Tag Archives: hustling

#50: Worshiping criminals

the last gangster supper!BET had a documentary on a year or so back called American Gangster. Under normal circumstances, one would say it’s simply telling a story about people the general populace might not be aware of, just giving information. After all those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it, right? Sadly, however, one has to keep in mind BET’s recent history and what kind of demographic it seems to want to court. You guessed it: ghetto people!

This isn’t a rant on BET itself, that’s another post (surely one the audience has been looking for right here or on a more specifically Black-oriented blog, where the channel is frequently ripped, so let this author not lose focus here with this long set-up). And let me state now that it was among BET’s offerings that featured fairly solid production values (just like First In: Compton, a show you should follow while it’s here). The ugly part is the context one can’t miss, because if you’ve known enough ghetto people, especially males, you’d know they’re downright fascinated by criminals. And BET, having evolved into a station ghetto people turn to, apparently couldn’t resist catering to ghetto interests by airing this series, showing history a lot of ghetto people want to repeat!

Why is the ghetto world so interested in criminals? Ghetto people especially like to keep special edition Blu-Rays (the bootleg DVD just won’t cut it in these cases) of movies like Scarface, Goodfellas, Public Enemies, and American Gangster (no relation to the above) that romanticized the dubious protagonists of these flicks as the best at their respective professions. So when the real deal exists, just like high profile athletes and rappers, everyone wants to be (or be with) that guy. Wantin’ autographs and locks of their hair and sh*t. Dare I say he’s the ghetto person’s picture perfect idea of manhood. “F*ck Warren Buffett and Barack Obama, I wanna be Nicky Barnes or Freeway Ricky Ross!”

He lives that playboy lifestyle, successfully picks up all the freaks, comes and goes as he pleases, drives flashy expensive whips with equally pricey rims on them, holds down really nasty guns (another favorite ghetto toy), regularly orders bottle service at the swankiest clubs in town…he’s the epitome of hood rich. Yet while wrapping their lips around his d*ck, people don’t wrap their heads around what kinda heinous things he might have done to get to that level. And if and when they find out, they’re quick to excuse it! If duke goes to jail, he could have raped 12 kids and smoked their mothers and these idolaters of criminals are urging him to “keep his head up”…as if he’s somehow the victim. As if he’s a political prisoner, targeted for persecution by the powers that be for living and doing righteously. No matter what, the ghetto person has the criminal’s back.

The amounts of futures such criminals have probably destroyed (whether by physically killing people or some law changes due to them) don’t rate to ghetto people. They also don’t allow in their brains that said criminal whose picture is ironed on to their T-shirt would probably just as soon have them whacked if he felt one was in the way of what he wanted. But this congregation is too busy wishing they were as tough and rebellious, too busy living vicariously through the stories of these guys (as well as hating the idea of the criminal’s other enemy, law enforcement) to even consider there’s more than one side to every story. And that all heroes have elements of their lives that would make that proverbial little boy from the Black Sox scandal cry “Say it ain’t so, Joe!”

Author’s note: Yeah, so many topics could have been #50 on the ghetto bucket list, but the hot hand (immediately inspired by the f*ckery one reads over on AllHipHop) wrote this one!

#45: Being ready for trouble when partying

Was watching NBC Nightly News while listening to beats over the weekend of this writing. Lester Holt suddenly mentions that there was a shootout at a bar on a snowy Thursday night in Toledo, Ohio, with fairly robust surveillance footage. Ghetto people know full well that’s not a strange occurrence. Sh*t goes down at bars, clubs, and party functions where ghetto people are in attendance. Ask that idiot C-Murder, he’ll break it down for you.

Hey, the life is hectic. There’s bound to be a bunch of dudes (or thuggish-ruggish lesbians) interested in acting out dormant Mobb Deep fantasies, wishing a fool would so they can dust off the line they’ve waited their whole life to say: “I’ll be right back.” These same folks probably do drive an Ac and keep a Mac in the engine. Probably mack to girls in the function with razor blades in their mouth ready to buck fifty somebody. Well, we at least know that’s how New York party animal thugs rolled back in the 90s…and a lot of fools’ tactics don’t necessarily change with the times…but I digress.

At spots where the ghetto people are in the building, that *ss gotta be prepared. Know the exits (not just for the fight or shootout, but even if the dancefloor gets a little tight). Keep the coat and the purse and your crew close by. Might need to tuck in your chain in case of the party getting robbed (that does happen). Know what you can grab to swing at somebody and knock off a block or two. Don’t stand anywhere near the bouncer (they tend to either get touched or do the touchin’). And have a good first step. Hell, you might even wanna get like homeboy at the 2:41 mark of the video and practice that little stolen base strut he was working to perfection. He’s obviously one ghetto person who likes baseball. This may not be #6, but you really can’t make this stuff up.

#29: Special occasion corner vending

PIC-0131We all know the hood loves hustling…and we all know the hood loves hustlers.  This might be what allows a certain breed of hustlers to turn on a dime.  A brother once told this author that hustling is about finding what the people want or need and providing it for them.

