Friday, April 10, 2009

Rhythm Nation

Deep into the comments on Ta-Nehisi's post about where colored folks get all that rhythm, one of regulars wonders "isn't it possible that black people, generally speaking, are just better dancers than white people? Maybe it's just the way it's been ingrained in me, but black people really DO seem to have better rhythm."

In general, I try not to indulge in this line of thought. Because if black people, as a whole, are better than whites at dancing, then it follows that we must be worse than whites at something.

Like thinking. Or speaking. Or reading.

You get the idea.

But this isn't the time for that. TNC, maybe with tongue in cheek, strikes upon an interesting theory:

Dude, do you know how this happens? When you're like two, at family dinners, the old folks drag out the kids and then make them dance. Seriously, mo-fos can sometimes keep a beat before they can talk--or around the same time. If I took a kid from Helsinki and raised him like that, he'd be able to dance too. It's tragic and hilarious all at once. And so, ultimately, just human.
In my personal experience, there may be something to this - or not.

Before I was old enough to know any better, my mother would lead my aunts or uncles or her friends into my bedroom, put Janet Jackson's "Control" on the record player and encourage me to bust a move. This happened a lot.

But even with all that experience, I'm something of a mediocre dancer today. I can keep a beat. I can summon a little rhythm. I once could do the Kid N' Play and Hammer and Running Man and the Cabbage Patch with ease. I won't embarrass the First Lady at parties or nightclubs.

Anything else, and I'm drifting out of my lane.

All that said, here's something that my mother turned to whenever she wanted a little sweetfeet from the kid. Young and dumb doesn't even begin to describe me.

Post-script: From 1984 to 1993, no woman had a hold on my heart and prepubescent imagination like Janet. Ms. Jackson, since I was nasty.


"Nasty" Jack T. said...

"Before I was old enough to know any better, my mother would lead my aunts or uncles or her friends into my bedroom, put Janet Jackson's "Control" on the record player and encourage me to bust a move. This happened a lot."

Preach. At least your mom would put on music that was cool at the time. My parents would put on Motown and Earth, Wind & Fire. I know what you're thinking: Motown's cool. And it is. I love it to this day, and experiences like are a big reason why. But still, YOU try poppin' and lockin' to Marvin & Tammy.

As for your current dancing ability, I can completely relate. You know where I shine? Weddings. Because you can't do too much at a wedding without embarassing yourself in front of someone's Great Aunt (usually). Any venue where you're supposed to show out, and I'm out of my league. I have a few basic moves, but after that it gets bad. Really bad.

Also, Ms. Jackson in the "Black Cat" video? Oh, man.

Jack T. said...

P.S. After a few years of complaining, we (myself and some cousins) finally got mom and dad to upgrade to Bobby Brown's "Don't Be Cruel." Not exactly a musical upgrade, but a brotha needed something with a harder backbeat. You can't do The Worm to "You Can't Hurry Love."

blackink said...

Lol. The "Worm"? "Don't Be Cruel"?

Man, let me tell you, I'm so glad that I was too old for that nonsense by the time Bobby Brown came around. I just know my mama would have had me dancing to "My Prerogative" or something. She thought Bobby Brown was the reincarnation of James Brown, when it came to dancing ability.

And I have no clue how you'd get your boogie on to the Elements. I mean, I really can't call that one. You have more talent than you think, if you pulled that one off.

As for Janet, don't get me started. Two videos for me: "If" and "Anytime, Anyplace." Those damn near pulled me through puberty.

avery said...

i thought janet was cute until 'love will never do withut you.' at that point, it was a new game. i thought i was going to suffocate right there on the living room floor.

Jack T. said...

"Anytime, Anyplace" is EPIC. The lyrics are far more suggestive then she should have been able to get away with. She gets me right about here:

I can feel your hands
Moving up my thighs
Skirt around my waist
Wall against my face

I was barely a teenager when this came out. When I figured out what she might have been doing for the wall to be her face, well, let's just say life was never the same.

avery said...

you know janet's quiet-is-kept killer? The Body That Loves You. the people SWEAR by that song.

blackink said...

Yo, what album is that one on? I'm not sure I've ever heard that one.

But you know what else is a certified babymaker? 24Play. At least the first verse.

avery said...

it's on 'janet,' right before 'any time, any place.

Jack T. said...

BI, there's a post in this conversation somewhere. Songs to Seduce Your Man To or somethin'.

blackink said...

@AT: Will be downloading that one tonight. Thanks much.

@Jack: You already know. I had been thinking along those lines because it's spring, too.

You know how it goes.

avery said...

i'm in on that playlist action

blackink said...

Working on mine now. This is sort of off the top of the dome. By all means, I'm taking suggestions.

Jack T. said...

Go where the groove takes you, BI. I'd like to see what you and AT come up with. I have an ongoing argument with some female former classmates about certain artists having a power over men, particularly men of color. We've already discussed Janet (Ms. Jackson, because...well you know by now).

maria said...

the image of you dancing is very sweet, joel. nice that you have such good memories of your childhood.

i wonder if there had been any men dancing would you have picked up a better style?

btw--good for you in not dancing if you are not good at it. there are SO MANY MEN who are an embarrassment to be with because they are clueless about this. thankfully, at least one of them is no longer my problem. :-)