Saturday, April 25, 2009

So how did Hip-Hop save me?

The year was '86. Reaganomics was in full effect, Crack was making hood cats millionaires, and I was a snot-nosed living with my parents, who thanks to my father's grinding, raised us out of the poverty that engulfed every one else in our area.

Digging around in my dad's record collection I came across a 12' vinyl with the blue Jive label by an artist named Kool Moe Dee called "Go See the Doctor".

"I went to the doctor's office, I said "What have I got?"

He said 'Turn around boy and take this shot"

I looked at him like he was crazy, and I said "What?!'

Ain't nobody sticking nothing in my butt.

Now a song about getting burned by a chick went completely over the head of an 8-year old, (I just thought that the word 'butt' on a record was endless comedy) but it was at that moment I fell in love with Hip-Hop.

Soon after my parents separated and just like a majority of my peers I was residing in a single parent household with just my mother (who hated hip hop) who drilled me with an endless dose of gospel music (she even hated gospel hip hop). But thanks to my friends, Rap City, and Yo! MTV Raps, I didn't miss out on the conscious P.E. movement and the rise of the Gangsta / Ruffneck sound.

It wasn't until '91 that I bought my first album "Naughty By Nature" (laugh if you want to but O.P.P. was irresistible). The song that connected with me the most was "Ghetto Bastard (Everything's Gonna Be Alright)". Now I wasn't a bastard in any sense but my early teen angst along with sitting in the hood, single parent apartment, friends in the same position as me, helped me the relate with Treach's lyrics:

"A ghetto bastard, born next to the projects,

Livin' in the slums with bums, I say now why Treach,

Do I have to be like this? Momma said I'm priceless

So I am, I'm worthless, starving, and that's just what being nice gets"

Over the next few years I came to realize the importance of the songs I was listening to. From Ed O.G. & The Bulldogs to Brotha Lynch Hung, I ran the gambit. From positive to horrorcore, from stuntin' to sad stories, from legends to one hitter quitters. I believed in the stories that I heard because I was seeing them unfold before my eyes. I saw my friends go from rocking their clothes backwards (See Kriss Kross) to Dickies Khakis and Chuck Taylors in the span of a school year. I lost friends who the year before we rolled worldwide on our Huffy's together, then by the end of the summer they chunking me the deuce as they rolled by in their Cutlass bumping the new Spice 1 tape.

My mother took me to see "Boyz N Tha Hood' with my cousin who had seen it twice already and was in full West Coast gangsta attire. While I looked on with sadness as Ricky got gunned down he's sitting next to me giggling. After we dropped off home my mother made an announcement to me: "If I see you acting like anything in that movie, I'll kill you myself!". Needless to say my wish for a Dickies khaki outfit went out the window. My cousin would go on to see countless nights in jail for everything from selling dope, to assaults before he straighten his life out.

Now could I have went the route of so many of my peers? Easily.

Do I blame Hip-Hop? Never.

I have 3 sons of my own (by my wife) who listen to Hip-Hop (even though I cringe at some of it). In a nation that quickly seeks someone else to blame (See Asher Roth's "hacked" twitter account) for their own personal failures and mistakes the music we love should inspire you to either avoid or go towards the lifestyles you listen to. I accept the responsibility of the failure of my kids behavior due to the influence of rappers, trappers, pimps and the occasional revolutionary.

Hip-Hop did save my life. There are thousands of songs that warned of the pitfalls of life in these streets but at the end of the day it was those closest to me that helped steer me in the right direction. I learned that from Hip-Hop too.

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