Easily this is what’s going on when those damn tents get set up on every block during weekends, holidays, big concerts, event sports, and such.  Team car flags, the bootleg T-shirt of the month with the name of the ghetto hit song on the front, weird throw rugs, umbrellas when it rains, what have you.  Back after the September 11th attacks happened, these folks were literally on it the very next day with American flags.  One would swear there’s an all-purpose corner hustle warehouse all the street vendors converge on where the aforementioned is available along with the usual oils, incense, and fake Jordans.

I even once saw this Mexican cat selling boxing and martial arts equipment (because ya never know when someone passing by was thinking of training with a heavy bag for their living room).  As said in a past post, it’s a bazaar every single day in the hood.

But by far this author’s favorite is when the people pop up with them funky *ss gift baskets (AKA ghetto grab bags).  Without fail, every Valentine’s, Easter, Father’s Day, and especially Mother’s Day weekend, there they are…sometimes one on all four corners of an intersection.

PIC-0132And what’s in these baskets?  Myriad bullsh*t, basically.  One could probably slap together baskets with Smarties left over from Halloween, used panties, a jar of styling gel, dried-out incense, old condoms they got from the free clinic, bootleg DVDs they’re done watching, a pair of earrings that gave their previous owner keloids in her nose (!), and a stuck-together copy of King magazine, with a bed of dead grass clipped from their front yard, wrapped up in a see-thru trash bag and make a killing.

Since no two are alike, surely there’s some ghetto woman tacky enough to have a basket collection in her house akin to some nerdy fanboy who collects Transformers. Probably wants the hypothetical gift basket I just described.  And some shrew(d) of a hustler was just given the idea to sell it to her.

Hell, there’s probably some cornball parent who bought one to stash away for the daughter’s prom gift…

#25: Selling you their rap CD

On avenues from Melrose to Myrtle, you’ve likely participated in the following exchange:

“Do you like Hip-Hop?”
“For you? No.”

Sad and mean, but after so much of the the exact same approach from these rappers wanting you to take a flier on them all at random, you develop a heart that pumps used motor oil.

Trust, Stuff Ghetto People Like does not believe in knocking hustles, just pointing out what goes down when it comes to some hustles, and how wild the game really is. Ghetto people try the hard sell on you con frecuencia, taking the darndest folks by surprise. It can sound like they’re practicing on you for the day they’re actually serious about getting a sale or two.

Oftentimes the spiel is fired at probably the most inappropriate moment of all: on company time. Surely you thought it was weird to be hit up about buying a rap album by a security guard, or the guy changing your oil at Jiffy Lube, or a bank teller (e-mail that I’m lyin’!), or dude that is taking your order at McDonalds. Get a $5 drink coaster with your Big Mac Value Pack!

It’s not totally a bad thing. Some of the best acts in the Hip-Hop era got their careers off the ground by flipping their music on the streets (see Too Short, Showbiz & AG, Nas, countless cats down South). The thing is way too many guys do it these days, from the Woods of Ingle to the Woods of Holly, and they’re annoying anymore. Cats don’t even stand out, looking exactly like the dude next to ’em selling incense. (They probably came together! Take blunt breaks with one another and the whole deal.)

It’s as if no one tries to get signed, they’re selling the demo right to the consumer, unmixed, unmastered. And often it isn’t even packaged in an appealing way that would fit in next to the Gang Starr and Lil Wayne on your rack. Quite likely it’s a sweaty envelope with folded corners from sitting in the pocket of homeboy’s North Face for days.

Listen up, MCs, if you got a product you reeeeally believe in, if you’re a real artist, and you aren’t just someone hitting a lick like so many other rap hucksters (many of whom actually get radio spins on Power/Hot/The Beat in your town right now), get your marketing bars up, find better and more respectful ways to demonstrate that the product is dope. Take it to college radio. Book some shows opening for someone established. Do your cuts at open mics with your albums handy. Put some in the hands of a few bar and club DJs. Hell, sell it on Myspace. Failing all that, at least have it bumping out the car trunk or in a boom box. Anything but trying to push it on someone unheard, because you may as well be panhandling. Those who know this author know I’m not a big fan of panhandlers. And don’t you dare pass me those sweaty, lice- and ear wax- ridden headphones, because I’m likely to slap them to the ground.

Yep, even in front of my evening date.

#24: Doing hair

Meet your average ghetto female, and there’s a 70% chance she has one of two occupations.  Doing hair, and singing.  Since these girls never really sing unless their song happens to come on 106 and Park while they’re in the shower, we’ll focus on the doing hair part.

How can a ghetto female from 17-70 not get her thalers up on any given Saturday?  Chicks always want their coiff did up, to get ready for the club, chu’uch, court, that hot date with the next sugar daddy, er, baby daddy, er potential deadbeat dad, whatever.  (Can’t forget the dudes that want the braids, rows, or “dreads” hooked up, but let’s not lose focus here.)  Rent or the car note is due, or the kids gotta eat, or old girl wants to stack to get a new pair of heels?  Do a couple of heads and be good to go.  Hey, why let the semester in cosmetology up under nosy loudmouth chickenheads and gay guys go to waste?

