I used to love h.e.r.

I used to love h.e.r. By h.e.r., I mean hip-hop, as exemplified by Common’s classic record. Now, I love H.E.R., the R&B songstress. It’s funny how things change.

I used to sit in my room for hours listening to the latest tapes and CDs I bought from the record store. I would sit by my boom box all day just to catch my favorite songs on the radio and record them to make mixtapes. Artists like Tupac, Biggie, Nas, Jay-Z, A Tribe Called Quest, Gang Starr and the Wu Tang Clan permeated the halls of my suburban home from behind the closed door of my 3rd floor bedroom.

I could always relate to hip-hop, although I always felt partly removed from it. Hip-hop was from the streets. I certainly wasn’t. My interaction with the streets came from playing street basketball and going to parties and go-go’s.

During the day time, I was at private school, busting jokes with my homies at lunch and macking on chicks in the hallways. I got very good grades, but not as good as my sister’s. She went to Harvard. So, did my mom (RIP). My dad was an economist at the World Bank.

I grew up with a privileged background. It was much different than the lives of the rap stars I looked up to. But, it was still the music in my heart. Its stories were the closest I could find to my experience as a young black male in America. I was far from a nerd. Girls loved me. I was tall, handsome and athletic and filled with anger and aggression at the oppressive American system and what I saw as moral weaknesses at certain people I encountered.

In hip-hop music I found like-minded individuals who yearned for change. When I discovered Black on Both Sides by Mos Def, I had found my favorite album and my favorite song, “Umi Says.” Hip-hop music had violence, drugs and misogyny from early on. But, it had redemptive qualities. It told the truth, a truth that wasn’t being told in the mainstream media. It was a serious art form. MCs took care in their lyrics. Producers created hot beats with beautiful melodies. Hip-hop was something to appreciate.

Now the youth listen to artists like Tekashi 69, Lil’ Xan and Lil’ Uzi Vert, etc and think it’s good music. They don’t know any better. I used to be excited to rip off the plastic on a new album from a record store. Now I illegally download the latest trash records onto my laptop so I can DJ at parties for millennials and younger audiences.

I get jealous of earlier eras of music. The 60’s had Motown artists like Smokey Robinson and Diana Ross. The 70’s had Soul Train, Marvin Gaye and the Stylistics. The 80’s had Prince, Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. We have Jay-Z, I guess. That’s actually somewhat laughable compared to the names I mentioned.

Call me a cultural critic and I’ll say I’m just observant. What if I told you there was a musical genre and culture that glorified murder, drug dealing, adultery, premarital sex, wasting money, disrespecting women and other crimes. You might say that music must have come from the devil. Currently, hip-hop culture, which highly influences black culture is morally bankrupt. We are in need of change, desperately. As Mos Def said on Black on Both Sides, “We are hip-hop.” We need to change our culture for the good of society and humanity, really.

Don’t get it twisted. There is good hip-hop out there. Artists from the new generation like J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar come to mind. It’s just for the most part good artists like them don’t get popularized. A lot of that has to do with record label executives restricting the type of music artists can make. They think gangsta music equals dollars. But the blame doesn’t lie solely with them. It’s on us. People still support the terrible music rappers make these days.

I’m in love with a different woman now. I’ll keep playing H.E.R. songs on repeat until the original love of my life decides to come home.

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Common Logic

[The day I met Logic in 2010 at WMUC]

In case you didn’t know, Logic made the song “Common Logic/Midnight Marauder” off his mixtape Welcome to Forever for me. I told him back then Midnight Marauders was the first album I ever bought, which made me fall in love with music and was probably the reason I was a hip hop head and a DJ at all. He made me a couple other songs too, which sit on my hard drive that I’ve never shared.

Most people don’t know the extent of me and Logic’s relationship. Back then, on the come up, he was dead broke. I bought him food pretty much every day. I bought him a phone and paid the bill so he could make and keep connections. I drove him to studios, record labels, shows, etc and never asked for gas money. I bought him his 1st pair of Jordans like he said in that Complex interview plus other clothing. He slept at my house when he had no place to go some nights. Basically, I was his main source of support. It was me and Big Lenbo who held him down.

I still don’t know why he cut me off entirely. I left the team because I didn’t feel the vibe. I knew they were going to blow up too but I wasn’t feeling the energy. If my heart’s not in it, the rest of me will leave soon afterwards. He offered to pay me bread but I didn’t even want money. I just wanted to preserve the connection so I could build off it.

