With (White) Friends Like These…
Let’s try a little experiment here. Being that, yes, I'm White, and yes, I love hip-hop, the new for-the-laughs single from Miami artist Deuce Poppi, "My White Friends," immediately intrigues me. As an actual record, it's far from awful; there's a certain inconspicuous cleverness at hand, an undeniable sense of fun and a nice charm that makes the song genuinely feel like a thumbs-up to "White friends." I can't help but wonder, though, about the song's seen-them-all-before stereotypes. It’s not as bad as that Poindexter at the end of R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)” video, who busted those no-rhythm moves—damn, I wanted to snuff that guy.
Today’s experiment—to get to the damn point already—is to keep "My White Friends" playing in the background as I scribble random, instant thoughts. A stream of consciousness, channeled through barely-mediocre rap music. Sigmund Freud would most likely glance at me side-eyed, but whatever—his soul has rested in peace for decades now. And I don't see any Ouija boards in the vicinity. It’s not that “My White Friends” offends me; I’m aware that Deuce Poppi is celebrating, not insulting (right?). There’s just been a reaction to the song/video that I can’t shake, and I’m here to work it out. One way or another.
“My White Friends”
For disclosure's sake, spending more than 10 minutes analyzing Deuce Poppi's "My White Friends" feels about nine-and-a-half too long, yet, nonetheless, I've watched the video a few times in a row at this point. Laughed at every obvious joke, each tired gag (sight and lyrical). Taken as an impetus for shits and giggles, the song is harmless; not as tongue-in-cheek as Afroman's "Because I Got High," but in the same class of goofy, disposable hip-hop.
The other night, as a sort of preamble to the experiment, I showed the clip to a couple of friends (one of them Black, the other Dominican), and both had a nice chuckle or three. One of them said, "That's so funny because it's so true." To which I replied, "Really? Am I missing something? I'm White, and I've never been to one party like that."
Not that I wouldn't want to, though.
Being a Jersey lifer with years of Jersey Shore experience brings an inherent attraction to fake-tanned girls that emphasize the ends of sentences ("Are you serious?") and willingly let guidos treat them like dirt. I think it's some sort of irresistible kinetic force that incubates in the brain the second your yellow-license-plated ride turns onto the Garden State Parkway. Deuce Poppi would have a field day down at the Jersey Shore, actually. He'd be able to shoot My White Friends: The Movie on a shoestring budget; all he'd have to do is spit a few half-assed bars and the girls would flock to him like bugs to light.
In that Jersey Shore context, "My White Friends" is strangely accurate, an all-too-true examination of a specific type of White person disguised as a rap video. I have this one friend, right, who every once in a while is called a “Bizarro Jay-Z” (Seinfeld heads know what I’m talking about; a “bizarro” is a dead ringer looks-wise).
Anyway, Bizarro Hov has a one-track-mind, and it's focused on blonde-haired females. And, the kicker is, he slays them on a routine basis. That seems to be a subtext that Deuce Poppi's song is tapping into, whether Mr. Poppi himself realizes it or not. If this video had an unrated cut, you'd probably see Poppi in bed with three White chicks (no Wayans), because, frankly, that does happen. I've seen the preface of it many times (by "preface" I mean that I've seen the kid enter a room with more than one Becky, and then naturally went about my business).
I wonder, if Asher Roth (or someone of his natural born ilk) were to put out "My Black Friends," what caliber of shitstorm would erupt? A guy like me, who is fortunate enough to have friends of all races and creeds, would relate to the sentiment in a way, but I'd still understand the bad-look-ness of the track. That's just the layout of the land, the set rules of the game.
"My White Friends" is acceptable, and easy to laugh at for a White fella such as myself. The people I hang out with and the parties I crash have little in common with the characters and events in Deuce Poppi's video, and that's fine. Certain things just can’t (and shouldn’t) be done, like Jay Leno or David Letterman going too “hard” at President Obama.
Which seems to play into how I'm regularly pardoned from jokes about White folks spoken in my presence; the jokesters look at me matter-of-factly and say, "Oh, you're not really White, so don't worry about it." I must've heard that line a good 50 (maybe more) times in my life, and the aftermath is always the same—I’m left perplexed. How am I supposed to react? I laugh, of course, because I get the point, but is that being said at my expense or as a compliment? Laughing with me, or at me?
I don't speak in slang, or dress like I'm "trying too hard"; I shop at Old Navy, for crying out loud, and rock a petticoat often in the winter. "You're not really White" comes with the territory when you're the only White guy in your crew, the one they nicknamed "Buckwhite," a play-off of Little Rascal Buckwheat (one of that troop’s two Black kids). And, yes, I really was given that moniker back in college.
If Deuce Poppi were to kick it with me in Hoboken one Saturday night, would this song still apply? Would he want to rewrite the lyrics, having seen a whole other side of the White game? Or would your boy Deuce ask me why I'm investing so much mental energy into his dumbass gimmick of a single? “Damn, man, I didn’t even think this much about it.” I’m sure he would, though we’d no doubt settle the discrepancy over a mean game of beer pong, bro. Or a Jager-bomb or two. —Matt Barone