Ages ago, 2002 to be exact, I had the opportunity to review U Have the Right, a remarkable recording from HSRA (High School for the Recording Arts), Another LevelRecords and Forward Recordings. Financed in the main by Cornerstone (www.cornerstonemn.org), the Minnesota Lynx and Verizon Wireless, it hit me square between the eyes with something for which I was not the least bit ready. Rape, prevalent as it is among adults, had indeed made an impression, prompting me to write commentaries.
For some reason, though, teen rape hadn’t crossed my mind until this disc landed on my desk. I guess, walking down the street, I just looked at adolescents, saw boys bristling with brash energy, fully convinced they run the world, kept going and, by the time I hit the corner, had my mind on something else.
Similarly, I glanced at the fast-tail young females, buoyant in barely enough clothes, smiling bright, convinced they run the world, kept going and, by the time I hit the corner, had my mind on something else. Not anymore.
Since first listening to U Have the Right, those images haven’t seemed the same. Which is a damned shame, because even if you’re not one of the Brady Bunch, there should still be some smattering of innocence left in teenage years. Reality being what it is, U Have the Right sounds a stunning wake-up call to a problem about which something has to be done. After all, adolescents who avoid or escape rape stand a decent chance of not growing up to be adults for whom rape is not a fact of life.
Importantly, U Have the Right, a spoken word CD, is written and performed by teens. A perspective for which there is no substitute.
Take “It Ain’t Right,” chilling verse by Mia R. set to ethereal music by St. Nick, depicting a young woman narrowly escaping rape who, in the aftermath, is branded a, shall we say, gardening implement by the time he’s done violating her reputation in school and around town.
“Nobody believed me/I felt so alone/I didn’t even feel right laying down in my own home/Emotional scratches and bruises/bled more from my heart and soul/Than my body and face.” Truly, yes, girls amazed by their power of physical allure, crazy about getting attention, are apt to find themselves in awkward, one-on-one situations on which they didn’t count, with which they’re way too inexperienced to reckon.
None of which turns her from a human being into free meat, rendering him unaccountable for his actions. “Because I let him touch, kiss, hold and convince/It wasn’t considered unwanted force/But when I said/Stop!/Hold up!/He held me down with the weight of a horse.”
Mom’s key hit the door lock at the critical moment, and he ran out the back. “When a women says no/she means no.” Which goes for every part in the process. May not be fun to get blocked at the last minute, but that’s the way it goes.
“Sincere Apology” by Lil’ Magic, written with Mia R., flips the script, giving us a young blood who did make the girl give him some — and wound up in prison.
The writing cuts cold to the bone. The music is subtle. The performances are nuanced, powerful. The production values are sterling. And the message hits home. Hard.
To this day, I once in a while think back on U Have the Right. You’d think a genre The Last Poets launched in the late ’70s would have a stronger legacy of social progress than this sorry lot of what’s called rap and hip hop.
You’d think a joint like U Have the Right would’ve made the charts instead of immediately being consigned to obscurity. Well, sadly enough, you’d be clueless as me.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.