But, he hasn’t texted me back for years and conveniently left me out of his Rapture documentary, even though we worked together and I DJ’d with him every day for about two years and was eventually named President of Operations. I still haven’t watched the documentary. I can’t explain his cold shoulder. My friends theorize but I guess you’ll have to ask him. I suppose some people don’t like to share credit or the spotlight. Keep in mind, I did nothing negative to this man.

At the end of the day, I’m happy a young man like Logic who came from nothing and worked so hard, now has something. He earned it. And I’m proud I played a big part in it, whether or not I get credit. The people who were there will never deny what it was.

The Lord works in mysterious ways lol. All the lessons I’ve learned were preparation for the team I’m working with now. I believe in showing vs. telling. Just keep watching lol. I believe God’s greatness along with mine and my team’s will be evident. My story is far from finished. I’m just beginning. No matter what happens, with God and my ancestors guiding me, I’ll be very happy with my word and honor in tact. With my infinite blessings, there is only room for gratefulness to God, no hate.

The Day I fell in Love with Music…

I fell in love with music on my 12th birthday. My dad bought me a boom box as a present. I jammed to the radio nonstop. But, I didn’t have any CDs. It just so happened this classmate Oswald was selling used CD’s the next day at school. I bought Midnight Marauders by A Tribe Called Quest from him for $5. I ran straight to my room when I got home, put the CD in and let it play. As the CD started spinning, the robotic female voice on the intro entranced me. The Afrocentric jazzy beats gyrated my spirit. I was hooked. I fell down the rabbit hole. At that moment something in me changed that I can’t quite describe. A new person was born. And, I’ve been spinning records ever since.

Top 10 Favorite Hip-Hop Albums

Rules:

For diversity’s sake, artists can only appear once.

1. Mos Def – Black on Both Sides

2. The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die

3. Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt

4. Nas – Illmatic

5. A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders

6. 2Pac – All Eyez On Me

7. Common – Be

8. Mobb Deep – The Infamous

9. The Roots – How I Got Over

10. J. Cole – 2014 Forest Hills Drive

Honorable mention (in no particular order):

Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late

Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

Scarface – The Fix

Kanye West – Graduation

AZ – Doe or Die

Dr. Dre – The Chronic

Wu Tang Clan – Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers)

Ghostface Killah – Supreme Clientele

Big Pun – Capital Punishment

If you disagree, I DON’T CARE.

What Hip-Hop Is: A Manifesto

Hip-Hop is a rebel yell from the soul. It came from the Bronx, which was literally on fire back in the 70’s with slumlords burning their buildings for insurance money after the construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway dropped property values.  People were poor and suffering.  They needed an outlet.  So they raged.

Hip-Hop rages against the machine.  It fights against the system and definitely shouts, “Fuck the police!”  Hip-Hop is a haven for the youth and a way out for those desperately searching for one.  Hip-Hop is the essence of speaking things into existence. We started with a trap house and now we’re living in a mansion.

Hip-Hop is real. It comes from a place of truth. It comes from the heart. Home is where the heart is and, in hip-hop, where you’re from means everything.  Whether you’re from its birthplace in the fiery Bronx, the suburbs of Washington, DC or a trailer park in Alabama, you’ve got to rep your hood.

Hip-Hop is the never ending party and the after party at that. It’s Saturday night at the hottest club with the hottest celebs or a sweat box house party where girls in tight jeans, drinks, smoke and a dope underground DJ are salvation. It’s that moment where the MC drops the music and the whole stadium raps along a capella to his or her hit song.

Hip-Hop is most definitely BARS and dope beats, battles and beef. It’s graffiti on a subway train or breakdancing on cardboard. It’s cutting and scratching on Technics and beat boxing and rapping in the streets.

Hip-Hop is snapbacks and tattoos and fitteds and jerseys. It’s Levi’s and white tees or Yves Saint Lauren and Louis V. It’s sagging your ripped jeans just to show off your Gucci belt or wearing a crisp pair of 501’s around your waist just to keep it thorough. Hip-Hop must be authentically you.

Hip-Hop is all of the above and so much more.  But, above all, it is the voice of the unheard.

One thing hip-hop most definitely is not is Pop. Hip-Hop may be a global phenomenon but, at its core, it will always be DJ Kool Herc yelling over break beats at a house party to pay the rent like that first house party back in the 70’s when the Bronx was on fire.