In the vein of a regular Friday column from my colleague and fellow senior editor at TSFJ, Joe Boland, this is an unexpected musical interlude.
As you may have heard yesterday, New York Knicks star forward Carmelo Anthony walked among the people in Baltimore in solidarity of the Freddie Gray protesters.
Much has been made about this in great ways, and with today’s news from the city’s lead prosecutor of the charges being pressed for six Baltimore Police officers, there must be a sense of temporary triumph for the marchers, including Anthony. However, there was some strange second-guessing about Anthony’s appearance, especially from fools far more caught up in the fact that his New York Knicks are in the lottery rather than the playoffs.
(Unlike most of you, unlike me, unlike any sports media member, he marched. That alone stood for more than trying to back up his Instagram post.)
He went home. Yeah, he went home to where a teenaged Carmelo came of age, found his game and found that West Baltimore has the same ills and hopes as Brooklyn’s Red Hook. Well, pre-gentrified Red Hook, anyways.
And while confusion is understandable to those who don’t know his story, there is also unnecessary scrutiny about Anthony’s roots by some who probably got tired of hearing the Knicks’ uber-heavy promotion of his “Coming Home” in 2011.
It’s not that much unlike another famed son of both NYC and Baltimore.
You associate 2Pac with the Bay Area and the West Coast at large, but the late rapper – birth name: Lesane Parish Crooks – was actually born in East Harlem (or as we natives know it as, Spanish Harlem). The family would eventually leave New York while he was in high school and grow some roots in Baltimore. ‘Pac fans know his Maryland story; it was here where he not only furthered his thespian flame – attending the city’s School for the Arts – but he met the actress Jada Pinkett (who, of course, is the wife of Will Smith.)
The Shakurs did not stay in Baltimore long – just two years – as they would eventually move to the San Francisco suburb of Marin City, and the legend of the man who became 2Pac grew in ways few could have envisioned when they unpacked their boxes.
So why does that matter?
Despite gaining fame and infamy in other locales, neither truly shied from their split roots. Melo made his name as a prep hoops star before one year at Syracuse and becoming the #3 pick in the 2003 NBA Draft to the Denver Nuggets. And though much was made about going to the city of his birth when he was traded to the Knicks – it wasn’t the first time the team went nuts with the Brooklyn roots of another perceived savior (Stephon Marbury) – it’s unfair for anyone to speculate about how much his Maryland roots means to him.
There are plenty of 2Pac songs that are quite appropriate these days, the track “My Block” came to mind as the conversation around Anthony’s roots grew on social media. Released as part of the soundtrack for The Show in 1995, this remix for the exceptional posthumous collection Better Dayz is the preferred version of many 2Pac fans.
Just make sure you listen to the words. The issues presented knew no city’s borders.
The same went for the roots of both men.