As I write this, I am watching How Hip Hop Changed The World on Channel 4. I also have a migraine and I’m unsure if I’m going to pass out from pain or throw up. I’m also fighting off sleep like a stubborn toddler.
This programme is bringing back a lot of memories for me, and it’s got me thinking- what does Hip Hop mean to me?
I grew up on so many kinds of music. Everything from Billie Holiday to Bob Dylan to Blondie. I heard everything. It all inspired me in so many ways.
When I went to secondary school, I didn’t exactly have the time of my life there. To say it was hell is a massive understatement- but that’s not for here. Never for here. I remember walking down the corridor in my second year of secondary school playing Eric B & Rakim’s album Don’t Sweat The Technique on my Walkman. Tape Walkman that is. I loved Eric B & Rakim so much. I thought Rakim was the best thing since hiding in the library to escape everything and everyone.
I adored bands such as De La Soul, Naughty By Nature, A Tribe Called Quest, Salt n Pepa. I loved them all so much. I felt like nothing could touch me as I walked through school. The reality was, I just couldn’t hear anything due to having my music blaring in my ears ridiculously loud.
I never liked the songs that degraded women or bragged about the amount of money so and so had. I loved the fun lyrics and the in depth lyrics.
I loved (and still do) Talib Kweli, Mos Def and Common. Those three were the ones I constantly played. Black on Both Sides by Mos Def still remains one of my favourite albums ever. I loved LL Cool J’s early stuff. I challenge you to listen to Mamma Said Knock You Out and not feel like you were the most important person ever. It just held you so high, you felt like you could do anything.
I was obsessed with Tupac. I’ve still got all his albums, all the books, his poetry book, videos- that’s right, I’ve got VHS’ of Tupac, all the films he was in, bootleg tapes and CDs. I just adored him. I still do. I loved his honesty, his brutal lyrics, his loving lyrics. I still can’t listen to Dear Mamma without crying. It still tugs at my heartstrings. I’m also still angry that they never caught his or Biggie’s killer. I know everyone was its either Tupac or Biggie- you couldn’t like both. I thought both were brilliant. Biggie’s Ready To Die is a phenomenal debut album. The way Tupac could break your heart then instantly make you laugh with his wordplay just blew me away. First and foremost, he was a poet. He made you see the world how he saw it with his words. He made you change how you saw the world with his words.
I could write so many words on why I love him and what he means to me. I probably will soon, I can feel some kind of essay about Tupac coming on if I don’t move onto a different part of Hip Hop.
There’s always been a lack of females in Hip Hop. Those that ever got anywhere were usually half naked on stage and being ever so vulgar with their words. For some reason, I loved Foxy Brown. I loved her deep voice, the way she didn’t care about what she said and how she said it- she wasn’t afraid. That for me just made me love her music. I was never a fan of Lil’Kim. I don’t know why, I just didn’t really care about her music as much as I cared for Foxy Brown’s.
Does anyone remember MC Trouble? No? Well, she was amazing. But she died before anyone really knew of her. MC Lyte, Roxanne Shante, Queen Latifah, Missy and my favourite- Monie Love. They were all strong female rappers. Ones worth looking up to.
Many argue about who and where Hip Hop started- I’ll always say it started with DJ Kool Herc. Always. But obviously there is no way you can deny that Grandmaster Flash played an equally vital role as Herc did. I guess I’d say, they both started it.
Kurtis Blow, Rakim and Big Daddy Kane are three of my favourites ever. EVER. There is no denying that those three flow so smoothly over beats. Their wordplay hypnotised you and made you want to rap. I was just in so much awe of them when I first heard them. I still am now. There’s never been anyone else like them, there never will be.
One rapper that I adored and was massively upset when he was killed was Big L. The Big Picture is up there with one of the best hip hop albums ever. I’d safely place it in my list of favourite albums of all time too. His song. Ebonics educated you on street slang. The Freestyle on the album blew you away. His duet with Tupac, Deadly Combination was just stunning. It’s just a perfect Hip Hop album.
So, what does Hip Hop mean to me? Well, I personally feel it has that Punk vibe to it. Don’t care what anyone thinks about you or says about you- just be yourself and express yourself. It’s an art-form. A way of life. Pop music isn’t a way of life or a state of mind. It’s just empty words over repetitive sounds. Hip Hop on the other hand educates. It’s a state of mind. Just listen to Public Enemy if you want to be educated in a way you never thought you could be taught.
For me, Punk rock and Hip Hop go hand in hand within the music industry. They went against everything you were told you listen to. It was rebellious at best and dangerous at worst.
What still pisses me off is the way people are always going on about how it degrades women and is mindless.
Those that say this are listening to the kind if Hip Hop that doesn’t deserve to be called Hip Hop. They are ignoring the songs that hold depth and lessons.
Go listen to Public Enemy, go listen to Jurassic 5, go listen to Dilated Peoples. There is more to Hip Hop than what the media rams down your neck.
Not every rapper carries a gun and a wad of money in their back pocket. Open your mind and go listen to the true essence of Hip Hop.
There will always be rivalry in Hip Hop. The media will always blow it out of proportion and make Hip Hop out to be the bad guy- when really, it isn’t. Hip Hop speaks to people; it’s a form of art and a way of life that has undoubtedly saved lives.
Remember, “It ain’t where you from, it’s where you at.”