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My SuperJam story: I meant it in a good way

by Brian Clarey

You don’t see me at too many Greensboro City Council meetings.

I’m sitting on a litany of reasons for this: I’m a features and opinion guy, an editor, management; I already work too many hours and don’t see enough of my children; I like to go to bed early, watch TV at night and leave city council proceedings in the very capable hands of Jordan Green.

Also, the minutia of municipal governance bores me to tears.

But my presence was felt at the meeting last week when Laura Jackson, in a comment from the floor, introduced a position paper concerning the annual hip-hop throwdown SuperJamz at the Greensboro Coliseum.

In her piece she recounts an incident from Superjamz 1999, when Sam Petteway had his car surrounded, jounced and kicked on High Point Road while four police officers “watched and could not help,” She wrote that similar actions had occurred during SuperJamz 2005, and printed a partial list of “direct and indirect costs” of the event compared, which she figures at $300,000, as compared to the coliseum’s profit, which she puts at $20,000.

To the city council she said, “And I think you’d be surprised at what’s going on inside the coliseum” With that she presented our municipal governing body with printed copies of a story I wrote for this paper in June 2005 with the hed: “The experience of 102 JAMZ’s SuperJam.”

Not such a hot headline, I admit, and I take full responsibility.

Excerpted: “Inside the auditorium a beat bounced up to the rafters and on the four-sided Jumbotron up there were images of people in the crowd shaking to the beat, mostly women doing the kind of dance your mama warned you about. The camera cut once to a guy on the floor in a red jersey and fitted cap who was counting a handful of money which he then fanned out in his hands in front of the lens, proving it to be a sizeable wad of Benjies, maybe four grand.”

And: “Jeezy was latter joined on stage by the Boyz in da Hood for a number called “(Talk All the F**k You Want) Don’t Put Your Hands on Me” where the fans in front of the stage went absolutely wild due to the vicious rhymes, the bass beat so powerful that it massaged their hearts, and also due to what looked like handfuls of money that the Boyz flung into the air and which rained down on the audience like leaves.”

There’s more – clouds of chronic, transcription of some truly filthy call and response and my reaction to a Ying Yang Twins song, “Wait (The Whisper Song),” which is not nearly as romantic as it sounds.

I am indebted to Jackson for further disseminating my work. But I’m not enamored of the ends to which she’s applying it.

Jackson was right about one thing: This event is wild and raw. It’s also one of the best events the facility holds each year. I haven’t been back to the SuperJam since my last trip – to be honest, it’s really not my kind of thing – but I can testify to the degree it’s become an annual fete for the hip-hop set, drawing fans from miles around that drink Heineken and Hennessy well into the night in businesses on and around the Lee Street/High Point Road corridor, the ones who don’t complain about the jam every year.

Sure, there are problems, as there are with any event. Councilman Mike Barber noted that the same things can happen at a Jimmy Buffet concert. Mayor Johnson recalled chillingly the years when the Greensboro Coliseum was a regular stop on the Grateful Dead tours.

But with her campaign, Jackson seems intent on ending the SuperJam at the Greensboro Coliseum. And I don’t want that to happen.

Of the thing I saw at my first SuperJam, the most memorable was the action before the show: the electric vibe, the fantastical hairstyles, the women dropping booty with jackhammer thrusts and the men bejeweled and proud.

I’ll never forget the dude who riffled all that cash for the big-screen cameras, making like it’s a rap video on the coliseum floor.

And I still carry the revelation that the event is a cultural touchstone, as important to the people who participate in it as Blandwood Ball is to its own segment of the demographic.

And while what goes on outside the Greensboro Coliseum the night of SuperJam could use some tweaking, the scene inside is just perfect the way it is: a raucous, roiling party that establishes Greensboro as a bastion of Dirty South hip hop.

I can’t accuse Jackson of twisting my words to support her cause – she distributed my column in its entirety, alerting the entire city council to my “relatively mild case” of Jungle Fever that night.

But I want to point out that by reporting those events in my column, I was trying to illustrate how much fun SuperJam is, not rile up the neighbors to wipe the thing off the calendar.

To comment on this story, e-mail Brian Clarey at editor@yesweekly.com.

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