Regardless of overall ghetto ideology, understand this: Ghetto people, hood folks, whatever you want to call them, fox with Michael Jackson, always had, always will.
The thugs, the smokers, workaday people, hoochie mamas, uber snobs, churchy folks, foreigners who own the shops, every single generation alive right now and they kids, any living condition you could possibly think of, fox with MJ.
The hood was on those Beat It and Thriller jackets real tough along with the sequin gloves and weren’t afraid to admit it. So many artists the hood appreciates got some of their early and/or current steez from Michael. Dr. Dre in his World Class Wreckin’ Cru days. Ginuwine. Usher. Ne-Yo and Chris Brown. Cats that were singin’, rappin’, producing, startin’ record labels all likely dreamed of being involved in a Michael Jackson cut. Because the world watched him like Monday Night Football, or more to the point, the World Cup. He may not have been in the hood long beyond blowing up out of Gary, Indiana as a child, but he was the son of every hood, and many in the hood ate due to his existence.
Trust, you saw bootleg t-shirts of the month when his albums and concert tours were churnin’? You gon’ see ‘em this weekend with EXTRA strength!!
Surely many wondered as this author did (including before even the news broke) how large the story of the death of a guy like Michael Jackson would be. An icon probably matched only by Michael Jordan, maybe Madonna…but we’re not gonna go there today.
Could this be the day pop music died, as said on the news? As with the foundation he laid mentioned above, probably not. The show went on when Pac and Biggie returned, the show went on when Elvis died, the show went on when so many others died (or fell off), so the machine will keep churnin’. But again, with the foundation he laid mentioned above, the legacy and doors opened are arguably unmatched.
The term King Of Pop wasn’t just a marketing tagline. It was already understood before it was even coined to promote the Dangerous album, back in ’91. When Jam first came out, this author could have swore that was Chubb Rock on the mic, until I was informed it was Heavy D…but I digress. Back on that generation thing, it was one thing that the Jackson 5 were them boys in the 60s right next to Elvis and the Beatles. It was another that they fit right in in the 70s with all those disco and funk acts. But in those damn 80s though. Certain elements of pop culture were just…larger than life in the frickin’ 80s. Knight Rider & A-Team. Dallas & Dynasty. Lakers & Celtics. Transformers & G.I.Joe. Hulk Hogan. Mike Tyson. Michael Jackson. Elements of culture that rocked those who grew up in the 80s and beyond. Game changers.
MTV got on board because his videos were EVENTS, like the Super Bowl or the Olympics. Punk *ss MTV were the folks who wouldn’t play a single record that wasn’t by a white rock artist. Ray Parker Jr.’s “The Other Woman” was turned down because he had a white woman on his arm and MTV didn’t want to upset the likely racist viewership they were courting in such places as the Bible Belt. MJ’s music had the clout to apply the undeniable pressure necessary for MTV to cut the crap and play not only his material, but Lionel Richie! Jacko arguably made Yo! MTV Raps, Fade To Black, MTV Jams and Black Real World cast members possible.
Oh yeah, that wonderful nickname. Jacko. Short for Wacko Jacko, as the Brits would call him. Yeah, the hood knew that something was off with him. And we ain’t talkin’ the initial nose job: no one really tripped when that happened. Pallin’ around with Emmanuel Lewis, no big deal (back then anyway). Could even look past having a pet chimp. But when all the other stuff rolled in regarding kids that looked noways Black and Jesus Juice and some of the other…eccentricities made headlines every frickin’ week for some 25 odd years, the ghetto didn’t clap to it…
But oh, bet your bottom dollar that albums like Bad, Dangerous, even History and Invincible, were for them trucks. Many a Suburban piloted by the Billy-est of Bad*sses had some Michael subbin’ right in the mix with one of those Lil Young Boy rappers. And you better believe the parties and barbecues with the fam went hard when “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” was thrown on the same way they would to the latest freaky dance cut.
NBA commissioner David Stern said recently, and I paraphrase, that there are two things that unite a people. The house of worship (church, synagogue, the rally, masjid, what have you), and the house of sports worship (you know schools, cities, and countries get up with great pride for its team winning a title). Michael Jackson was, and is to this day, yet a third.
By the way, what a busy news day: death of Michael, death of Farrah Fawcett, the Iran craziness, NBA draft…this author remembers two others like this. Sammy Davis Jr. and Jim Henson passing on the same day in 1990, and Johnny Cash and John Ritter returning the same day in 2003. And that thing about deaths of famous people going in threes is some wild space sh*t…but again, we’re not gonna explore that one.