Hip Hop, started out in the park…
Well for me it started in the basement of my old house.
I was about 9 or 10 years old when I remember Hip Hop really touching my heart. My eldest brother had moved his bed and things to the basement to get away from the watchful eyes of our Trinidadian parents.
I remember wondering what he did down there and in typical younger brother fashion, I would sneak into his room when he wasn’t home and go through all of his things. I found the typical stuff that anyone might find in a 20-something year old’s room. Two of my favorite things in there were were the black porno magazines (a welcome change from my Dad’s white dominated magz) and his football equipment. It must have been 1991 or 92 , maybe even 93, and one of the first things I would do, apart from flip through pics of big booty babes wearing cop uniforms and put on his football helmet, would be to play with his state of the art stereo-system.
He didn’t have any of my favorites in there, which at the time was pretty much anything Michael Jackson, but he did have all these weird CDs like Kurs one, Lons, an album with a kids face on it, an album with naked cartoon ladies riding a roller coaster, another album with weird album swiggly-line album art, and another one with a bunch of masked ninjas on the cover.
Each of the albums had a black and white stamp on the cover reading parental advisory. I knew at the time that I wasn’t allowed in big brother’s room, and I sure as hell knew that looking at naked women wasn’t allowed, but I knew i liked it and figured that I might just like this other stuff that was clearly stamped not for young children.
I popped in the CDs, one by one, listening to them from start to finish, not all at once because I often had to run out of the room, but I always went back to finish what I started. Little did I know that I was solidifying a love for a genre of music that would last a lifetime.
After studying the album booklets, I learned that Lons or L.O.N.S., stood for Leaders of the New School “Charlie Charlie go Charlie, Go Busta Busta go Busta, Go Dinco Dinco go Dinco, You know we got style!”, I didn’t really get into Pharcyde at the time but I liked that ‘”she keeps on passing me by!” song because I could identify with not knowing how to tell that girl at school that I liked her; the artwork also appealed to my growing libido. Nas (which I pronounced Nass) told me that life was a bitch and then you die, and that was why he got ‘high’, which at the time I guessed meant ‘have fun’. Nas also told me that the world was mine, which gave me a sense of inherited wealth and entitlement. I’m not sure when I learned how to pronounce Nas, but I know that I didn’t learn how to pronounce Krs-1 for while; I thought it stood for ‘curse one’ or something, on account of all the profanity.
The album with the swiggly lines was A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnite Marauders. The subject matter was a bit heavy for me at the time, seeming more lyrical than any of the others, but dope beats like that found on Award Tour kept me coming back for more. It was cool for me to recognize at the time that Busta Rhymes, then of L.O.N.S., was to be heard on this album as well on the track Oh My God. Yes! OH MY GOD! The best part of this album to me, back then, was the strange robotic woman’s voice.
Now that I remember, I also discovered The Nortorious B.I.G. in my brother’s collection. No Tupac tho. Subsequently, I landed on the East coast side when it came to that whole over-blown beef.
And then there was that album with the scary looking ghostfaced ninjas on the cover. Enter the 36 Chambers, Wu-Tang Clan.
“Introducing the GHOST FACE KILLAAAAAAAHHHHH! ”
The energy on this album, above all the others, immediatly captured and ensnared me. I fell in love. It was cool as fuck. It was nothing to fuck with. Sounds of martial artists fighting at the beginning and end of each song!? Wicked! As I would have said back then.
The next step for me was digging into my brothers Kung-Fu movie collection and then his anime collection. He put me on rap, and then rap put me on Kung-Fu and Japanese animation.
But I digress. In a time when everyone lied to me, told me everything was sweet, these Wu-Tang niggaz brought the mutha-fuckin Ruckus! These guys talked about Voltron on their album. They were clearly speaking directly to me son!
“You can’t test me and you can’t test my style!” It was also speaking to my soon to be rebellious teenage self.
They also showed me that it was ok to slow it down, and reminisce, with Can It Be All So Simple. I had a pretty decent childhood, especially compared to these guys, but without getting into specifics, I had strict parents, and I could identify with longing for days that weren’t as rough as others. LOL, as I write this I swear, my Dad just came into the room and started doing this lame jig dance to Can It Be, LMAO.
