Before I jumped right into writing my letter to Hip Hop, I thought it might be helpful if I defined what Hip Hop is, or at least what it is in this context. I couldn’t have found a harder task. See, people have called Hip Hop pretty much every name in the book. Some people know it just as a music genre, others embrace it as a Culture, some consider it a movement, and others call it a lifestyle. Basically Hip Hop has taken many shapes and forms because in essence it’s a form of subjective and personal expression. I guess that’s why Hip Hop can be such a negative and positive term all at the same time depending on its conveyor. What gets me the most is when people have the gall to say that Hip Hop is dead cause last time I checked expression never dies, as long as someone feels the need to express it or even just remembers that it was expressed, it lives on. In my life Hip Hop has been a Mother and like any mother I can’t blame her for what her children have done with her teachings. This letter isn’t about what Hip Hop was or is, it’s about what Mama Hip Hop taught me, and why I love her and always will.
My older brothers and sisters often tell me you about your golden years. About how wonderful and powerful you were. Full of righteousness and The Fight. Breaking down into b-boy battles in the middle of the street, climbing trains to graff ‘Fuck the Police’, showing off your lyrical skill in cyphers and boogying down till the break of dawn on that DJ beat. Unfortunately I was too young to know you as so. I hated on the ones before me for having known you at such a divine time thinking I could never follow in your steps not having experienced it first hand. This all changed one day when I was going through your records, as I pumped Tribe through busted speakers I realized you left me an eternal legacy; Beat, Rhymes and Life memories. Every verse and snare just throbbed of your energy. Studying your life taught me most of what I know. I learned how Lauryn got over the Hill, and that when you Quest for Love you should never forget your Roots. You taught me that chasing Dead Presidents won’t make me the Illest and that every move I make should be with Common Sense. That sometimes it’s important kick back like it’s Summertime. But most importantly that you gotta work hard and be true cause life comes at you whether you Ready or Not. The jealousy I used to feel for that exclusive connection soon faded because I realized I hadn’t lost a thing. Your life was so well catalogued that I didn’t lose a beat.
To be honest I’m also offended when they call it your glory days cause the woman you are now is stronger than anything I’ve ever seen. You’ve grown so much, and are now a well established member of this society. Just being associated to your name has brought me so many opportunities in life. I’ve met many of your lost loves, good friends and new fans and its so inspiring to see so many people love my mama and want to follow in her ideologies. You’ve been around the world now and every place you’ve been they kept a piece of you a nurtured it strong. You’re multilingual, transcultural, and so wonderfully accessible. No matter where I go I know I’ll find members of your extended family. I’ve seen people break down barriers with tools from your teachings and build new bonds with you as the common link. Of course some of my brothers have taken advantage of your name, twisting your words and you causing you shame. I guess that’s just a part of it, there’s no Ying without Yang right. With age you’ve left us more control on the reins, which always comes with more responsibility. The responsibility to keep pushing this movement forward, to expand this dream and modify our goals accordingly. I won’t speak for all your children but know that I appreciate every word you ever told me and that try to represent you the best I can every time I step out to do me. I can never repay you for the love, strength, and knowledge that you giving me. All I can do is make sure the name Hip Hop always lives on.
With so much Love, Respect and Admiration,
Growing up, I was not exposed to very much Hip Hop at all. You know, besides the odd rap break in Backstreet Boys songs, my education in all things Hip Hop was seriously lacking. Saskatchewan in the 90s was not, at least in the circles that I ran in, uh, at 10, a musically discerning place. It was only later, listening to Wu Tang and Lauryn Hill for the first time, that I realized what a huge movement and history I had been missing. After living in Montreal for a few years, during my indiepunkmetal days in high school, when MF Gold and I joined the Youthworks theatre program, that my love for Hip Hop went from pretty much not existing, to a soul aching want for beats and rhymes to fill my ears, to occupy the space in my mind that had finally stood up and taken notice. We were so lucky man, not only did I get Hip Hop schooled there (literally, we had classes), I was fortunate enough to theatre alongside young artists making a name in the Hip Hop scene. So there I was, 14 or 15 years old, just learning who I was, and there was Hip Hop, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t appreciated its massive power and wonder before. The Montreal scene that was my first introduction to my own love for Hip Hop, continues its inspiration and influence, and here I am, invited into a forum where I get to talk about Hip Hop and share my love for it week to week and I couldn’t be more excited. I can’t wait to learn what else I’ve been missing, to hear from artists and appreciators, and of course from my girl MF Gold.