Not good but well behaved

from Black Star – Thieves in the Night Lyrics on Rap Genius

Meaning

When the definition of “well-behaved” is based on a middle-class, white value system, then being “well-behaved” is not necessarily a good thing.

Think on the Gwendolyn Brooks poem, “A Song for the Front Yard” (Brooks, like Morrison, was a member of the Black Arts Movement):

I’ve stayed in the front yard all my life.
I want a peek at the back
Where it’s rough and untended and hungry weed grows.
A girl gets sick of a rose.

I want to go in the back yard now
And maybe down the alley,
To where the charity children play.
I want a good time today.

They do some wonderful things.
They have some wonderful fun.
My mother sneers, but I say it’s fine
How they don’t have to go in at quarter to nine.
My mother, she tells me that Johnnie Mae
Will grow up to be a bad woman.
That George’ll be taken to Jail soon or late
(On account of last winter he sold our back gate).

As Brooks argues in this poem, there can be something liberating, maybe even radical in being “bad.” As Run DMC rap, “not bad meaning bad but bad meaning good.”

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