The idea behind this song is simple, but considering what is going on right now in America, it seems worth talking about.
I don't remember where I was walking at the time, but I walked past a mural that depicted a bunch of RIP's. I'm sure in Brooklyn everybody, including myself, has become desensitized to them. I've even heard people make fun of the names - like RIP Lil' Pooh, etc. It's despicable, because that name represents a human life, but these are the walls that people need to put up in order to not deal with the reality.
On this particular day, I took the time to actually think about what I was looking at. I'm sure because I have kids now myself. These names were probably kids. Most of us assume at age 25 that we have at least another 50 years to kick around. 50 years. Imagine having that taken away from you. And these kids see it happen to their friends and family regularly. I will never understand the toll that takes on someone's psyche. Never. And obviously I hope with every fiber to never know what that feels like as a parent.
You see a lot of entrepeneurship around the hood, at least in my part of Brooklyn. Kids starting their own record labels. Kids starting their own entertainment companies. Kids starting fashion lines. It's rad. If you come from a spot where no one gives a shit about you, why spend your time hoping to get tapped for the big time by some weirdo industry people? Do it yourself. The only problem with those types of dreams is that everyone is gunning for them. So the odds are always going to be stacked.
Later, walking through my traditionally-Italian neighborhood, I walked past a funeral home. It had been, as the song title lays out, established in 1938. I realized in that moment that I had never seen a new funeral home. They've all been around forever. Most of them are the oldest-running business in whatever hood they're in. The reasoning for that is obvious - in boom times and recessions, death is fucking constant. I wondered why none of these kids from the hood had ever thought about opening up a own funeral home. One of the more sobering things that has ever crossed my mind, but still. Considering the conditions that are forced on them, it seems like a sound investment.
The original idea for the song was to write from the point of view of a kid trying to weigh his options - how he could improve his life and his family's life, etc. Thankfully we realized early that trying to write from the point of view of someone of color is a ridiculous thing to even think about. So instead we took the angle of a family who grew up in a neighborhood that had changed over the course of time. My father in law grew up in Crown Heights, which is a perfect example. If you opened up a funeral home in Crown Heights in the 40's, back when it was a middle class Jewish neighborhood, chances are you are still open and doing well. Probably the oldest business in the hood.
Some stores open. Some stores close. Some people live the dream. Some take it on the nose. Back when the neighborhood was different, the tailor shop was killing it. The flower shop was killing it. The cafe was killing it. They said gramps was ignorant. He'd never make a living. Given the location was tough. But he stayed where he was and raised it up. With four kids he made enough. Still taught the trade to his sons.
With the 70's came change. Old families moved out. New families moved in. Felt like the same day. The cafe became Chinese with the bulletproof glass. The flower shop a spot where you could get your check cashed. Down the block at night you could get your neck slashed. Business started booming. Pops had enough dough to put me through school. New car on my 21st. Picked up the reigns when I graduated uni.
Last of the originals. A true institution. Steady and slow. Seen a hundred shops come and go. We're family here, so step inside. God willing we'll be open for another seventy five.
Boys like princes. Girls like queens. In your time of need we're here to serve you.
Can't make it much worse. Can't make it better. Can't make the days longer. Can't change the weather. Summer gets busy. Winter gets slow. Don't matter the season. Everybody gets cold. The need's always out there. Lands like a rain drop. Any time you're looking, we'll be in the same spot. Some think it's artwork. Some call us thieves. I think it's a way to keep my credit card un-freezed. Blood, sweat, and tears though. Work at the old school. You woulnd't believe the things I've seen if I told you.
Somebody's a cop. Somebody's a fiend. Somebody's a janitor. And somebody's a king. Flowers are a nice touch. Recommend roses. Pictures of the family. Get them in closest. Coffee in the lobby. Freeze dried Folgers. Man, it's just the little things. Keep them all focused. Money where it matters. Long term investments. Everywhere I go I keep an eye out for the exists. Retail is hell. But these sell themselves. Seen it all. But when we're done you can seldom tell.« Back to Home