In some cases, all that skilled living room stylist has to do is show up with her hands ready to make magic, as it’s often the client’s responsibility to hit the Koreans up for all the supplies. Otherwise, she might already have that blackened pressing comb that doesn’t even require a dedicated stove, as she only needs to throw it on the range.  And she can take her time, as girls are always prepared to be around all damn day to get it done (and some styles still require that lucky girl to come back the next day).  The stylist can watch her shows, talk about the latest neighborhood highlights, smoke a tree or two, cuss her boyfriend out on the phone, smack the kids up for spilling the quarter waters on the originally white carpet and all that.  Might even dance a little.  The client is fully entertained for the trouble, and the stylist will still get paid, lest the client wants water thrown on her dome (you know the ghetto girls hate to get their hair wet) or the fake hair yanked clean out.

Some of these ladies who do hair for the hustle are able to parlay it into renting a booth at virtually any beauty shop in the hood, secure that the buzzer-activated iron door will keep the clients in and the ex-boyfriends out.  (Some even ban children!  Great quick vacation.)  And there’s plenty of these shops to choose from, as some streets have them lined up two to four in a row on the same block.  Veterans of visiting Crenshaw Blvd. in Los Angeles know what this author speaks.

It’s a seller’s market.

#23: Nicknames

We all know one or more of the following:  A Ray Ray.  A Pooky.  A Peanut.  Peaches.  Little Man.  Man Man.  Boobie.  Sleepy.  Kisses.  Smoke (who most likely got them trees on deck). Tiny for some big dude. If you’re Mexican, a Joker or Thumper…and so on and so forth.

A trip to any hood yields a roll call that reads like a Dick Tracy strip.  We could go on forever, but the point is pretty much made.  

Ghetto people.  Have a thing.  For childish.  Douchey.  Nicknames.

They originate from everywhere.  One doubled-up syllable from the real name.  Cartoon characters.  What they eat or drink.  What they got caught doing when they were a kid (ya know, that story you wish they wouldn’t tell in mixed company).  Where there’s a will to manifest a new ghetto nickname, there’s a way.  And once that nickname comes out, one is stuck with it in the ghetto for-EVER.  Will never live it down, no matter what.

Sometimes, the ghetto person isn’t mad at it, but embraces it, makes it their badge of honor.  They may tag the streets with it.  Sometimes they bang or slang with it.  Sometimes it becomes their rap name.  Or that’s what they want the girls to call ’em.  This would explain the obsession with NBA players wanting to be known as other than their real names, because they are usually ghetto their got-damn selves, and they can’t wait for that name to grace their new shoe line that the hood will queue up for.  Ghetto nickname translated into brand loyalty!

There will be females all of 30+ years old seriously wanting someone to call them Lil Mama or Chocolate, dressing exactly like what their name sounds like they should be doing:  stripping or some other sex-based profession (even though their body is burnt out after 5 children before 23).

And oh yeah, Little and Lil (somehow the apostrophe disappeared) is but one of many oft-used prefixes and suffixes used for such nicks, along with Big, Boy/Boi, Young/Yung, Girl/Gurl, Ms., One, Loc, and Dog.   Because ya gotta make it that much more fabulous!

#22: NFL and NBA players

Guys wanna be them, girls wanna be with them…for the money and fame anyway.

The NFL or NBA player is the man in the ghetto.

Why not, they live the life!  They play great sports, they wear wild hair (unless they’re balding, then it’s HeadBlade time), they flaunt all the attitude they want, they get instant attention, they make it rain at strip clubs, they get shoes and clothes and video games named after them every year, they make up celebration dances after scoring, they can afford bricks of weed and custom stash spots in their house(s) and car(s) to put it in, they get DUI and assault and gun raps and can afford the lawyer(s) to get off easy with, they knock up multiple women from all walks of life while managing to stay happily married, and more!  And it’s all covered by Sportscenter, TMZ, and the papers for the world to know that they keep it real.  Commit any and all ghetto shenanigans this side of homicide and still have your job in most cases (because they need you, so you take advantage of it while you can).  What’s not to like?

And their boys get a piece of the action too (ain’t no fun if the homies can’t have none).  There are whole hoods that have a vested interest in one player, and that particular player begins loving every minute of it the minute he goes on AAU tours and starts being lavished, pampered, and spoiled with perks and praise from people ready to cash in on draft day years down the line (as early as upon graduating high school–or not–in the basketball player’s case, up until Andrew Bynum).  Is it any wonder why so many of these athletes actually end up broke, necessitating the big contracts they go after (or Dancing With The Stars when they retire)?  Maybe if they went to college just one year longer, or at all…

Even though you can wear gold chains and have a longer career where you get paid potentially waaaay more with less risk of destroying your body in baseball (if you don’t roid up!), it makes no sense for a ghetto person to aspire to something another ghetto person won’t see (except on throwback jerseys), because street cred is of the utmost importance.  Never mind the platform given to them by Jim Brown, Jackie Robinson, Arthur Ashe and others to do even bigger things. Never mind even tragic stories like Maurice Clarett, Leon Smith, and Len Bias.  Money, hoes, and clothes, all a ghetto person knows.