Few issues inspire more passionate and acrimonious debate in Baltimore than that of the so-called “squeegee kids” who wash car windows for cash on street corners. At times, the issue has inspired vitriol and even the threat of gun violence towards the workers, many of whom are children, over alleged aggressiveness in seeking payment for services not requested. The decades-old concerns even pushed Mayor Bernard C. “Jack" Young last year to initiate a “Squeegee Alternative Plan” for the workers.
Feeling that people in power were ignoring the children at the center of the issue, local rapper Mond Already wrote a song from their perspective. It’s called “Lil’ Squeegee Boy,” and a music video featuring several of the young workers themselves gained over 1,000 views since debuting on YouTube last Friday.
Mond Already, born Raimond Adair, raps about the economic hardships, vilification and despair that can push many of these youth to try to make money by squeegeeing.
“I ain’t here to cause no problems, kind of hard to get a job when you labeled a monster,” he raps from the first-person viewpoint of such a worker. “Lil’ squeegee boy, you look the other way but I know you see me boy,” he continues in the chorus.
Mond Already said on Tuesday that he created the song to push back against a “narrative that [the squeegee boys] were monsters" and not judge those who might act out.
“Me being an artist, I felt like that was my job to shed light on those who really need it, who’re really doing the squeegeeing to support themselves," he said. “Yeah, you have knuckleheads — you always got one bad egg — but you can’t put that on all of them, and I felt like the good ones needed a voice. Or even the ones that are knuckleheads, they probably just need a little help, more guidance than the other ones.”
The rapper developed the song with producer Osei Moreland, his partner in the label Reservoir Music House. The music video, posted on the label’s YouTube channel, was directed by fellow Baltimore native Abeni Nazeer and shot in the city. The clip appears to depict several actual squeegee workers trying to wash motorists’ windows while dealing with struggles at school, home and on the street.
Mond Already said that the team shot the video by going to different street corners where the youth can be found, playing the song for them, talking with them and asking if they wanted to be in the video.
“They didn’t have to, but a lot of them were proud and wanted to be a part of [the video]," he said. “Even when I was out there performing [the song], the emotions I saw from them, they were happy. One even told me I inspired him, and that was one kid who stuck with me a lot, because he hugged me."
At least one of the teenagers featured in the video corroborated this account and praised the song.
“I relate to it,” said Leroy, 15. “Most of the words he said in it, that’s how it really is.”The Baltimore Sun is withholding his last name because he is a minor.
Mond Already said that he wants the song to change the narrative for the better. “I hope this can really turn the tables for the squeegee boys, hopefully get them guys some other opportunities, whether it’s education or work,” he said. “I wish the best for them guys.”