I Used to Love H.I.M. by Maria Rodriguez- Morales
I’m in love with the coco. I got it for the low low. My eleven year old son asks me to raise the volume on the radio. Its two thirty on a Friday afternoon and I have a carload of 6th graders turning up for the weekend. Baking soda, I got baking soda. Baking soda, I got baking soda. Whip it through the glass n*gga, I’m blowing money fast n*gga. After hearing my son spit the hook to this song for what seemed like a 4 block stretch, I switch stations. Taylor Swift sings about shaking it off and it’s exactly what I needed. He grumbles. I’m annoyed. What the hell did I just hear? What can my eleven year old, 6th grade child possibly know about a treinta ocho, kilos and coke? Hip Hop is prevalent in our home. As an artist, I’m the last person to be policing another artists form of self-expression. I’m a huge fan of rap music and some of my favorite MC’s don’t necessarily rhyme about college educations and nine to five’s but there was always a story line. There was always a message. I was in the 7th grade when I first heard 2Pac’s Brenda’s Got A Baby. I hear Brenda’s got a baby But, Brenda’s barely got a brain A damn shame The girl can hardly spell her name (That’s not our problem, that’s up to Brenda’s family) Well let me show ya how it affects the whole community… I knew a Brenda and though her story didn’t end the same way, it was the kind of truth many of my peers were witness to. Lyricists like Pac brought a different kind of element to the genre. His tracks read like poetry to me before I had the slightest interest in learning the form. There was an underlying message of hopelessness and realism in his writing that was inescapable. Sure misogyny and violence were prevalent themes in his music but so were songs like Dear Mama and Keep Ya Head Up. “Though our hands are chained like they are, they haven’t taken music from us yet. So that’s how I’ll fight”, he stated. On an NPR interview in 2013 Talib Kweli says “The best MCs in the world have always needed to have something conscious, something dealing with the community, something uplifting, something positive. Even if the majority of the content was negative, you had to have that. And that changed over time.” Music changes. It shifts and what’s getting played by mainstream radio is not the hip hop I grew up on but my hip hop is not the music my mother grew up on either. Major corporations don’t seem to have an interest in selling and marketing consciousness. They’re too invested glorifying the excessiveness of “keeping it real”. That’s not to say I don’t listen to Drake, Bobby Schmurda or Meek Mill. I’d be a hypocrite denying that a catchy hook or beat didn’t leave me with a head nod. It’s also a means to communicate with my boys and keep me up to date on the present culture. There was a time where the first bar of a song would get me hype. I would rewind and fast forward my Maxwell till the tape popped just so I could recite the lyrics verbatim. Hip Hop was an outlet for black and brown youth and it wasn’t solely relegated to social consciousness but also skill. It ain’t hard to tell, I excel, then prevail The mic is contacted, I attract clientele My mic check is life or death, breathin a sniper’s breath I exhale the yellow smoke of buddha through righteous steps – Nasir Jones Nas’s critically acclaimed Illmatic is a classic 20 years later. It was a coming of age story told through the unflinching narration of a 20-year-old man-child trying to survive temptation, incarceration and struggle. Illmatic would become his legacy. Nowadays, it’s rarely I hear a mainstream rapper spit a verse that knocks me the fuck out. I usually turn to online radio or a well-crafted playlist just to hear something different because originality is lacking. Where’s the skill? Where’s the art? Where’s the poetry? Where’s the message? There’s got to be more than a dope beat and hook. Music is an art form and I’m grateful for MC’s like Kendrick Lamar who haven’t forgotten that. There are a plethora of dope MC’s putting in the necessary work to change the direction of Hip Hop. Many of them independent, underground artists who have no desire to put up a front for marketability. With so much going on in our society it’s time we switch up the vernacular to represent our present climate. The swag, sex and drugs will always be there it’s time to bring the revolution back into Rap music. In 1993’s Sound of Da Police, KRS-One raps: I’d rather say “See ya” ’cause I would never be ya. Be a officer? You wicked overseer Ya hotshot, wanna get props and be a saviour? First show a little respect, change your behavior Change your attitude, change your plan There could never really be justice on stolen land Over a decade later police brutality and excessive force will garner protests and die-ins around the nation. A collective outcry of black and brown youth have sounded off, utilizing their voices to demand reform. Ferguson and Michael Brown. Staten Island and Eric Garner. Cleveland and Tamir Rice. Hip Hop has always been a voice for the oppressed. On the Late Show With David Letterman, J Cole will remind us, through a haunting and painful performance that all we wanna do is break the chains off, all we wanna do is be free. And in that moment I have hope. That hip hop has gotten its second wind.