When I think about Black History, I like to reflect on the contributions that black people have made to the world of music. Jazz, blues, folk, classical, soul, rhythm and blues, rock, and my personal favorite, hip hop.
Hip hop has it’s roots in 1973, with DJ Kool Herc’s parties in his Bronx apartment building. The music and culture was born from the racial, economic, and social struggles of black communities living in the projects. Decades later hip-hop has grown and spread it’s branches around the world. I can’t possibly cover the richness of hip-hop history in one blog post. If you are interested in learning more about the history, culture, and the art of hip-hop, check out this booklist by fellow My Librarian, Karen E. But while I have the proverbial mic, I want to share a little bit of my experience with hip-hop and take you on a quick journey through my love for the music.
As a kid, growing up in the 1980’s, my world revolved around school, friends, Atari, and music. My very first concert (at least the first one that my parents didn’t drag me to) was the Run DMC and Beastie Boys Together Forever tour. My little brother, my best friend, and I piled into the family station wagon, with my dad at the wheel, headed to Pine Knob ampitheater in Michigan. All three of us had been obsessively listening to Raising Hell and Licensed to Ill, but seeing these artists perform on stage was when I knew I was hooked for life.
I could see the light at the end of my high school experience. The possiblities ahead of me seemed endless, and terrifying. My thoughts were moving from focusing on the immediate issues of how much homework was due, to focusing on the world that I was entering as a young adult. And one day my brother comes home with Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back cassette. My mind was blown. Here was a soundtrack that was angry and loud, that spoke to my blossoming political and social frustrations.
In my young adult years my mind focused on how I fit into the world. I found connection and comfort in the music of De La Soul, Arrested Development, and Digable Planets. These groups brought a new postivity-focused voice to hip-hop.
Fast forward to today. I've found an artist or album to fit my every mood. Mos Def when I want to relax and reflect. Missy Elliot when I feel like dancing. Danger Doom when I'm feeling down and need a laugh. A Tribe Called Quest when I'm feeling nostalgic. The Coup when I'm feeling funky. My favorite hip-hop artists are poets, entertainers, musicians, revolutionaries, historians, and teachers. Hip-hop is a powerful form of music. Hip-hop is beats and rhymes, rhythms and bass. Hip-hop is a culture.