Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Hey, Brainslice...

I read your shit about falling head first into Hip Hop despite being trapped in that desolate fucking wasteland they call Idaho. (Of course, I'm paraphrasing.) The post got me thinkin' though... about my own past. And how I found Hip Hop.
My story starts in southern Indiana. In a town with less than 1000 folks. These days, they got a riverboat casino and goddam golf course, but this story happened when I was a grade school kid in the early 80's... when that town didn't have shit. (Yeah, I'm old. Go fuck yourself.) Side note: That town is in the smallest county in Indiana... but still had the highest teen pregnancy rate in the state back then. (Like I said though... "Grade Schooler". I miss all the fuckin' fun.)

As a kid, music was whatever dad played in the truck... usually Merle, Hank Sr., or Willie. If they weren't old and white, I didn't hear em. That is until pops took a job in Georgia. South-muh-fuckin-Georgia. Lil' 8-year-old me didn't know what he was in for. Living in an actual city. With neighbors. And streets... With lights and shit. And a HUGE school. Filled with kids. Kids that didn't look like me. At all.

Fucked up as it may sound, I had never met a black person before then. And here I was in a place where I was decidedly in the minority. I was a typical scared new kid, but I made friends quick. And all of them with skin darker than mine. I dove head first into a new culture and for the short time I was there, I was in heaven. My family though, was in hell. I didn't know it, but my older brother was flunking out of school, my dad hated his new job, and my mom missed her family up north. So before I knew it, we were packing back up and heading out. Six months was all I got. Six months of fun memories sure, but even bigger than that, six months that completely changed me as a person. How? By introducing me to Hip Hop.

The house we lived in was rented by my dad's company. Nice place on a nice street. All my friends though, lived about 3 blocks away, in a not-so-nice area separated from "us" by a bunch of liquor stores and gas stations on a major street. Smaller houses, jammed together and filled with people. My buddy Stephon had a bunch of sisters and big badass Momma that would probably slap me if she heard me use the word "badass". Before I knew it, they were fam. And it was on the porch of their house, with Stephon and his sisters that I heard rap for the first time ever. I wish I could remember the song. I really can't. and I've tried... HARD.

The radio hits then were things like Kurtis Blow - The Breaks or Sugar Hill Gang - Rappers Delight ... but part of me hopes it was something more obscure. Something his sisters were into like Paulett & Tanya Winley -Rhymin and rappin.

Whatever it was, I was hooked. I stayed glued to the radio... or to Steph's 45s (look it up, young fucks). For six months, I soaked it in... And then back to the country I went. Where none of my friends cared about rap. Where my parents had banned it. (Except for Blondie... her "Rapping" was NEAT!) My older brother hated it. He didn't get how people "talking" was "music".

So... I hid it. Kept it for myself. My friends got into Motley Crue, Iron Maiden and Poison. I guess I did, too. But when no one else was around I was in my room with the volume low diggin' on Kangol and the rest of U.T.F.O. choppin' it up on how best to bang Roxanne... or laughing when Roxanne Shante spit back at em. or trying to beat box in the barn (that's right, I said the BARN) as Doug E Fresh and Slick Rick stole The Show.

Later on, I told big brother about my rap obsession. He laughed at me. I tried to cover by saying I still liked Rock. He asked me who I meant and I said Motley Crue. He laughed even harder. Then he hit the next gas station, ran inside and bought me Aerosmith - Toys in the Attic, saying "THIS, is Rock N Roll". I listened to that too. And the Lynyrd Skynyrd album he brought me a week later. I soaked it all in. Even occasionally dipping back into those old Hank Williams Sr. songs my dad loved so much. But I never strayed far from those scratches, those beats, all those quick-witted lyrical blasts.

Then in Jr. High my brain exploded... when Rev RUN and Mr. McDaniels cut wax over my brother’s favorite band on MTV. (I thought big bro would REALLY love the new Walk This Way ... but he just laughed again.) After that, my whole high school was talking about LL Cool J, Erik B and Rakim, Ice-T, Salt N Peppa and The Beastie Boys. Everyone in my world soon loved rap because NWA was unlike anything anyone had ever heard and 2 Live Crew was nastier than any of us could ever be. All of it meant FUCK AUTHORITY. Kids ate it up. "Rock" didn't cut it anymore. Our parents didn't hate it enough. RAP was the new way to ensure that they wouldn't understand you.

But I knew my friends didn't hear what I heard. They couldn't. I love the Beastie Boys as much as anybody I went to high school with... but I love Rakim more. And I'll bet most of those folks don't even remember who Rakim is. I wrote this piece because of what Brainslice wrote, and I know for damn sure that dude knows more about rap and Hip Hop than I ever will. I'm not tryna put my experience above anyone else's. I'm just sayin'... This was how it went down for me. How it's still goin' down. Every time I hear a beat that makes me sour up my face or bob my head. Every time my eyebrows raise over some clever line I didn't see comin’... I'm that 8-year old kid again, on a porch in the south Georgia heat... Feelin' it all for the very first time.

Thanks for reading. Peace.

Oh, and also... Ice Cube. Just cause I didn’t work him into this story anywhere else.

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