One day last week, I happened upon my two son’s – nine & eleven – having a rap battle. I stopped & asked them what they were doing, to which they replied – in unison – “rapping.”
I chuckled & a requested permission to stay & listen, & both gladly accepted my offer. They’d had a beat that my oldest downloaded from the ‘Net, & there they sat, bobbing their heads like little yellow human metronomes, waiting for the cue.
I glanced back & forth at them, & they the same, each with a look of determination & slight nervousness. Clearly their respective wheels were turning a mile a minute in preparation for the spotlight, which I totally understood. Been there, done that, as the old people like to say. As much as I dodged the nostalgic emotions that this moment conjured up, it was impossible not to think that this affinity for rapping is one of the many things I’ve given my son’s on Earth. Understand, I rapped for a long time, long enough to know the technicality of saying words to a beat. Maybe that’s a skill that’s woven into my DNA, & subsequently theirs. I spent a lot of time honing my craft, & for years, rap music blared through the house as a part of my ritual of being drunk everyday. It only makes sense that these cats would pick up that musical influence & emulate it.
Aside from that, my oldest has performed with my group, my youngest is on a couple of my songs, & all three of my kids have spent an ample amount of their baby lives in or around recording studios. The exposure to create an appetite is undeniable. Hell, there was even a brief window in life when I’d decided that I was going to brainwash my kids into a life of Hiphopism. That’s how deeply my passion for rap music burrowed. By the time I’d realized that this particular dream may be out of reach (about age 30), my seeds had been programmed for years. Of course the torch would be carried.
I guess I wasn’t surprised to see & hear them rapping, but it definitely stopped me in my literal tracks. I’ve tried to recall, but still to this moment, I have no idea what I was doing before I interrupted their cypher. Hopefully it wasn’t anything important.
Later that day, after my sons had officially impressed the hell out of me, I thought about how my dad must have felt when he first saw me whittling away at a hobby with hopes of it becoming a profession. He didn’t rap or sing or anything remotely close to, but he still supported my aspirations, however spacey. I was fourteen when I had my first performance, & him & my uncle were in the first row cheering me on. Though that was the only performance he ever attended, it was the most important one. I figured if I can make a couple of out-of-touch postal workers clap & dance in their chairs, the rest of the world should be a cake walk.
Times are different now, & although I support my kids in all they do, I’m not so sure I’d play the same position my old man did. In my generational heyday, rappers getting killed was cause for breaking news. Nowadays, it’s nothing like that. I read the news online, allowing access to dozens of different markets, & the number of headlines involving crime & the obligatory title “rapper” is somewhat unbelievable. Usually the attached articles point out that these “rappers” were aspiring or “on the rise,” but my point remains. Hip Hop culture has taken on a sorta throwback attitude, creating the same angry, hostile workplace environment that fueled the east coast-west coast rivalry in the 1990’s. One major difference, though, is that dudes are shooting & killing one another these days, as well as innocent people, & in no way, shape, or form is that a byproduct on Hip Hop. Rap music, yes, but Hip Hop, no. Bear in mind, the music is the soundtrack for the culture.
Of course not all rap music is generated from angst, but it’s hard to hear that logic over the fact that beefing with another rapper seems to be the new bus bench billboard advertisement. Rap beef has matured since 50 Cent forced it to grow up, & the internet provides the perfect platform for rap guys to prove how “real” they are, in all situations, for anybody in the vicinity with an iPhone. There was a time when you assumed a rapper didn’t do all the things he rapped about. Today, however, I’m positive that 50% of people who claim to be rappers have an entire catalog full of dry-snitch music, all of which was made strictly for the sake of “keeping it real,” whatever that means.
I could go on & on about the pros & cons of the 2012 incarntation of the rap industry, but the truth is that my son’s couldn’t give less of a damn about all that adult blather. All they know is that they want to rap, & I’d venture to say that getting paid to do it is the farthest thing from their youthful minds. & that’s cool. I’ll save the speeches for another day. Until then, though, the least I can do is cheer them on &/or beatbox for them whenever necessary.