“Why are you so into hip hop?” asked this guy at my job. As a black man is his mid to late 20s, he and I are contemporaries with similar experiences and interests.
“Why are YOU into hip hop?” I replied. I know, a smart-assed response, but as a black woman I err on the side of defensiveness. The world has shaped me to be so.
My answer to that question isn’t innovative, compelling, or even really noteworthy. I just feel like the essence of hip hop runs through my blood. It’s always been around me; it’s the soundtrack to my life as a girl growing up in the hood.
Music was always on in my house. I have a distinct memory being six or seven years old, playing outside with my cousins because my grandma wasn’t having us bad ass kids in her house messing up her furniture. The radio was blasting, and we were outside making up dance steps to Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story.” My cousin Meena knew all the lyrics to the song, and I was totally in awe. I was like damn, she knows all the words to the song without missing a beat. That’s skill.
My passion for hip hop comes from my parents. The music appreciation comes from my dad, who sincerely values music. When I was ten, he took me to my first concert. Funkadelic, Gap Band, and Lakeside performed at the Los Angeles Coliseum. I didn’t get it at the time, I wasn’t too keen on seeing old men in space suits rocking out onstage. I was more into TLC and En Vogue. In hindsight I appreciate it; it was a lesson in music that I didn’t understand until I became an adult.
Pops is pretty adamant that his children understand and appreciate good music. He’s very into education and creativity; I get my studious nature from him. He’s like a ghetto intellectual. Don’t let his bookish nature fool you; he’s really into Public Enemy, Ice Cube, and Tribe Called Quest. He is a true hip hop head; he’s a part of the generation that started it. The generation that took traditional soul music and gave birth to hip hop. I remember once he made my sister and I watch a two and a half hour documentary on The Temptations. About an hour or so in we started to get agitated and whiny, and he said, “Be quiet and watch this. You need to know how real music happens.” Shut us down real quick.
My appreciation for hip hop style came from my Mom. That sounds weird, right? But my Mom is the ultimate b-girl. She had me when she was only 19, so she was still enjoying her youth and living the fast life in the 80s. Nobody rocked a blonde asymmetrical haircut and neon orange curved fingernails like my mom. She was the flyest chick in the hood, hands down. She had the fly custom gear, the flashy jewelry, the hairstyle, the attitude…she’s still a fly girl to this day. She passed the swagger and that fly girl attitude down to her daughters, who do it our way in our time.
So there you have it. The ghetto nerd and the fly girl fell in love, made a baby, and the HipHopMuse was born.