Hip Hop Culture for Grown-Ups
My mother’s younger brother introduced me to rap music when I was about 7 years old. It was roughly 1983. He’d come around with cassette tapes filled with various songs from whoever the hell these people were, and almost immediately, I was in love. This was the most beautiful combination of sounds I’d ever heard, and that’s coming from a man who was born in the late 70s, raised in a house where Black soul music pumped continuously. Continually. So much so that my father swiftly traded in his affinity for 70s funk and disco music for a genuine love of rap in the early 1980s. His love of Hip Hop hit him at the same time as mine.
His Earth, Wind, and Fire, Chaka Khan, and Stevie Wonder albums were (sorta) replaced by Whodini, Run DMC, LL Cool J, and EPMD tapes. Some years later, we’d bump DJ QUIK and CMW when he would drop me off at and pick me up from school. For some reason, he never listened to NWA with me, even though he took me to cop all my music back then. Before I started catching the bus everywhere. Nevertheless, for a scant moment in my personal history, my father and I listened to the same music.
Like most budding Hip Hop babies, I acquired a vast collection of loose songs by making my own mixtapes and stealing the ones my uncle had in his car. Between that, subscriptions to Word Up! And Right On! magazines and Friday nights on KDAY, I was always up-to-date on the newest rap songs. But I didn’t have any albums or tapes of my own, because all my allowance went to 7-11. The video game arcade and nachos laid claim to my weekly $20 pittance long before payday Friday hit.
All that changed in 1987.
I don’t remember a lot of shit in my life. If it wasn’t for my wife reminding me about stuff and photo albums and smartphone galleries and conditioned stimulus, I’d barely have any mental footprints of my journey at all. But one memory that will never be wiped is when I got Eric B & Rakim’s Paid In Full for Christmas in 1987. I also got a Sony Walkman that didn’t have a rewind function, so when I wanted to run a joint back I had to pop the machine open, flip the tape, blindly fast forward, flip the tape back over, and hope I was reasonably close to my intended target. So what; I didn’t care about that trivial crap. I finally owned a rap album. And more importantly, I had plenty of shit to talk when school started, after winter vacation. Nobody else’s dad was as cool as mine, so I knew none of those guys would be getting rap cassettes for Christmas. I listened to it all night. Literally.
I can’t tell you what else was under the tree for me that year, and honestly, it failed in comparison to the importance of these two gifts.
Now it’s your turn. What was the first album or cassette or CD that you owned?
Words by Tony Grands
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