#My500Words: Day 7 of 31 "Hip-Hop Saved My Life"
It was in the fifth grade that I first discovered what would be my love for hip-hop. Ever since then hip-hop has been an essential part of my life. From the culture that I embraced to the clothes that I wear and to the way that I talk and walk, it is all rooted within hip-hop. Hip-Hop means a lot of things to a lot of people.
To some, hip-hop means overcoming adversity and to others, hip-hop means the hustle and lavish lifestyle that comes with it. But, yet there is and will always be an underlying meaning of hip-hop and that is an expression in its truest form.
The first rapper that I studied and connected with was Eminem. It was Eminem’s outlandish and extreme lyrics that would draw me to him. I was only 10 when I first heard the Marshall Mather’s LP and it would be the first album that I would know every word from beginning to end. The irony being that I had no idea what the hell Eminem was talking about, but it all sounded good. The way that he used his voice to emphasize his pain and frustration that encompassed his life. Whenever I put on the Marshall Mather’s LP, I was trying to be like the real Slim Shady. A young rebel that just wanted to say F the world.
During middle school, I would transition out of the Eminem phase and would broaden my scope of rappers. I would go on to listen to stuff that my older brothers were listening to. From E-40 and his originality of pretty much creating his own slang. To Cam’ron and the way his wordplay and punchlines would have a humorous undertone. I would listen to any mix cd that was around the household that I could get my hands on. I would occasionally pick up my stepdad's 2 Pac All Eyez on Me double-disc cd. Too young to connect with what he was preaching during his lifetime, Tupac would be the main reason my love for hip-hop would go to the next level.
Growing up in California in the 90’s and at the height of the West Coast vs. East Coast beef, it was almost impossible to not know whom Tupac was or the songs that he made. Tupac was everywhere on the radio and TV, from California Love to Ambitionz of a Rida. All I knew was the surface level version Tupac, the hit maker and entertainment icon. It wasn’t until when my 7th grade English teacher would put his poetry book “The Rose That Grew From The Concrete” in my hand did I fully understand the consciousness of who Tupac was.
I would study that poetry book almost every day in middle school. Till this day I still thank my teacher for buying that book. Because if she didn’t, I would not be as aware as I am today. I wouldn’t have the love for fighting for social justice and the improvement of our communities. I wouldn’t have understood the power that words can have on not only changing someone’s state of mind but inspiring a whole generation.
It was that book that would open up the connection of hip-hop and social consciousness to me. At a young age of 12 or 13, I would become awake. In my state of awakening, I would continue to look at hip-hop for many answers to not only my problems but also the problems in the world. In high school, I would discover the underground ‘conscious’ rap and grew a fascination for old-school hip-hop.
Already kind of a weird and introvert, hip-hop was a community and culture that I found easy to embrace. In the age of Myspace and on-line message boards, I would search and spend hours in these communities connecting with like minded individuals with the one thing that we had in common. A love for real hip-hop.
I would grow deeper and deeper into underground hip-hop and found artists that were on the same stream of consciousness as Tupac but had an even rawer message and edge. From Dead Prez, Immortal Technique, Jedi Mind Tricks and much more, they were all speaking directly to my anger of what was wrong with the world. Political corruption, racial inequality, and injustice in our society.
These ‘conspiracy rappers’ would open my mind and change my train of thought. No longer could I listen to the mainstream hip-hop, as the message on the radio wasn’t aligned with what I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear and listen to music that made you think, that made you question the world, and that made you search for solutions.
Outside of the underground hip-hop scene, I would find solace within old school hip-hop. Artists such as Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang, Common, and Gang Starr were at the top my itunes playlist. Public Enemy taught me about revolution, A Tribe Called Quest told it’s okay to be funky, Wu-Tang inspired me to be a bit gritty, Common would romanticize love and awareness, and Gang Starr was like a certain combination of all of the above.
This isn’t an ode to hip-hop but it is a thank you. Thank you hip-hop for waking me up. Thank you hip-hop for accepting me into your culture. Thank you hip-hop for being there for providing answers to questions that society and school would not answer for me. Thank you hip-hop for saving my life.