Generation X Sold Out Cobain and Biggie
However, his music helped influence his high school friend and collaborator Jay-Z and paid for his Christopher Wallace Foundation, which raises money for school equipment and supplies. Numerous rappers cite him as an influence, but there is perhaps no greater testament to his legacy than today's Brooklyn and Clinton Hill in particular. As director Nelson George shows so vividly in his 2012 documentary Brooklyn Boheme, Wallace was a part of the same Brooklyn artistic renaissance that spawned Spike Lee, Chris Rock, Saul Williams, Branford Marsalis, Toshi Reagon, Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu and other notable performers and creators.
Wallace, however, was the neighborhood's evangelist. By showing Brooklyn an unending stream of love and turning "Where Brooklyn At?" into his calling card, Wallace helped make the world curious about the place that created him and, by the end of the '90s, sent a generation that grew up on his music to claim it as their home. While the influx was nothing new -- former Husker Du frontman Bob Mould mentions using Williamsburg as a base of operations for solo projects and his band sugar in the late-'80s and early '90s in his autobiography See A Little Light -- Wallace helped open up Brooklyn far beyond the East River and made it a place that former suburbanites would consider raising a family in.
This, of course, has its drawbacks as well. Within the last decade, Clinton Hill has undergone gentrification and a demographic shift that turned a neighborhood that was 80% black into one where blacks are less than 40% of the population. There are shops and restaurants, but rents have risen and families have been priced out. The change has been so drastic that the petition by Clinton Hill resident LeRoy McCarthy to co-name the intersection of St. James Place and Fulton Street -- the site of Wallace's childhood home -- "Christopher Wallace Way" was denied immediately by the local community board. Member Lucy Koteen was especially opposed to the measure.
"He started selling drugs at 12, he was a school dropout at 17, he was arrested for drugs and weapons charge, he was arrested for parole violations, he was arrested in North Carolina for crack cocaine, in 1996 he was again arrested for assault, he had a violent death and physically the man is not exactly a role model for youth," she said, according to DNAInfo. "I don't see how this guy was a role model and frankly it offends me."Apart from drugs, violence and Wallace's heft, board member Kenn Lowy didn't like the fact that Wallace used derogatory names for women in his songs. Meanwhile, McCarthy's petition in Wallace's favor included letters of support from two local churches, a mosque, a nearby block association and several local businesses. Councilwoman Letitia James can still approve the co-naming, but she's a candidate for public advocate and has steered clear of the debate thus far. It's been noted that another rapper once accused of using misogynist lyrics, deceased Beastie Boys member Adam "MCA" Yauch, has a Brooklyn park named after him. Meanwhile, Ramones singer Joey Ramone -- who once sang songs including Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue and You're Gonna Kill That Girl -- has a block on East 2nd Street in Manhattan named after him.
Culture of the DamnedBut still the cry goes out: What about the children? We could ask how often those same nervous residents explain to children why their neighborhood is named Clinton Hill -- hint, the end result is Erie Canal-building former New York Governor DeWitt Clinton -- or why they would have trouble explaining to those children who the second name on a street sign was. These are children who will never call Sixth Avenue "The Avenue of The Americas," but they must be shielded from a rapper who used to eat hot dogs at the Gray's Papaya on that particular thoroughfare. Why? Because they're Generation X and they've basically surrendered. The generation that grew up dancing on bars and tables Julia Styles-style to Hypnotize and used Nirvana albums to explore a world beyond the norms their parents established for them are now going to call Biggie a very, very bad man who shouldn't have existed and insist that Kurt Cobain was just a fun-loving guy who was part of their rock 'n' roll fantasy. They have kids to take to the brewpub now, they have CDs to hide in embarrassment and they have a little revisionist history to write in their lives. "No Emma, put that 2Pac CD down -- he was a bad man. Now who wants to dance to Aeroplane Over The Sea again?"
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