to impress her.
Did it work? Hard to say. My brain is not capable of unraveling the string of events that made her my wife: I've long suspected some sort of blunt force trauma that momentarily rendered her less than astute.
In any case, today is her birthday.
L and I, we have been together for more than thirteen years now. And she has only grown more interesting, more mysterious, more beautiful. She has given me three children and a life filled with positivity.
I wish there was a better, more substantial way to thank her for all she's done for me. After all, had we not gotten married, I'd have died several years ago from too much Taco Bell.
But this is all that I know. I wish I was smart enough to describe how truly profound she is, to describe what it felt like in the spring of 2000 to follow her around a dusty record store while she browsed through old soul albums and incense sticks and just feel completely, hopelessly consumed by a love and admiration I didn't even know my body could produce. But I'm too dumb. My brain turns to jelly and my heart turns to a furnace and my eyes turn to untrustworthy dams when I try to think about. I'm useless. She's amazing.
I love everything more because she is around and I hate everything less.
She is the dopest.
I am for sure making sure my sons go to college.
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