In My Write Mind
10.14.2004

When They Were Kings--A Hip Hop Story

There they were, all gathered in one huge room. So much talent, so many years of sharing it all with all of us. Almost thirty years of word-smithing, spitting, rocking, swaying and controlling the crowds around the globe. It's the fad that refused to fade into the background. And almost thirty years later, a few black eyes and wounded limbs later, it's still front-and-center, ever present. And although it's still King, it will never be like it was. Not for me, anyway.

And that's what made me think about it. I was watching VH-1's Hip Hop Honors, a stirring tribute to the pioneers of the art form. The Sugar Hill Gang, Doug E. Fresh, Slick Rick, Public Enemy, KRS-One, Run & DMC, MC Lyte. Everyone I grew up listening to and being influenced by. The real and true "kings" of Hip Hop. I half expected Father MC and Special Ed to show up for cameos. LL, Eric B. & Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Latifah, Naughty by Nature, Kool G Rap...they were what Hip Hop was, what it meant to me in the 80s and 90s. I remember being in the Hollis parks while Run DMC and LL rocked the mic, taking turns to show who was the baddest. To a kid growing up in Queens, that was everything. Seriously.

To quote Sydney Shaw of "Brown Sugar" fame, "I was Hip Hop and Hip Hop was me."

And that's my point. I'm not Hip Hop anymore. In fact, it seems that as the genre has carefully taken over the world, made its way from the parks of New York to trailer parks in Idaho, from the Bronx to Beijing, from playgrounds to the ponderosa, it's left me behind. I don't identify with today's stars, whether it's Nelly or Fat Joe. I'm stuck on 2Pac and Biggie, early Nas and Ice Cube, twenty-something Snoop and Dre.

Don't get me wrong--I do peek at the videos every now and again to admire the er, moves of today's "background dancers." But other than that, I'm done. I'm drawn more to R&B these days (some would argue that the line between the two is so blurred it's the same thing). Gimme some India.Arie over Lil Flip any day. Listening to Jilly from Philly is definitely more golden than Chingy for my taste. The only time I find myself ready to "lean back" these days is to turn from the rap "noise" on the radio station.

Back in the day, it seemed like the music meant more. Getting the latest LL tape (yes, I said tape, as in cassette) was like an event. You couldn't wait to pick up the new PE. With those albums (another foreign word, I know), you could listen to the entire thing without fast-forwarding.

Those were the days.

In fact, after watching Nas pay tribute to Tupac by blessing his song, "Keep Your Head Up," it made me miss Hip Hop even more. It wasn't so much his rendition of the song as it was what the song meant at the time of its release; who Pac was trying to reach with that message. You hardly EVER hear conscious songs like that anymore. That, more than anything else, has lost me.

So now, after watching the best of the old school gather and honor themselves for all that they've done throughout the past two plus decades, I'd like to pay a tribute of my own, re-anointing that crop of artists and poets what they always were and, in my mind, always will be--the KINGS.

It's like that. And that's the way it is...


scribbled by Will at 10/14/2004 02:49:00 PM
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Mind Droppings

I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. (Joan Didion)



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