1 hour 20 min (20 tracks)
Young, dumb, and full of crunk
Ying Yang Twins, Eve, 112
Yo I stroll in the club with my hat down
Michael Jack style, hot steppin who the mack now?
—From What’s Luv by Fat Joe featuring Ashanti and Ja Rule
There are many lessons to be learned in high school. One of the most important ones has to do with lanes and levels.
Lanes are paths—fates, destinies, or directions—call them what you will. Everyone has a lane. Lanes can be smooth and straight or rough and winding. They can be flat, they can be steep, they can be long, and they can be short. No matter what the lane, the wisdom remains the same: stay in your lane.
Levels are all about privilege, they are markers of distance from the suction and inevitability of the whirlpool’s embrace. Poverty, unlike gravity, does not affect all things equally—the air ain’t the same up there. Levels are tricky. They shift, they are never constant. They blur at the margins. What, really, is the difference between middle-class and working class? Both are paddling and bailing for their lives. Sometimes levels are invisible. Having the ability to read about levels? That is a level.
Levels are always there, affecting everyone, touching everything.
Some lanes go through levels.
Bijan is that rich white kid whose parents are not really in his life. They are either away making too much money or, when they are around, making too little time. Because Bijan was raised by his parents’ wallets, he grows up with everything a child could want but not necessarily need.
—The latest gaming consoles and the newest sneakers: check.
—An unused road bike that could carry its rider to the Tour De France finish line: hell yeah.
—His parents having to take a business trip out of town, leaving him, a teenage kid with a need for cool, with the run of the house (which includes—among other things—the fully-stocked bar, the heated swimming pool, the excess supply of unused bedrooms, and the generous allowance capable of bench-pressing a third world country’s IMF bills for a month): nigga, please.
His parents’ lanes lead to the airport; their levels charter first-class seats.
Bijan’s lane takes him to his cellphone. His levels grant him the power to call everyone who is anyone at his private high school over to his house for a long-awaited party.
You can almost feel how all the kids at Bijan’s school aspire to be on his level, to live like he does. The lies they tell their parents. The ease and convenience of everyone having to study at so and so’s house on a certain night. Friends, such as they are, are excited for the party. Hangers-on, in their desperate numbers, are ecstatic just to be invited.
Lanes swerve and bend ever so slightly, cutting through the city’s numerous levels, all of them leading to Bijan’s house.
It is hard to see where all the lanes come from; it is impossible to see where they lead.
But, dear reader, here once upon a private school charter it is possible, for an instance, to see how all of these paths intersect in glorious and unsupervised mischief.
Unsanctioned High School Parties is a playlist by Séraphin Turihamwe from The Eternal Audience Of One, a novel by Rémy Ngamije, now available at all fine bookstores and Amazon.