So who is Tanya Pointer? She is the woman who called herself Nonchalant and in the late 90s released the song “5 O’Clock”. It’s a favorite tune of mine and it’s on my mix cd “Acts of Female Aggression” that I have been listening to again. Forgive me if I don’t have the lyrics dead on.
It’s really real, when I feel the way that do right now
I see all my brothers underground
Pushing up daisies, man, it amazes me
That you can’t see where you’re gonna be
A statistic, everybody’s gone cold ballistic
If you had a good day, damn, I must have missed it
Cause you mad at the Universe, going to hell with everybody else
Cause you want your own first
I got the urge to let you in on a little secret
Cause you keep dying to keep it
All the killing that you’re feeling is from within
For the copper check the color of you skin
Why lie? I couldn’t try even if I had to
Born with the bullet-proof vest when I had you
A black woman trying to get through to the few
So you can lead the next crew
Well Mr. Black Man tell me where you’re heading
The last few years I watched while you were shedding
Pounds and pounds off of the growth of population
Soon we won’t be able to have a strong black nation
A shooting here, a stabbing there, will it ever stop
Cause now you’re dying from the dose of the crack rock
I’m just a Nubian Queen that needs a king to stand strong
And try to press on
It’s not a white man’s finger on the trigger
Car-jacks, drive-by’s, calling each other “nigga”
I’m not here to scold but rather shape and mold
A young black mind that won’t live to grow old
Cause you’re fronting, smoking on the blunt and
Down with your friends cause you think you’re making ends,
But you’re not
And it’s the truth of the matter
Your brother is getting skinny cause you want your pockets fatter
Tanya Pointer, aka Nonchalant, lived in Washington, D.C. Early every morning she would head into work and the streets would be empty except for her heading in, and the drug dealers and their buyers. She wrote “5 O’Clock” in response to that. It peaked at #24 on the Billboard’s Hot 100. It also set the stage for D.C. to have its own rap identity. Then, she was gone.
Driving into work the other day I heard this song and started to wonder, where is Tanya now? What is she doing? Does she still feel the same way she did as when she wrote “5 O’Clock”?
What appeals to me about this song is its lyrics. They’re clever, and very rarely does she cross over into preachy. Nonchalant assumed that her listeners were smart enough to grasp the larger message. Between verses two male rappers have says. They open with “Why should I do right and suffer?” I’m sure the mind set of many of the dealers she saw every morning. They ask who is she, because see he’s a big man, and the other male rapper confirms that the former is a big man. Nonchalant counters with what she feels “is the truth of the matter, that your brother is getting skinny cause you want your pockets fatter.” Tanya presumes that her listeners know why that line answers the question of why should I do right and suffer. Because those who profit from the destruction of others can’t ever truly be the heroes of the drama.
With incredibly smart turns of phrase, such as “I got the urge to let you in on a little secret, cause you keep dying to keep it” and “born with a bullet proof vest when I had you”, Nonchalant created an important contribution to the hip hop community. She let her listeners clearly see what life was like in Washington, D.C. and expressed her outrage, desperation, and dismay at a community that couldn’t seem to see what she did. Nonchalant challenged her listeners to strive for more, with a good flow. “5 O’Clock” is what rap music is supposed to be. So I ask again, where have you gone Tanya Pointer?