Above the Ruckus

To say that I learned a lot while researching for this month’s Naked Girls Reading is an understatement.  There are SO MANY directions that you can go in under the topic  of hip hop.  The night was filled with lyrics, bios, instructions on how to rap, and even a break dancing tutorial!!  It was, yet again, another epic evening.  One book that I read from was The Tao of Wu by The RZA.

First of all, I’m going to start off by telling you to go and get this book – NOW!  Even if you’re not a fan of hip hop or have never heard of Wu-Tang Clan (which I really hope you have…) this book is a necessity.  It is as entertaining as it is influential.  RZA is not only the chief producer of Wu and a prominent figure in hip hop, but also a rapper, author, director, screenwriter, and actor that also has the amazing talent of being able to play several different instruments beautifully.  Phew!!  That’s quite a list!  In other words, this man is incredible. 

The Tao of Wu is a philosophical perspective on life that was created by blending spirituality, hip hop culture, and the lessons learned along the way from living in the Staten Island projects to gaining international fame.  I had such a difficult time narrowing down what I wanted to read from this book because it is all quite profound.  I ended up, spur of the moment, choosing to read about Gangsta Chi at Naked Girls.  Being that there was so much from this book that I wanted to share, I figured I’d leave another segment here for you to enjoy.  But, seriously, after you read this, go and buy this book!

Wit – A Prison Parable of Verbal Kung Fu

The first word in one of Wu-Tang’s acronyms is witty:  Witty Unpredictable Talent and Natural Game.  That’s because wit is a form of wisdom, a form that deflects and absorbs, a kind that can save your life.  I learned this lesson during a card game in jail.

We were playing spades, and in jail spades is a very serious game.  You deal thirteen cards to each player, and each team tries to win the most “books”.  You and your partner use strategy and give subtle hints to each other, so it actually gets mad complex and psychological for such a simple game.  On top of that, in prison you play for prison stakes – cigarettes, food, whatever –  so the stakes are higher than they are outside.

In this one game, me and my partner were playing two guys for our breakfast.  I was probably about three days in, eighteen or nineteen years old – young, skinny, and new.  My partner, Mike, was a muscular giant who had been in for a while.  He was the kind of nigga you did not want to fuck with – everyone was afraid of Big Mike.

At first Big Mike and I were playing and communicating with each other well.  I’m a good player, and we were doing some work on these other guys; we were busting some ass.  But I made a crucial mistake because I didn’t know my partner well enough.  In a way I lacked the wisdom for this particular game.  Our bet was two-for-ten, which is a do-or-die bet.  If you make it, you win the game, if you miss, you lose the game – all in a single hand.

Mike threw me a signal that I didn’t read.  And this on time, on the game-winning hand, I blew it.  My mistake led to us losing our hand, our game, and our breakfast.  This was bad.

Mike jumped up and got like an animal.  “Motherfuckin’ Slim, why the fuck didn’t you play the diamonds?”  He came at me and – boom – it was about to be me and him.

I didn’t know what to do- I almost came with the violence back at him.  But instead of bringing it, I though of kung fu.  I got loud and flipped it.

I yelled, “Man, fuck them bitchass niggas, Mike.  We gon’ get those niggas next time!”

In a second, I deflected the beef to the other guys who beat us and reestablished myself as being on Mike’s side.  We both lost, we were both going to go hungry, and Mike wanted to put his hands on me – but I deflected it.

And it worked.  Suddenly, Mike chimed in “Yeah!  Fuck y’all bitchass niggas, we gon’ get y’all niggas next time.”  And he gave me a pound.  It was a close call.  I was saved by wit and wisdom.  It’s like Bruce Lee said: “I practice the art of fighting without fighting.”  He also said, “You don’t have to fight the giant every time.”

~Greta Layne

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~ by Greta Layne on July 23, 2011.

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