Diamonds & Wood: On Vacation, Skateboarding To 400 Degreez

"Diamonds & Wood" is an ongoing series in which music critic Shea Serrano breaks down the 5 hip-hop tracks you need to hear this week.

The family and I have been at this tiny beach in Florida since last Tuesday. We're staying at a vacation house in this private neighborhood. This is the first proper vacation we've taken as a family. Some things:

This is only, like, for real the third I've ever been outside of Texas. I'm 32-years-old.

This was the first time that my sons have been on a plane. I thought they'd be at least a little afraid, but they weren't. The only thing they were was loud. I'm saying, they're already normally loud kids, but their ears were clogged when we got up high, so they were even louder still. And, for some reason, they thought it was hella funny to shout about the plane's inevitable demise. Boy B kept hollering, "OH NO, THE PLANE IS GOING TO CRASH" and "OH NO, THE WING IS ON FIRE" and "OH NO, WE'RE GOING DOWN! EVERYONE HOLD ON!" Motherfucker.

We rented a Town & Country minivan for our stay. It has satellite radio, which means we've been driving around listening to the explicit versions of songs by Three-6 Mafia and 2 Chainz and Too Short and so on. The second day we were here we went to the beach. We pulled into the parking, got out, clicked this button on the car's remote key and both the sliding doors and the trunk opened automatically and as they slid further and further into position the music we were listening to (Three-6's "Sippin' On Some Syrup") was revealing itself louder and louder. People watched as it happened. It's probably the most accidentally player moment of my whole life. They should make a commercial like that because then we'd have been bought one.

The area where we're staying is broken up into two sections. There's the busy part, which is basically a strip of businesses and hotels and whatnot. And then there's the secluded part, which is a collection of gated communities and private neighborhoods and beach access and so on. All of the minorities are in the first section and all of the white people are in the second. We're in the second too. The neighborhood where we are is approximately 30 houses deep. We are literally the only non-white family here. It's the deepest we've ever been into enemy territory.

There was a white guy running on the jogging path around the neighborhood. He had on all of the proper running attire, except for one thing: SHOES. He was fucking running barefoot. It appears that white people's feet are impervious to pebbles and debris and whatnot. Wild.

There was a white guy in the swimming pool yesterday with a goddamn waterproof camera strapped to his head. Figure that shit out.

There was a white guy at the pool the day before playing Sublime songs on an acoustic guitar. When he finished, one of the people swimming said, "That was great! Where'd you learn to play and sing like that?" He responded, "I don't know. I just know how." He got, like, 30 percent of the words wrong and probably all of the chords wrong. If I had any gumption at all I'd have lobbed a bottle at him. I don't though, so I just smiled and told him good job.

I didn't bring too much with me on the trip (only one of my shirts even has sleeves), but one thing I made sure to pack was my skateboard (Stereo Vinyl Cruiser). Right before sunset each night, I sneak out and go ride around for an hour or so. I wear those stupid big Beats By Dre headphones and then ride around through all of the neighborhoods and up and down the street and hope I don't get run over. I've only crashed, like, nine times so that's pretty much a success. (Boy A and Boy B, in comparison, have crashed something like 40,000 times in three days. Among their endless road rashes, Boy A has a big gash on the back of his thigh from when he crashed into a girl on a bike and Boy B has a black eye from when he tried ride it while doing a push up and slapped his face on the floor.) The very best album to listen to while riding is definitely Juvenile's gorgeous 400 Degreez, his multiplatinum 1998 masterpiece. So, that's all we're going to listen to because that's what's up:

1. "Ha"

Certainly one of the greatest + smartest + most blindingly brilliant rap songs to have ever been rapped. It's just perfect. It feels exactly what (I imagine) it felt like to grow up and live in the worst, poorest part of Louisiana. It is, in no unclear terms, beautiful art. If one day Juvey snaps and murders a handful of children I'm pretty positive Jesus in gonna be in God's ear like, "Pop, for real, we need to let him in. He's Juvenile." God'll be all, "No, son. He murdered. Children, at that." Then Jesus'll be all, "Duuuuuude, he made 'Ha'." And then God'll be all, "HE'S THE ONE THAT MADE 'HA'?! OH MY ME, GET HIM IN HERE ASAP!" And then Jesus'll be all, "You didn't know he made 'Ha'? Aren't you God? Don't you know everything?" Then God'll be all, "It's been a long week, yo." #HaTheGreatest. I need there to be a way that I could wrap myself up in this and just masturbate inside of it. That's a little thing called being sweet and sincere.

2. "UPT"

#BGtheGreatest #BabyTheBest #JuvieTheSwaggiest #YoungTurkTheIllest #LilWayneTheFlyest #InfinityHashtags

3. "Flossin' Season"

I wish that some very auspicious person would go on and record a redo of this, except that very auspicious person would make it so that instead of calling it "Flossin' Season," that very auspicious person called it "Bloggin' Season." This should've happened already. What's wrong with you, America? Thanks a lot, Obama.

4. "Gone Ride With Me"

In a perfect world, whenever you were riding around on your skateboard and this song came on all of a sudden 40 other skateboards would materialize and you'd all synchronize your kick/pushes with the beat of this song and as you mobbed through the block all of the dudes standing on the side of the road watching would all get boners and then you'd ride by and karate chop off all the boners and then when you got home all of the women would be waiting at your house to have sex with you because they all got aroused and there are no more boners in the town except for yours. Shakespeare never wrote anything like that.

5. "400 Degreez"

Like, if you were listening to rap underwater and there were a bunch of super ill robots there talking to each other, is what the production here sounds like. Fuck, I love Juvenile so much.

Have a good week.

Shea Serrano is a writer living in Houston, TX. His work has appeared in the Houston Press, LA Weekly, Village Voice, XXL, The Source, Grantland and more. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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  • Dantana

    Shea Serrano is the fuccn man… HA!

  • Cramzy

    Infinite props for this. 400 degreez is a classic!