It seems monthly a project or a writer will come forward and attempt to uplift the new and ish on the old, with reckless abandon and make the hip-hop public choose sides, in an attempt to prove “My Era’s better than yours”. That mind-state to me is confusing; At least till now.
It use to confuse me because I looked at it from my sole perspective. I see the great in every era of hip-hop music. I can argue the 90’s were hands down the best, but even statistically that is debatable. My sole perspective was based on why I started listening in the first place. I was birthed a hip-hop listener through my Mother, who loved soul music and hip-hop. Her favorite rappers were Big Daddy Kane and LL Cool J. I remember seeing a Kurtis Blow album in the house. My Aunt Donna use to say, “Camp we need to get you a red Kangol and a Troop Suit like LL”. My Uncle Butch was a huge fan of DMC “Now I walked on ice and never fell. I’ve spent my time in a plush hotel.” is one of the first rap bars I ever memorized. When I was a baby and a small child, hip-hop didn’t exist. Whe I was 6-9, I didn’t really care about music and didn’t listen for lyrics and debate. I didn’t comprehend the time when “rap isn’t music” was the topic of conversation. I was a fan of Alvin and The Chipmunks.
As I got older and started paying attention to music. The sounds of Eric B and Rakim, Heavy D and The Boys and Kool Moe Dee, blasted at ignorant levels in our house every weekend, whether it was time to clean up, cook out or have a house party. These songs were in rotation with Luther Vandross, Keith Sweat, The Isley’s, Stephanie Mills and R. Kelly & Public Announcement.
When I started developing my own music taste it was accepted in my house and amongst my family. When I wanted to listen to “Playground” by ABC, my mom rocked with it. Why? Cause Mike Bivens was involved and her favorite “boy band” coming up was New Edition. When I was recording the “Jump” video by Kriss Kross on the VCR, my mom got the CD for me through the Columbia House disc club and put my CD in the changer with her CD’s. That was a lot of my time as a child. My musical choices were respected before I even had money to buy an actual CD.
Getting into 12 and beyond, I went deeper in search of my own “rap taste”. I bought A Tribe Called Quest 3rd CD, “Midnight Marauders” with my own money and my mom took me to the store to get it. When she heard me listening to the CD, she didn’t ish on me and Tribe and tell me, how my music ain’t ish and it will never be like the 80’s. She just let me do me and even got into some of the music. She told me where the horns came from in “Oh My God”. She would give me history lessons and play the original songs that were samples, LONG BEFORE “Sunday Service” on XM was thought of. It was long before Satellite radio in general was a thought.
As rap got extremely aggressive, my Mom was still staying with it. She bought “The Chronic” and “Doggystyle” albums. She wouldn’t listen to it “with me though”. That was “late party music”. I was told that my child ears don’t need to hear this kind of grown folks music. When I bought “Ready To Die” and she heard it while I was playing NBA Live 95, she went off! Even the “I bought this with my money” argument didn’t help. It was “I can’t sit in hear and let you listen to all this nasty cussing”. [The original “One More Chance” was my favorite song at the time]. My on the low compromise was headphones and I just made sure she never caught me playing it in the house. Same with Lil Kim. When she heard an overwhelmingly and aggressive use of the word “Pu$$y” she let me have it. Still in all that, she didn’t ish me and my music. It wasn’t how much better MC Lyte was than Kim or how Rakim never cussed; She just let me do my thing. She had every right to give the Hypocritical “Do as I say” speech, but didn’t. As the artist I got into got popular she embraced a lot of their music. She didn’t front on it and give me the lecture or the “Im just too old” doctrine that many do today because their era is over.
In my 20’s I would come back home and say things like “What you know about Get Rich or Die Trying?!?!” “You tried to turn Nas off with I had it, but you got the GodSon album!?” She simply said “You grown now and 50 Cent be jamming!” “I love Nas voice!” By this time my mom was well into her 40’s and still didn’t ish on the current state hip-hop music, it’s current stars and beat the horse to glue about how it use to be.
I said all the above because it shaped me as a music fan. I’ve come to realize that a lot of elder hip-hop fans only started listening to rap to be rebellious. It was that “this ain’t your parents music” feel they were going for. I’m sure a lot of them were like “Fawk Bobby Womack! Bobby Brown that ni**a!” I grew up in a house where you respected both and understood it was a time, place and a mood for both. Others of you were listening and buying music based on what your friends thought was cool. There was a time where the big debate was Bone or Wu-Tang and you might get cussed out or punched saying you liked 1 over the other. I purchased both and said, “get the fawk out my face with that! They both COLD dog.” Yes, my mom bought “Tha Crossroads” Maxie CD Single after she heard it. I also ran with a crew that loved everybody. Spice 1 and Twista got as much play as 2Pac in my circle. I was introduced and became a fan of Triple Six Mafia by my cousin, who ended up liking Mobb Deep because he heard me playing it a lot.
I understand now that my hip-hop introduction and appreciation is one of a kind. It’s the reason why I can have a Talib Kweli album and can quote you a Rich Homie Quan verse. It’s why I can tell you Future the hottest dude out, yet I feel bar for bar Big Sean is Top 3 EASILY. It’s also why I can tell you, I’m not overly blown away by a “2014 Forest Hills Drive” or a “Good Kid M.A.A.D City”, because I had “Only Built for Cuban Links”, “Long Hot Summer” and heard “Blacktrash: The Autobiography of Kirk Jones”. I don’t want to ish on any era of hip-hop. I’m a literal born and raised fan and student of this music and this culture. When I’m 50 plus and North West wants to put out an album and my daughter is going wild over it, I’m not going to ish on her for that. I’m not going to tell her how her Daddy was much better than her and go in on how her Mom planted the seed for her fame. I’m not going to tell her everybody out now is trash because they don’t rap like Eminem or Jigga. I’m simply going to let her do her and find a song I like within the new sounds. My theory is simple. If you were growing up to love all rap music for what it is, it’s easier to appreciate it as the era changes and the music evolves.
Nobody likes 100% of the artist of any era. That’s expected. However, you don’t have to defecate on an entire era because you refuse to evolve and grow with the genre of music that originally helped you grow up.
And now for the last song my mom told me “Turn that up Camp” when she got in the car with me.
Thanks Mom. I love you.