This was originally an assignment for my Hip-Hop Culture, Music & History class.
What was your first impression of hip-hop?
I honestly can’t remember what my “first impression” of hip-hop was. From the beginning of my life, I always loved R&B and hip-hop. I say R&B because my mom, who mostly listens to gospel music and smooth jazz, would buy me CDs of secular music, but it couldn’t have the “parental advisory” sticker on it. And so rap albums were 9/10 out of the question. I fell more in love with R&B because it was more family-appropriate (at least in the late 90s/early 00s era). I had albums by Destiny’s Child, 3LW, Jennifer Lopez, Aaliyah, Brandy, and Mariah Carey. Although they were R&B artists, a lot of them had a considerable hip-hop influence in their music. Since I was about 6 or 7, my introduction to hip-hop music was through watching BET (106 and Park) regularly as a child, the NOW That’s What I Call Music albums, and sometimes my sisters would buy me HOT 97 mixtapes on Jamaica Avenue (Queens, NY) (This is before everyone my age started using Limewire and personal computers) I loved every second of it. Everyone on TV was beautiful, I stuck to it like glue.
When did you see it, hear it, or recognized that it was something different (recording, dress, performance, etc.)?
As a black person, it was just apart of my culture. Or at least the new culture. Most older folks I knew (like around my mom’s age) weren’t really fond of hip-hop because it came after their time. I think if anything you could tell by looking at someone that they look like they are a rapper (if that makes sense). R&B singers generally look conservative when it comes to dressing or what they put on their face. Hip-hop artists wore and have looks of shock value. (ex. Tattoos on the face, excessive makeup on female MCs). I think also in how they came off looked different from other forms of music. A lot of rappers come off looking mean and brash in their music videos and songs. But if you have a sit-down interview with them (not all) they are very kind-hearted, nice, chill; Lil’ Kim comes off with a growling attitude in her songs but she’s a sweet person (with the voice to match) in her interviews. (Check it out on YouTube)
Then, how did you understand hip-hop culture as a facet of African American/Black culture?
It was embedded in my culture, particularly for the African American/Black generation that grew up during the golden age of hip-hop.