Friday, June 9, 2017

A Black Music Month Head Nod to Hip Hop

Music. If there has been one constant in my life, my love for it has definitely been it. From a singing mother, to siblings who played instruments ranging from the flute to guitar (and yours truly playing piano), to the numerous concert ticket stubs I've collected since age 9, every good, bad, and sad moment has always had a "sound" to support it. Without a doubt, music has always been the heartbeat of my emotions, whether delivered through r&b, gospel, go-go, jazz--or even a country tune here and there. And then there's that thing called hip hop....

The Pharcyde
On a recent morning commute, 93.9 WKYS' DJ Quicksilva posed the age old question--most notably asked in the 2002 urban cult classic "Brown Sugar"--"When did you fall in love with hip hop?" I smiled as caller after caller dialed into the station to enthusiastically give their answer. What was even more notable were the variation of answers that were indicative of just how long hip hop has been in the game: "Krush Groovin' was my jam" said one caller, noting that she was indeed an "old head"; "Run-DMC's 'Sucker MC's still gives him the chills" said another. "Pharcyde's 'Passin' Me By' was my joint" the next caller exclaimed, which indeed gave me all the "feels," as it marked my college years, when hip hop seemed at its most palpable. There were shout outs to "All About the Benjamins" by Puff Daddy & the Family and "Renee" by Lost Boyz. And then there were the younger callers giving a nod to Lil' Bow Wow.

The conversation definitely made morning rush hour less annoying, as I was too gone down Memory Lane to care about bumper to bumper traffic. But then I was struck with a nagging realization: I am never able to definitively answer that question for myself. Sure, there are songs that stick out in my head for various reasons, like "Faye" by Stetasonic, whose (then considered) lewd lyrics on the track and its late-night-only radio play that made us curious teenagers gravitate toward it, and Salt-N-Pepa's "My Mic Sounds Nice" because that mashup of hip hop and go-go was--and still is--rare (and you don't even want to get me started on my love for go-go, being a native Washingtonian. In fact, much respect to SNP for keeping that "marriage" going with this classic).

However, about half way down the highway, it struck me why answering that question has always proved difficult for me: Because asking me "when did I fall in love with hip hop" is akin to asking me "when did I fall in love with my family." It's impossible to answer, as family is something that's just a part of us; we come into it and the love for it is just there.

There's no defining moment or anything spectacular someone did that brings you to it. There's no exact moment when you decide to open your heart to it. You just love it and it loves you back. Yes, there may be special moments that make you appreciate its existence, but they are a part of the fabric that makes you, you--and for most of us, so is hip hop. And being a '73 baby born just around the time the genre made its debut, let's just say hip hop and I grew up and evolved together from rambunctious kid, to explorative teen, to conscious adult. 

Whether it was there as you navigated your first dance (shout out to Doug E. Fresh's "The Show" and Michele's 12th birthday basement party) or when you got your first pair of Bamboo earrings (shout out to LL Cool J's "Around the Way Girl") to when you had your first crush (shout out to Heavy D's "Don't You Know") to when you had your first "real" heartbreak (shout out to Common's "Retrospect for Life") to when you realized some ish needed to change (shout out to Public Enemy's "Fight the Power") to so many other landmark moments, hip hop has no doubt always been there--just like family.

Me groovin' to hip hop in Barcelona
So I no longer feel odd not having an answer to that quintessential question, for it doesn't require one. Instead, and in celebration of June being Black Music Month, I rather just say "thank you" to hip hop. Thank you for always being that "ride or die" when I needed you; thank you for always providing that drive in my spirit to take on whatever challenge I faced; and thank you for being that joy that could make me throw my hands in the air, close my eyes, and shout out "Yassssssssssssssssss!" with the drop of one beat. Hip hop, you are appreciated and will forever be kin. 

Photo Credits: N/A


  1. Hmmm...I can't say when I fell in love with Hip Hop but there are definitive moments I remember. I recall the time Rapper's Delight first came out and I played the record over and over. "And the chicken tastes like wood" was my go to phrase. Then there was Sucka MC that made me hyperaware of dope beats. Let's not forget Doug E. Fresh's The Show, which marked my time hanging with the older kids at the park two towns away and daydreaming about having all the jewelry they rocked. And I will never forget watching Salt N Pepa's Push It with my grandmother who said, "If I didn't know better, I'd think they were singing about something dirty." Really? Noooooo! LOL! Long live Hip Hop!

  2. As a '73 baby myself, like you said hip-hop has just always been there so its hard to pinpoint an exact moment. I was born in Philly, yet moved to the Bronx when I was 5 years old. I never had the pleasure of going to a park jam, but I was witness to a lot of the factors that helped shape the music and the culture. I honestly remember seeing subway cars with graffiti sprayed on them, before I heard an actual song! Life circumstances moved me to a few other places before my teen years, but the first hip-hop song I ever remember hearing was "On The Radio" by the Crash Crew and that will always hold a special place in my heart.

  3. Love the picture of you grooving to sounds of some soulful hip hop,I can truly tell that whatever song was playing was something that was taking you back to a good place in your life. Big up to hip hop!