I have said this before but I will say it again. Hip Hop is the big brother that I never had. The hip hop that I have always gravitated towards has been the rap that has been championed by great lyrists and storytellers like Nas & The Notorious B.I.G. For me it has always been wordplay over beats, double entendres over punch lines, introspection over hyper materialism and consciousness over ignorance. I have always looked to Hip Hop and rap in particular to open my eyes to a wider world than that which I knew. Rap lyrics with references outside of my knowledge base lead me back into the world of bookworm curiosity, uncovering authors, activists and samples alike. I also love the predominant Hip Hop narrative that often tells the story of overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds and making something of your life.
Rap in general also have had quite an influence on my writing—its rhythm, simplicity and impact. The music taught me that sometimes the most compelling way to relate something is to describe it as it happened. If you can make an audience live what you’ve lived, they are more likely to grasp your intent and make your mission their own. Rap music also compels me to want to be a better writer. I am driven to have the same command over my dialogue that some of my favourite rappers have over their rhyme schemes in order to put my message across in such a compelling manner.
Rap music also redefined intelligence. In our society, our school system and distribution of social rewards fixate on a narrow range of accomplishments and talents which in turn comes to restrict what kinds of values we teach and how we socialise children to realise success. You have to go to school to get a good job, and you want a good job so you can make good money, and you want money so you can have the freedom to do and be who you want. Except you have to often conform to a certain standard to get the good grades and essentially kick start the whole process.
Hip hop illustrates an alternative to the norm, and is a medium that makes manipulating language and one’s social location cool so to speak. In a lot of ways Hip Hop is also my muse. Sometimes whilst listening to a song something resonates and my mind goes off on a tangent and I am inspired to write something. In fact compared to all other musical genres I would say rap is by far the most creative and original in regards to lyrics. There’s an art to the unfiltered bluntness it presents, an art that remains untapped by all other musical genres. Simply put, at the heart of it rap is pure honesty.
One of my favourite rap songs Is Slippin’ by DMX of his 1998 sophomore album Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood DMX. Slippin’ is a beautifully poignant song that speaks to the challenges and struggles we all have to overcome at some point in our lives. It’s a song that you, me and everyone we know can relate to on some level. In the song DMX narrates his own story from boyhood to manhood and how the challenges he has had to overcome have differed over time. He also speaks on the future he envisages for his family. All in all he hits that sweet spot between fragility and vulnerability that most of us can relate to.
Personally this song has given me hope during some of my darkest moments when I wasn’t too sure I would get back on my feet again. In those moments it reminded me to not only acknowledge the challenges I was facing but also inspired me to conjure the determination that was necessary to get me out of that place. Listening to it always reminds me of the challenges I have overcome so far in my life and today I just wanted to share it on this space because sometimes you just need that little push to get back on your feet and tear shit up again.