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The Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, an organization dedicated to using rap to better the world, is having a workshop in Houston during Super Bowl week.
The theme of the conference, held in conjunction with Texas Southern University, is "Taking Back Responsibility: Youth, Economic and Political Empowerment."
Speakers will feature rappers who focus on sending a positive message, like Wyclef Jean and Jurassic 5. You would think. Actually, the lineup is heavy on the big-name gangstas in town for the game, the guys who want some do-gooder points for putting in an appearance even while making money by preaching a whole nother lifestyle, like Scarface and Busta Rhymes.
Hair Balls sought clarity from Terry Hobbs, who is coordinating the event for Sucka-Free Records.
Q. You're going to use hip-hop as a way of communicating to youth and to advocate responsibility.
A. That's correct.
Q. There's a lyric from P. Diddy that goes, "Got nice watches, nice cars, nice bitches and rings / Guess it's safe to say a nigga like me got nice things." What's the message there, as far as responsibility?
A. I'll need to refer you to our PR person Some of these rappers, I'm not familiar with their lyrics so she should be the one that's more informed.
That led us to Linda Brown, a local PR specialist handling the event's publicity. We asked about a Scarface rap.
Q. It's "So die, muthafuckas, die muthafuckas, die, die / I ain't no muthafuckin' good guy, dog / And I don't give no good-guy damn about none of y'all." The empowerment, then, is in the repetition of "muthafucka," which is representative of what?
A. You'd have to ask Scarface that, he's the one that wrote the lyric Are you actually -- is this on the record?
Q. Here's one from Master P--
A. You don't have to go through reading the lyrics of the artists I can't speak to what the intentions are of the various artists.
Q. So you can't tell me what "I piss on your porch / Shit in your house" means?
A. I sure cannot.
Answers, we guess, must await the actual summit.
So a female member of the Hair Balls research team is waiting when the new Metro light rail train pulls into the station. The doors open, and she's informed by the riders inside that she'll have to wait for the next one because this train is "too crowded." Which she -- having seen subways in World-Class Cities like New York -- knows is not even remotely true, so she shoulders her way on.
All of which leads to the question, do Houstonians know the first thing about how to act on a mass-transit train?
Metro says there's plenty of room, but actually chances are good you'll be knocking knees with the person across the bench. And studiously trying to pretend your knees haven't actually knocked.
"Everyone has their own idea of what their personal space is, and in a subway your personal space has to be very small," says Jeanne Hamilton of www.etiquettehell.com. "Men especially can't have their hands in certain places where you can bump into people."
In Japan, of course, the act of getting off by rubbing up against women in subways is legendary. In Houston, we're guessing it will turn out to be a no-no.
But what if you're a woman on a rush-hour train, and you have to decide whether that guy close behind is carrying a roll of Certs or something else?
Move away. "Sometimes you can't help it if it's crowded -- you just hold your breath and wait to get off," says author and "Etiquette Grrl" Honore Ervin (without even noting, Beavis-ly, that she just said "get off"). "But if it gets creepy or uncomfortable, move."
Not to mention that if you're talking about something sized like a pack of Certs, he's probably not Mr. Right anyway.
Eye contact is also a big faux pas. "In New York, it's never a good thing -- maybe people are friendlier in Houston, I don't know," Ervin says.
We wouldn't bet on it. The accompanying chart, we hope, will serve a city striving for World Class-ness.
Another Sports Legend
Adding to the Super Bowl hype, the Houston Chronicle has been printing cards commemorating local "sports legends" to be honored in special ceremonies. Hair Balls is happy to present more of our own sports legends overlooked by the Chron:
Vernon Maxwell, guard, Rockets, 1990-1995. "Mad Max" holds the Rockets' team records for most three-pointers made, most times spitting at someone during a game and most rows climbed over (11) in order to punch a fan. *Career highlights: When a 1994 home playoff game didn't sell out, told reporters, "Our fans are the worst To hell with them." Demonstrated impressive versatility that year by targeting a referee with both chewing gum and a cup of ice after an ejection. Arrested for brawls in two Richmond Strip bars and one in San Antonio. When a prosecutor told him he couldn't use a cell phone during a court hearing, he called her a "bitch" and flipped her the finger. Served time for a pot possession conviction and was fined $1,500 for carrying a concealed weapon in a Luby's Cafeteria parking lot. *Honors: Was one of 12 finalists for Rockets' Mr. Congeniality after getting in fights with two different teammates. Nominated for Ethicist of the Year in 1994 when, upon being ordered to apologize to Houston's children for the Luby's incident (and what the hell is up with that, anyway?), said, "I want all the kids to know they shouldn't carry guns." *Moment to remember: Upon his arrest for the concealed weapon, said authorities were harassing him because "I'm a black man making a lot of money in Texas" (and eating at Luby's) and "I'll bet 80 percent of the people in Houston ride around with pistols in their car."