This is an amazing piece written by a Teach for America teacher working in New Orleans. One of the most captivating pieces of writing I’ve come across in a long time. Enjoy.
I WILL REMAIN EVER FAITHFUL by David Ramsey, How Lil Wayne Helped Me Survive My First Year of Teaching in New Orleans
Originally written for OXFORD AMERICAN: THE SOUTHERN MAGAZINE FOR GOOD WRITING.
Complex magazine: What do you listen to these days?
Lil Wayne: Me! All day, all me.
2. Like a white person, with blue veins
In my first few weeks teaching in New Orleans’ Recovery School District, these were the questions I heard the most from my students:
1) “I gotta use it.” (This one might sound like a statement, but it’s a request—May I use the bathroom?)
2) “You got an ol’ lady?” (the penultimate vowel stretched, lasciviously, as far as it’ll go).
3) “Where you from?”
4) “You listen to that Weezy?”
I knew that third question was coming. Like many RSD teachers, I was new, and white, and from out of town. It was the fourth question, however, that seemed to interest my students the most. Dwayne Carter, aka Lil Wayne, aka Weezy F. Baby, was in the midst of becoming the year’s biggest rapper, and among the black teenagers that made up my student population, fandom had reached a near-Beatlemania pitch. More than ninety percent of my students cited Lil Wayne on the “Favorite Music” question on the survey I gave them; about half of them repeated the answer on “Favorite Things to Do.”
For some of my students, the questions Where are you from? and Do you listen to Lil Wayne? were close to interchangeable. Their shared currency—as much as neighborhoods or food or slang or trauma—was the stoned musings of Weezy F. Baby.
The answer was, sometimes, yes, I did listen to Lil Wayne. Despite his ubiquitous success, my students were shocked.
“Do you have the mix tapes?” asked Michael, a sixteen-year-old ninth grader. “It’s all about the mix tapes.”
The following day, he had a stack of CDs for me. Version this, volume that, or no label at all.
And that’s just about all I listened to for the rest of the year.