November 12, 2003
Walker: Sashwat proves a good judge of music

Sashwat proves a good judge of music

County Lines
by Laurel Walker

Sashwat Singh is smarter than the raunchy rap CD that got him in trouble at Brookfield Central High School would lead you to believe.

"A lot of rap music is garbage, including mine," he told me Monday, after learning he would be returning to school Tuesday after a five-day suspension and wouldn't face a threatened expulsion.

Well, he's got that right.

A sizable segment of society eats up these kinds of vulgar, violent, homophobic and misogynic expressions that make up much of rap. That kids today imitate it - Brookfield's Singh, 15, among them - should surprise no one.

In fairness, one of Singh's raps is amusing - a campaign song used in his successful run for class treasurer, minus the gratuitous profanity he added to the recording.

But most of the compositions on Singh's homemade, 14-track CD are garbage - shocking in both the imagery and language used.

Singh's song about his principal, Mark Cerutti, and its perceived threat, is apparently what brought the administration down on his head. It's full of graphic sexual and homophobic images as well as some variation of the f-word 40-plus times in a spread of 2 minutes and 43 seconds.

There's reason, I think, to have disciplined Singh - for blatant disrespect of authority and extreme profanity - particularly since he handed out the CD to friends at school. But it's hardly threatening, and treating it on par with gun possession and a genuine threat was overreaction.

Singh, who admits he'd never talked to the principal before writing the rap, said the song is really about discontent with the principal's overuse of police at school. The message - if that's what it is - obviously got lost in all this.

Dilip Singh understands his son's frustration and shares his concern about principals who act like "highly paid 911 operators" by calling police rather than dealing squarely with issues on their own.

"But I don't agree with the way he (Sashwat) expressed it," Dilip Singh repeated.

After his family hired an attorney who defended Sashwat's First Amendment rights, the school district superintendent ruled the suspension was sufficient discipline, provided the junior meet with a counselor upon his return to school.

Worse than the song about Cerutti, though, was Sashwat's ode describing his mother in unspeakable terms. The same mother, I presume, whom he admirably portrayed in one line of another song: "My mother told me not to swear."

Sashwat explained: "I'd gotten grounded after a dance, and I was in a really bad mood" when he immediately wrote and recorded the denigrating song on his home computer. "It's not one of the songs I'm really proud of."

Dilip Singh said he's listened only to the song about the principal and the one about his wife, but his wife has not. At least not yet. Perhaps the lesson Sashwat needs most is to sit across the table from his mother while she listens, heartbroken and mortified, to the terrible things her son sang about her.

If Singh feels any remorse, "I mainly feel bad about the song I wrote about my mom because I don't feel that way."

A junior who entered school early and now is enrolled in honors and advanced placement classes, Sashwat Singh shares on one of his raps a particularly pertinent pearl of wisdom about purchasers of his CD:

"You know what sucks? You're (expletive) paying two cents for every one (expletive) minute I put on this CD so I'm kinda wasting your time right now. . . . I'm wasting your money and (expletive)."


From the Nov. 12, 2003 editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Posted by Lance Brown at November 12, 2003 06:14 PM | TrackBack
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