I HAVE NO problem with
hip-hop culture. I grew up in it, I was a part of it, and as they found out at my 25th high school reunion, I can still bust a rhyme when I have to.
Because hip-hop played such an important role in my growth as a young man, I'm always pleased when I turn on NPR or log onto YouTube and find that it's gone worldwide. I've heard rap from Ukraine, Pakistan, Ghana and Russia. I've seen Korean break dancers doing moves I saw as a kid. I've watched 1980s clothing styles come back with a vengeance. I've seen what we started in the streets of cities like New York and Philadelphia become big business.
That's as it should be. At its best, hip-hop is lyrical virtuosity, rage against oppression, and music that gives voice to the voiceless. That's why good hip-hop will always be a powerful tool, and that's why I'm writing this column. I need to tell all the young men who love hip-hop like I do to do us all a favor. Pull your pants up.
I know you think that showing your butt is the ultimate anti-establishment statement. I know you think that what you saw on that rap video was real life. I know you think I'm just an old fuddy-duddy whose old-school values have no place in modern society.
But as an old head, I feel that it's my duty to tell you that your drawers are showing, and to give you the kind of advice that might help you to rectify the problem. Since summer is rapidly approaching, and you're likely to pull your pants down even more, I figured I'd go beyond telling you it looks nasty, and give you 10 practical reasons to comply.
No. 10. Your butt stinks. I know this seems brash and a bit presumptuous, but scientific research has shown that certain areas of the body emanate unpleasant aromas. Your butt is one such area. Doesn't it make sense to cover it?
No. 9. Fight or flight. Sometimes situations arise that force us to choose between these two very basic survival instincts. I've seen the way you walk when your pants are down. How will you be able to defend yourself if you can't move your legs? Even worse, if a bomb goes off, how will you run?
No. 8. Women. They think you look stupid. 'Nuff said.
No. 7. Public seating. If the only thing between you and that subway seat is a millimeter-thick pair of Tommy Hilfiger underwear, why would anyone want to sit there after you get up?
No. 6. Your drawers are dirty. Trust me, this is as uncomfortable for me as it is for you, but I've noticed, quite unintentionally I might add, that you've worn that same pair of underwear for three days straight. How did I notice, you ask? Your pants were down.
No. 5. The economy. Maybe you haven't heard, but the economy is coming back. Isn't it high time you went out and got a job? Yes? Good. All you have to do is pull your pants up.
No. 4. My kids. I'm trying to raise them right. That means exposing them to very few sightings of grown men's butts. Can you help a brotha out?
No. 3. Your kids. They'd probably have an easier time respecting you if they couldn't see the Donald Duck designs on your underwear. How to fix it? You guessed it. Pull your pants up.
No. 2. Your mom. I know she used to dress you funny when you were coming up, but do you have to carry on the tradition?
And the No 1. reason to pull your pants up: Hip-hop. If you love it as much as you say you do, shouldn't you represent it a little better than that?
Solomon Jones will read from and sign his novels and columns at the Oak Lane branch of the Free Library, 6614 N.12th St., beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. For more information, call 215-685-2848.
Solomon Jones' column appears every Saturday. He can be reached at