Words by Tony Grands
When my kids were young, our house was filled with rap music daily, from breakfast to dinner. We danced, sang, fellowshipped, & bonded like a tribe should though it’s cohesive energies & melodic undertones.
I introduced my kids to the great rappers of the 80s & 90s, before the anger took up residence inside the message, & to this day they can recite “I Can” verbatim. Maybe even “Nas Is Like” also. As my kids grew & began to find their own Hip Hop-inspired journey, I was able to relate to them on numerous levels, the most important one being that I’m still an active participant (more on the spectator side, though) in all aspects of the lifestyle. When I ask what or who they’re listening to, not only do I know who the artists are (95% of the time), but I also know what they’re about, so to speak. For example; Lil Tony started listening to Kid Cudi a couple of years back, & after I skimmed his catalog (because I’m not a fan) I concluded that it was okay. But when I saw him gravitating towards rapper YG‘s music, a noticeably more “aggressive” rapper from Compton, CA, I had to draw the line & lay out some ground rules, so to speak.
See, for decades, Hip Hop (or more specifically, rap music) has been the social scapegoat for a plethora of problems that plague urban communities worldwide, & if you’re honest with yourself about the music, the culture, & the people who “represent” it, it’s impossible not to make a correlation. With that said, I rarely blame rap music per se (for whatever the ailment is), but ignoring it’s influence is self-destructive thinking.
Hip Hop Fatherhood isn’t something that occurs simply because you listen to rap music & refuse to wear condoms during coitus. That’s a responsibility disorder, sprinkled with possible legal & health risks, & that has nothing to do with Hip Hop or rap. Hip Hop fatherhood, on the other hand, is what an entire generation of 70s & 80s babies face daily when we choose to raise our kids in the same culture that helped mold us. & being that Hip Hop itself is only 40-something years old, Hip Hop fatherhood is a relatively new concept to contemplate.
In the 80s, before the music was so externally combustible, parents could glance over an album or cassette cover, read the song titles, & make a common sense decision on if it were appropriate for the child’s consumption. The parental advisory sticker was the first warning sign. & since rap’s popularity was a mere fraction of what it is now, unless your parents were Jehovah’s Witnesses, they’d likely heard of all the rappers the kids were listening to. But, times have changed drastically. Half of the time now, albums don’t even occupy brick & mortar shelves because they’re distributed online, & that makes the watchful eye of the parent that much harder to dispatch. & with so many “rappers” out there with reliable internet access, it’s virtually impossible for the parent(s) to monitor every song & every artist. Ironically, though, the kids have every song from every new artist downloaded & memorized long before we – the parents & guardians – ever knew they existed.
If not done properly, Hip Hop fatherhood could lead to detriment & dire consequences. We see examples of these consequences daily in “reality” shows like The First 48, Beyond Scared Straight, Save My Son, et cetera. Guide-less children become boundless adults, & with something as delicate & sensitive & powerful as music is, the wrong influence – however minor – could have long-lasting effects.
But don’t get it twisted…there’s a silver lining to the often gray-colored culture that we celebrate hourly.
Hip Hop is arguably the most exciting culture ever, & with it comes art & expression like no other. To be able to share this celebration of life with my children is awesome. Take into consideration the dads who can’t do the same, for whatever reason, & the blessing becomes that much more evident. In fact, my youngest son has an mp3 player full of today’s hottest rap acts (the ones he’s allowed to listen to), but he still found the time to download some of my old music on there as well. That speaks volumes to how he respects my position in the rap-o-sphere, however minute it may be. When I hear him mumbling the lyrics to a song I made, I get goosebumps. & when I start reciting the bars with him, it’s surreal. Plenty of cats “rap,” but how many get to share the cultural experience with the most important people in the world? (See what I did there?)
Rap music is slowly becoming more accepting of songs outside of the proverbial box. A box that includes songs about violence, gratuitous sex, hate, & lust for material things. In the future, don’t be surprised if Hip Hop fatherhood becomes more publicly acknowledged & equally as publicly practiced. Especially if I have anything to do with it.
Words by Tony Grands