Saturday, May 13, 2006

gangsta rapture

i've always been a sucker for a good character study, and to my delight, in the last week of april, a thing of sheer unintended comedic beauty, dating back to 1997, was rescued from the 24/7 public-access sideshow of cable tv. given some of the truly borderline personalities already in fierce, no-holds-barred competition for our attention on free cable, you can imagine what it takes to stand out with any distinction. but i think we have a winner.

anyone who remembers the 90s prime-time tv sketch comedy in living color will recognize damon wayans' surly homey the clown, but this particular homey has traded his stuffed sock for a bible. if you haven't yet had the pleasure, meet ray ray, host of call-in ministry spirit of truth: one man show, who's come in the name of jesus by the power of the holy spirit to spread the word, and if you don't like it, you can kiss his muthafuckin ass, you stupid bee-yotch!

for those not reflexively repulsed by free-flung obscenity, especially obscenity freely flung in the name of the almighty, spirit of truth is genuinely hilarious, precisely because of all the wanton blasphemy.

ray ray:next caller! mimi!
mimi:y'know what, you are a real ...
ray ray:i don't give a fuck whatchu think, bitch!!!
mimi:... about ...
ray ray:your thoughts — your thoughts —
mimi:... you don't know ...
ray ray:— your thoughts ain't my thoughts!
mimi:... you need to go take that ...
ray ray:bitch, i'm flowin' straight from the survivor scroll!!
mimi:[ inaudible ]
ray ray:cut that bitch off!!! next caller!

but ray ray's show delivers much more than cuss-soaked brimstone. our prophet's abusive persona, his bizarre hairstyle (a mullet on steroids? an inverse bowl-cut?), his missing tooth, his dubious-looking oversized bible and his pimp cane, topped off by the pyschedelic, unanchored, roller-coaster camerawork are just the most obvious accents punctuating his production. i've yet to tire of it. there's something mesmerizing about his diatribe, a je ne sais quois that probably feeds the same urge that compels us to take just one more peek at the scene of the wreck.

one of the less obvious aspects of my fascination with ray ray is cultural, so forgive me for indulging in a bit of armchair sociology. i don't think i'd be too far out on a limb to presume that ray ray is a product of penal institutions. it's a presumption that hasn't escaped at least one of his callers:

voice #1:lemmee ask you a question: how come when you readin' you act like you have a hard time readin'?
voice #2:he musta been in jail!!
ray ray:cause i'm god, bitch!

ray ray probably didn't get too far in school before he graduated to prison. and in prison all psychosocial development comes to an abrupt halt, at least any development not immediately related to basic survival skills. so when ray ray was finally let free, he was still the same raw schoolkid that had been locked away, only now he was more brutish, and perhaps psychotic as well. such is the crucible that is our prison system.

so where does the evangelizing come in? one might wonder just what ray ray hopes to accomplish by browbeating his prospective converts. he seems thoroughly oblivious to the irony that his abusive sermonizing inspires, to a person, only reciprocal abuse from his callers. not a soul misses his opportunity to mock the prophet of the lord jesus by the power of the holy spirit:

caller:... love whatcha doin ... i love all your cussin' an' carryin' on ...
ray ray:you the devil ... ? aha-hah!! you the devil!! you a satanist, huh?
caller:... we gonna have a ...
ray ray:you — 'ey, 'ey, then you wrote a book, too, then right? you got a book with blood on it, huh? you satan, huh? who created yo ass, satan?
caller:[ inaudible ]
ray ray:who created your ass? i come in the name of jesus by the power of the holy spirit!
caller:... i want you to ...
ray ray:i come in the name of jesus by the power of the holy spirit!
caller:... i'm the devil, an' i'm'a fuck yo ass up ...
ray ray:the devil is a motherfuckin' liar! so you know i ain't worried! bee-yotch!!! stupid bitch!
caller:... bitch ...

i suspect the prophet was himself a prison convert; that the god ray ray discovered behind bars was a particularly wrathful one might explain the complete absence of any ability to engage people in any manner other than a domineering vindictive contempt. his attitude no doubt helped him survive lockup, but, as far as we can tell, it isn't very helpful in winning a devoted flock — his "144,000 strong" — much less in getting anyone who isn't already his prag to listen to anything he has to say. to complete the picture, a psychotic break from reality probably inhibits any ability to objectively evaluate his own interactions with others.

ray ray's hold on sanity seems tenuous at best: he insists that he is god and writes his own rap-flavored scriptures (scraptures?) to the power of his own holy spirit. but evidently he proved stable enough to have put together a preoccupying outlet for his psychoses, this cable program for spreading his gospel. i would imagine that, in a pre-cable era, he would have been relegated, like vast majority of nameless prophets before him, to a street corner, where his relentless abuse and unrestrained arrogance most likely would have quickly led to a violent confrontation and back to prison. in this sense we might consider him, for the time that his program was being broadcast, uniquely blessed.

man, i come in the name of jesus by the power of the holy spirit. it don' matter how you come with me. is you — is you down doin' what i'm talkin about doin': lawyers an' get this book open. trained in these words to get the poor, the fatherless an' the widows up outta them penitentiaries. are you down wit that? you ain't down wit that, shut yo goddamn ass up!!!

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