Good Hair Gone Bad: Debarge
For the first time, Good Hair Gone Bad is going to have to be extended to an entire family, because choosing just one of them simply wouldn’t do the concept of good hair that has clearly gone bad justice. The Debarge family is in that rare class of black family royalty: White people have the Kennedys, the Baldwins, and the Barrymores; we have the Jacksons, the Wayans, and the Debarge clan. Hair just don’t get more good than this!
Good Hair: Do you realize there were 10 of them in total and they had numerous different solo careers and six groups between them? The Debarge family owned the early ’80s adult contemporary and R&B airwaves, with hits such as “All This Love,” “Rhythm of the Night,” “I Like It,” and “Stay with Me.” In fact, a photo doesn’t do the good hairness justice. Take a look at the video for 1985’s “Rhythm of the Night” and these curls (yes this song was on The Last Dragon Soundtrack). You just cannot front on this.
Gone: As you just saw, El Debarge especially was a perfect example of the kind of quadroonery that became completely unacceptable with 90’s pro-blackness. When lightskinned went out of style no one was hit harder than the Debarge family. Any dude with facial hair that calls for the word “moustache” to be pronounced “moo-stash” just wasn’t going to make it through the decade. Bobby Debarge died of AIDS in 1995, and by 2000 the rest of the family moved to gospel, while Chico moved to…um…jail, and then released a solo album that I have to admit to enjoying. And I won’t even touch the rumoured love child between Janet Jackson and James Debarge because the concept is at once frightening and beautiful in that it maintains the concept of a black aristocracy that few will admit exists.
Bad: The sample from “Stay With Me” became one of the most used samples in hip-hop during the 90’s (you know, Biggie’s “One More Chance” and Ashanti’s “Foolish”), and I heard El and Chico on the Wendy Williams show talking about how much money they have made from it (which sounded like an attempt at avoiding questions about that love child and Chico’s extracurricular activities with other men while in prison). So how did the shiny layer of Creole in their family get replaced by the layer of desperation seen in this recent photo of El and Chico?
Oh, I know. Perhaps it has something to do with Chico’s arrest this past August for drug possession or El’s arrest around the same time for domestic abuse including warrants for vandalism and even more drug possession. The mugshot:
And El is STILL rocking that errant curl on his forehead? This mess goes in the “When Pretty goes Pitiful” catgeory. I could go on about the Debarge family for days, but if you want to see generations of unmarred “Indian-in-yo-family-ness” please visit Mama Debarge’s website. I guarantee it will make you say “Good Lord.”