I remember when he found out that I was listening to this music. Things weren’t so funny back then. LOL, but we can laugh now.
True story: my parents came back from a trip to New York one year. (This is years after I already fell in love with rap) I was still officially not allowed to listen to it according to my parents. Anyway, when they came back, I think I might have been in grade 8, they handed my brother and I a tape each. One was Sons of Man, the other was Killarmy; two of Wu-Tang’s spinoff groups. He then proceeded to show us pictures that he took with Killah Priest. Only my Dad LOL. He told us that Priest was a good young man, and that he and his brothers were about black unity and the pursuit of knowledge and prosperity through positive means. My Dad didn’t elaborate at the time, but now I assume Priest spat some of that then still popular God-Body stuff about the black-man being God. Convinced that the overall message of rap was positive, although sometimes vulgar, my Dad decided, after we promised not to use the language ourselves, that the Wu was good for his sons.
Today, I am still a die hard Wu-Tang Clan fan; owning all their albums in original cases. I went on to love all their solo LPs as well. I eventually learned how to pronounce KRS1 and learned what Nas meant about getting high and what Method Man meant about a 40 (ewww, thank God that phase didn’t last long).
Last month I went to where Hip Hop all started. New York City. Wow! The energy in that city. It wasn’t my first time there, I had been many times when I was younger, before I discovered rap, and still thought cops were cool. “Holla if you ever been placed in hand-cuffs!” – The late great J.Dilla.
But yeah, I went there to contact a few literary agencies, but wanted to catch a cool live hip hop show if I could. I suppose I went with the wrong people. I had a chance to see a Pharoe Monch performance and instead did some bullshit that left a sour taste in my mouth. Best parts of the trip were a walk through of Central Park, a three hour shopping spree in Strand Book Store, and dinner and drinks at the Jay-Z owned Spotted Pig.
But back to Hip Hop, the subject of this here post; the thing that I love the most. Maybe not the most, but I had to rhyme that cuz 36 Chambers is still bumping the background as I write this.
Some of the people I talked to there, were on some shit that really erked me. Saying Hip Hop was dead and shit. Saying that nobody was saying anything anymore. Saying nothing was original anymore. Everything was cookie cutter music. Yet when I asked these cats if they had heard of J.D, Slum Village, Little Brother, 9th wonder, Killer Mike, Saigon, Blu, Charles Hamilton, Kid they looked at me with blank faces. They even, like those old haters of Jay-Z, said Jeezy and The Game had nothing to offer Rap. Shame on you if you think that too.
To me Hip Hop will never die, not simply because I can always go back and listen to the classics (“cuz I find myself in a place where I’m last seen” – Ghostface) but because like when I was 9 or 10 or 11 in 91 or 92 or 93, I went and looked, searched, and found the real.
To this day, I do that. I go and look for quality rap. Because I love it, and can’t listen to the bastardized shit they play over and over on the radio. And when the wells dry up I go back and listen to the classics, or take a break from rap and Jazz it up or use Rock and Roll to hold it down.
One of these guys knew who MF Doom was, which impressed me. But I was just pissed that these guys, who claimed to be fans of the music, didn’t know J.D.!!! I’m sorry but that is inexcusable for any devout Hip Hop fan. My brother, now almost 40 knows J.D. because he loves this artform, and still goes out and looks for the real.
Now if you will excuse me, “I’m about to go get lifted, yes I’m about to go get a lifted…I got myself a 40, I got myself a shorty!”
Nah, I”m playing I’m off to work. I wish I had a shorty 😦
“Question…what exactly is a panty raider?” – Method Man
Stay classy Internet.
“The World Is Yours” Nas put me on Scarface too. Rap introduced to so many things. You like their samples so much that you go and get the originals and that opens you up to even more art. DAMN I LOVE HIP HOP! I just wanna scream that from the top of mountain! lol
Filed under: What I'm Listening to -Music and Lyrics | 2 Comments »