"Cancel Christmas," a song by Tacoma rapper Logic Amen, imagines the holidays from a young man's perspective. His family lives in poverty, his mom dreams of leaving his dad for someone with money, and he's surrounded, during that season, by reminders that whatever he has, it's just not enough. Sick of it all, the boy fantasizes about a war on Christmas. "Give me a reason just to load up a rifle," Amen raps. "Pull the fire alarm in the lobby of my high school. Leave the halls bloody like a high noon-typhoon. I’m about to cancel Christmas. I won’t leave a freakin’ witness."
The song has been up on Amen's Bandcamp page since 2015, and it hasn't caused much of a stir. But Amen is also an assistant principal at Lincoln High School in Tacoma, and this week, the Tacoma News Tribune received a tip from two angry parents at Amen's school, who say that the song up on Bandcamp was inappropriate for an educator.
From TNT's Craig Sailor:
Jenn Giovani and Laurel Craddock say Amen’s lyrics are violent, sexist and racist, and shouldn't be coming from a role model or be accessible to kids.
“The fact that he’s a role model for high school students — and we know at that age they are highly sexually curious — and he’s rapping about really intimate sexual things,” said Giovani, who knows Craddock through their daughters. “You’re talking about gangs and drugs and smoking weed.”
Craddock is critical as well.
“No one in a position of authority who is mentoring or monitoring our children, my children, anyone’s children, should be glorifying shooting up a school,” she said.
Giovani and Craddock didn't respond to a request for comments, but apparently these women don't listen to much rap—or, perhaps, read many books. In a phone interview, Amen told me that the song is clearly and obviously a metaphor. He's using literary devices to paint a vivid image of a boy and his pain.
"The song tells the story of a young man whose family doesn't have any money," Amen told me. "He's basically feeling like an outsider and has no coping mechanisms. There are no resources or agencies or community stakeholders that are invested in him, and the song draws a correlation between poverty and family dysfunction and violence."
Amen sees this daily in his work with students, and the idea that he harbors some sort of violent desire to shoot up his own school is patently false, he says. As the TNT notes, this isn't the first time he's had a run-in with these two particular parents. Amen declined to go into to the backstory, but one of the parents, Giovani, told the TNT that Amen expelled her daughter and threatened to call the police when he found out she was driving her kid with a suspended license. To an outsider, this reads like the parents had a problem with Amen and went looking for reasons to be pissed. They certainly found them.
Luckily for Amen, this school and the district are in full support of the full-time educator and part-time rapper. “Logic’s good work at Lincoln High School has contributed to helping turn around the academic success of students there over the last several years, helped close achievement gaps and dramatically improved the image of the school,” district spokesman Dan Voelpel told the TNT. “In no way has his non-school activities disrupted the educational environment at Lincoln."
The law is on Amen's side as well. Contrary to what some may believe, freedom of speech doesn't end when you work for the state. Amen is well within his rights to rap about killing Christmas if he wants. "'Cancel Christmas' is about a time of year when people are driven to meet these capitalist standards," he explains. "So if you can eliminate Christmas, maybe you can eliminate the expectations. It's saying, I want to kill the idea that you need money and things to be happy."
He may never be able to kill Christmas, but despite the complaints, Amen has no plans to put down the mic any time soon. He'll be leading a workshop to teach kids about storytelling this weekend in Tacoma.