The Bass in my car has been blown out from listening to the song at full volume and there is still a distinct ringing in my ears. My ass is vibrating and the only words I can think of are in response to E-40’s screaming through my passenger speakers.
“Tell me when to go,” he’s yelling at me as I cringe and open the driver’s side door. My feet touch the pavement as the car rolls on for about fifteen feet and I walk beside it and do my best “Crip Walk” impression.
All this in an affluent suburban neighborhood.
I should back up a bit. This is the summer after my first year of college and my high school friends are home, bored and willing to try anything. When he first heard E-40’s opus “Tell Me When to Go,” in December, my friend was hooked. He would drunk dial me and scream the lyrics through the earpiece of my phone. “DOOOOR’S OPEN MAN!” I would laugh and pass the phone onto friends at college. I never thought it would become more than something you scream to a buddy whilst drunk. Oh, how the times have changed.
In his masterpiece, E-40 is discussing the cultural merits of a fad sweeping the nation, or at least white teenagers and the San Francisco bay rappers. “Ghost riding” refers to the act of stepping out of a moving car and walking along the side of it, doing as many dance moves or crazy stunts one can until any reasonable human being says this is enough and hops back into the seat. The spread of this fad, known as “ghost riding,” has been nothing short of viral.
After spending an entire weekend trying to summon up the courage to pop out of my Audi A4 station wagon and run along the side it had spread into the rich suburbs of Baltimore. We were following Audi’s and Benz’s and Jeep’s. We were laughing as the BMW’s our parents let us drive would start to curve with no one in the seat. Another friend of mine called me after spending a weekend running behind my 1975 BMW 2002 to tell me that in his small suburb of New York City he saw a kid his age wearing a popped-collar polo shirt running beside his Saturn as he ran through an intersection. The cops pulled him over within the minute.
Once again the middle class white American teenagers have found a way to trivialize what could be another groundbreaking moment in hip-hop culture. Dave Chappelle commented in one of his hilarious episodes that white people were running around and screaming “AWWW SKEET, SKEET, SKEET, SKEET, SKEET!” without an understanding of what it is. No know how or reference point at all, suburban America simply ate it up.
So long as they follow it through, I think rappers could feasibly have the middle class American teenagers, who watch TRL religiously and scan their car radios to zero in on Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie,” eating out of their palms. What does it matter that we don’t know what skeet means? If Lil’ Jon says it’s cool, I’m in! And what does it matter that ghost riding is dangerous and illegal, E-40 hasn’t steered me wrong yet.
Truth be told, this is not a race thing, it’s not even a cultural thing, it’s a rebellion thing. We suburbanites value independence so much that we search for it outside of ourselves. It doesn’t have to be what we like so long as it’s what our parents don’t and society secretly does. America’s favorite bad boy James Dean works as the classic example, no one is quite brave enough to do what he does, but, still, he’s just so damn cool he has to be idolized. We’re all looking for a way to ruin our parents’ expectations. Yesterday it was grunge and weed; today it’s ghost riding andÃ¢Â?Â¦ weed. Who knows what sort of bright future we have ahead of us.
As I jump into my car and change the station from the smooth jazz my parent have changed the presets to, I know I’m going to scan the radio, looking for something different that catches my attention and hopefully the attention of others. If I’ve made a new mix CD I’ll roll the windows down so all can hear my “Indie” taste. So, I assure you, while these fads grow and grow, they are exactly that, fads. Ghost riding is here and dying down already. It’s dangerous, pointless and illegal but we flock to these things because of the excitement they bring and the rebellion we feel for that one shining moment, seeing our own running reflections in the windows of our cars.
Ã¢Â?Â¦And besides, it does look pretty cool in the video.