I don’t feel as though I’m kidding myself when I say that hip hop and I had more than the equivalent of a fleeting summer romance. We were in love. And though I know my contributions to it will never equate to everything it gave me, I’d like to imagine that our feelings were mutual. Unfortunately, as is not uncommon in society today, we have grown apart in recent years and now rarely find ourselves on speaking terms.
It wasn’t always this way. I remember summer afternoons sitting by the stereo ready to hit record on the cassette player the second a rap song was introduced. Likewise, I would watch MTV for hours at a time with VCR remote in hand, hoping to be lucky enough to capture a music video from A Tribe Called Quest, the Beastie Boys, Outkast, or any other of my favorite groups that the station would mercifully play.
I remember my first hip hop concert experience – an autumn evening standing in the gravel parking lot of Ground Zero in Wichita, KS, watching in awe as a circle of guys in backpacks and shell toed Adidas freestyled. I remember feeling like I was a part of something for the first time in my life. Hip hop was more than music to me, it was my voice, it was an attitude, it was a look, and to be honest, it was all that mattered to me.
With that in mind, I don’t suppose it’s any surprise that it was through hip hop that I heard God speak to me for the first time in my life. Although these types of conversions tend to be cliche, I can comfortably say that God used this music to show me his glory and that I needed him. Next, he gave me a passion to make music myself, which I happily followed for years, being blessed to work alongside people with ten times the talent of myself.
Hip hop and I were involved in what seemed like a never-ending honeymoon – the perfect marriage. We laughed, cried, shared every car ride, every secret, every question. When I was alone, confused, overjoyed, angry, or apathetic, hip hop was there.
So what happened?
It all seemed so subtle at first. But minor disagreements, quiet, sharp words, and nights spent apart soon turned into irreconcilable differences, shouting matches, and extended separations. We still spoke the same language, but yet . . . we didn’t. Ties were broken, promises faded away, and sometimes, though I never mention it out loud, our old love songs ring hollow. Sometimes I see her on the street with her new interests and she looks happy. Though part of me thinks I should be happy for her, I’m not and I know she isn’t.
Which brings me to the point of this post and the ones to follow. Something is wrong with hip hop and despite numerous message board interventions and the threat of leaving home for good, things aren’t getting any better. I have a deep fear that hip hop is dying, but I desperately don’t want it to. I don’t want to watch as my love fades away like a boy band fad, but angry words and bad attitudes aren’t solving anything.
To make things worse, I’ve changed as well, making my perspective skewed and maybe even making me incapable of providing relevant answers. I don’t want to come across as a jaded elitist, although my tendencies tend to regretfully lean in that direction. Instead, I want to provide balanced and fair criticism as well as pointing out the places where hip hop is currently succeeding. Will it work? Will it matter at all? I honestly have no idea, but I hope that pleasant and frank discussion will at least be a step in the right direction.