An Ode to Hip Hop
This isn't exactly an "ode," more so ramblings of a mad woman in love with Hip Hop, but "ode" as a nice ring to it. "Ode" - I like the poetics of it.
I first wrote around this time last year. It served as my first piece to open up my Hip Hop blog. My blog has led me to dive in deeper into Hip Hop, and I've decided to expand on this piece. From my heart to these words you see, I hope you can relate.
Here's to Hip Hop.
“So…when did you fall in love with hip-hop?” - Brown Sugar, 2002
Those songs - you just hear a song and it automatically clicks. Something clicks. I don’t know what it is, but something is clicking alright. Like you found a piece of a puzzle that has been missing your whole life - and it just makes sense.
In a world where nothing makes sense, it’s exactly what you need. Every time you hear it it’s just like the first time. Those same emotions come up. Feeling a relief of finding that song that just completely gets you. As if the songwriter has been following you, taking notes. A sense of gratification comes over you….and well uh, a tad bit creeped out. This person you never met is somehow telling your life story or the story of a moment in your life. Your story attached to a melody - to a beat. You’re not alone. Someone else out there feels exactly how you feel, going through what you’re going through.
Music does that for me, more so Hip-Hop. Man, Hip-Hop is life to me. I don't like to put myself in a box, I listen to everything, but for sure Hip- Hop is where my heart is.
“She was old school, when I was just a shorty
Never knew throughout my life she would be there for me” - Common
Many artists have personified hip-hop, as Common in his 1994 "I Used to Love H.E.R." Why? Because when you’re an artist of any kind, nothing is more important than the art itself. The love, the respect, the admiration, the obsession…all those feelings are simply immeasurable. You just want to surround yourself with it. So why not write a song about Hip-Hop as if it's a person who had so much soul. She chilled in the streets of New York, then to the West Coast. Afro-centric to Gangsta. R&B to Jazz. She was well-rounded. After everything, she was fooled to go commercial and make money, but we still love "H.E.R."
I can't really recall the exact moment I fell in love with Hip-Hop. I just knew. It had so much influence over me. Music in general, to stray from Hip-Hop for a second. Music to have that much influence over you, that much control over you…it’s just astounding. Lyrics that instantaneously grab your attention and force you to revisit a specific moment, or a string of moments, bringing about nostalgic emotions of happiness, pleasure, sorrow, pain. For instance, growing up - music was very important to my family. From our house parties to just getting ready in the morning; from cleaning/cooking to just lounging around the crib. From La India to Whitney Houston; from OutKast to Papa Roach. Music is an integral part of my life. When I was 15, I met one of my sisters for the first time, and one of the reasons that we instantly clicked was music (shout out to Paramore). There are certain songs and albums that I’ve tied to memories and people. Brian McKnight’s I Remember You reminds me of my mom, her top choice while she cooked Sunday breakfast. Luther Vandross’ "Dance with My Father" makes me cry EVERY TIME! And Ginuwine’s The Life…well I was caught singing "There It Is" and dancing with a broom. Every now and then I am reminded of that by my siblings. Fond memories.
To bring it back full circle, in a moment, a song can make you cry. In a moment, a song can make you feel sexy. In a moment, a song can take you away to another world. In a moment, a song can make you turn the fuck up. And that is what I love about music. That's what I love about Hip Hop.
“Poetry to a beat, spoken word for the masses” - Joe Budden
Hip-Hop is poetry. I like all types of music, can’t really put me into a box; however, Hip-Hop speaks to me the most. It speaks to the poet in me. I can’t recall the moment I first fell in love with Hip-Hop. I think for me it wasn't just one moment. It was many. It could've been hearing Lauryn Hill's verse on "Ready Or Not" for the first time on the boombox. It could've been Tupac's "Keep Ya Head Up," or Big Pun's "You Ain't A Killer," or Nas' "The Message," or Eminem's "The Way I Am." I was just a youngin' but I held onto those songs and more of course, growing up to understand more and love them even more. Then there was Kanye West's "Through the Wire," fast forward to Kid Cudi's "Man on The Moon," J. Cole's "Dollar And A Dream II" and Big Sean's "Desire, Want and Need." And then going back to the fundamentals - going back to the times of Eric B and Rakim "Paid in Full" and going back in further to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, the original "The Message." I could just go on and on - sorry for the run-ons!
There were an infinite number of moments I’ve fallen time and time again. I still do to this day and that's what I love about the genre. I find myself coming full circle with Hip-Hop and just growing with it. It's shaped me as this creative being. As a poet. As a writer. As a human being.
In an interview about his book, Decoded (2011), Jay-Z talks about the break down of music. After reading the book, he wants people to “take away the quick judgments” when they listen to a song. Songs have so many layers that you can’t dismiss it and label it with negative connotations. When you dissect it, the genius of the song is revealed. The technique is revealed and the artist’s technique is something to be admired.
The moment I listen to a song with substance, it grabs me. I listen to it multiple times, on "heavy rotation." Each time I listen to it, I’m breaking it down little by little. First time I'm feeling it, jamming out like the world doesn’t exist. Then I’m breaking down the beat, then the structure, then the lyrics, then the meanings and so on. I’m noting down my experience with the song, what I believe the significance and implications of the song are. Finally, I’m looking for somebody else to have a discussion with, see what they think. Yes…I go hard! People wonder why it takes me so long to write a review. I literally have to live with a song or album for some time to fully digest it.
To quote Adam Bradley’s Book of Rhymes (my bible in high school), “Transcribing lyrics to the beat is an intuitive way of translating the lyricism that we hear into poetry that we can read. By preserving the integrity of each line to relation to the beat, we give rap the respect it deserves as poetry.” Bars can and should be broken down, stripped, transcribed and there, at the heart of it all, you find what makes Hip-Hop poetry. Rhyme scheme, meter, word sounds - It’s undeniable. Music of substance deserves to be broken down. It's as if you're paying respect to the artist and their artistry.
“I bomb atomically, Socrates’ philosophies
And hypotheses can’t define how I be dropping these
Mockeries, lyrically perform armed robbery” - Inspectah Deck, Wu-Tang
Music is what drives me to write. Back when I wrote poetry like I was getting paid to (I wasn’t) Joe Budden, Lupe Fiasco, Kanye West, Mos Def, Nas, Lauryn Hill and more, really influenced my style. Not only with writing, but they helped me grow into my own person. Kid Cudi has gotten me through some dark times. J. Cole and Wale on days I need to be uplifted - Kendrick too. Have you worked out to "DNA" before? No - man, what are you waiting for?
These people didn’t know me from Eve but they gave me the ability to tap into my emotions and put them on paper and perform them. They gave me the ability to feel better about myself when I'm down. The ability and courage to be like fuck it, I'm creating my own music blog.
I’m just ranting and raving. Like I said before, I don't know the exact moment in my life of when I fell in love with Hip-Hop - I just knew. I knew before I even could understand the lyrics and the depth of their words. I did know not to repeat certain words or I'd get slapped in the mouth (No, thank you Pun, I'm good). By the time I was in my teenage years, I was immersed in the lyrics and the poetry of it. Intoxicated with the double entendres, personifications, the metaphors and just the language itself. I could stray away from Hip-Hop and enjoy other genres but my heart knows where home is.
Yeah, my heart knows where home is.
Your Biggest Fan.