by Jim Harris

At a probation violation hearing last week, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Genece Brinkley ordered the popular hip-hop artist “Meek Mill” to attend etiquette classes. The entertainer was convicted on drug and gun charges in 2008, for which he served eight months in jail and began five years probation in 2009. Subsequent statements made by Meek on his Twitter account led to anonymous death threats against his parole officer.

Meek’s attorney argued that the probation’s travel restrictions were preventing his client (who appears in videos rolling around in piles of money with hookers and champagne) from earning a living. Assistant District Attorney Noel Ann DeSantis countered, “That’s the consequence of being on probation.” The judge ended the contentious hearing by saying that the etiquette classes were “more important than any concerts Meek Mill might have.”

My first thoughts upon reading about this were “Teaching manners to convicted felon hip-hoppers; who on God’s green earth would want that job?” Then it hit me. This is Philadelphia, the city of kickbacks, cronyism, pay to play, you name it. There’s money to be made from everything. I figured if I could open a charm school for these ne’er-do-wells and get the court system to funnel offenders my way, I could make a fortune.

And so it is with undue pride and some trepidation that I announce the grand opening of my “Skool of Hip-Hop Etiquette,” a fully accredited, full-service facility offering certification programs designed to satisfy even the most stringent probationary requirements.

I am assisted in my teaching duties by my 84-year old uncle Roy, whose hip hop moniker is “Dentu-Cream.” I go by the name “Vanilla Pudding.” In addition to adopting these “street names,” Roy and I have completed a course in “Hip hop as a second language,” designed to further increase our “street cred” in the eyes (and ears) of the students.

Obviously, teaching good manners to rap-artist parolees requires some finesse. It’s a fine line; if they get too refined or civilized, their career will be over, but if they don’t improve at all, they’ll go back to jail.

In our school, students will learn:

• How to rap in Chinese. Be prepared for the new world order.

• What to wear to a probation hearing. Sweater vest or suit and tie? Definitely not a full-length fur or sharks-tooth necklace

• Posture and Poise. Always grab your crotch with the left hand, and never look anyone directly in the eye while doing so, as this would be considered rude.

• Properly reading another’s body language. No, I’m not reaching for a weapon; I’m merely adjusting my suspenders.

• The importance of apologies. For example; “I’m so sorry I shot you. I thought you were someone else.” Of course, it’s best not to apologize in person in cases like this, but you can send a nice note or a Hallmark card.

Conversely, if you were the shootee, you’d reply, “Thank you for not killing me. I’m delighted that I will still be able to make my dentist appointment this afternoon.”

In addition, students will learn how to:

• Distinguish between self-respect and egomania.

• Be assertive without frightening children and old people.

• Get a trophy wife, a trophy baby and a pet alligator.

• Recognize the difference between “swagger” and “sexual harassment.”

• Cover yourself in gold and diamonds without seeming ostentatious.

• Appear to show interest in the problems of others, even if all you care about is yourself.

• Avoid interrupting someone who’s on a profanity-laced rant. Always wait until it’s your turn to rant.

• Start your own line of cologne. If you’re not comfortable calling it a “fragrance,” you can call it a “scent,” which has an exciting, territorial air about it. Call it something bold, like “Gutz!”

Future courses will focus on “How to plan and host successful parties on the Main Line,” “Preparing for a date” and “What not to do on job interviews.” With the proper training and dedication, all of our graduates can go on to become respectable members of society and best friends with President Obama. Excuse me, but I’m afraid I have to go now. I can hear Uncle Roy screaming for help.

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