I’m pretty open about music genres and love getting new suggestions from friends. I also think it’s a great way to get to know a person. So when I was on a date with a man a few months back, I casually asked “So, what music are you in to?” to which he replied “I LOVE HIP HOP!!”… “You mean RAP?” I said…. “Well, rap is a type of hip hop, but hip hop is not rap”. Given he is a few years younger than me, I guess I shouldn’t have been that surprised, but somehow I didn’t peg him as a ‘hip hop guy’. Now I don’t dislike hip hop, just to me the lyrics were mostly derogatory towards women and glorify violence, and portrayed a world that I really don’t connect with on any level. I asked my friend to educate me and play some hip hop that he thought I might like. And to my surprise, there is a lot more music categorized as hip hop than I was aware of. So it turned out I’m just not a fan of ALL hip hop.
Fast forward to one afternoon a few months later, I was cooking up a storm in the kitchen and said man was returning to town in a few days. To entertain myself while cooking I ask Siri… “Hey Siri, play me a podcast”, to which a random episode of Stuff You Should Know came on. This one was about the history of Hip Hop and the influence it had on fashion, graffiti art, dance, and other music genres that followed. Well played, Siri… well played. And after an hour or so of listening and learning, I had a much better understanding of the social forces that were at play, and the impact this music had on an American generation no matter if you were black or white, rich or poor. The podcast also addressed the violent nature of what is often held up as typical of this genre and highlighted individual Artists that tried to move away from inciting and perpetuating the rhetoric. I also discovered that a lot of the EDM beats and DJ loops that I love came out of hip hop. As well as the rise of graffiti art that is now seeing an evolution to some pretty amazing commissioned mural art in our cities around the world.
Then yesterday afternoon, as I was scrolling through online videos, I came upon a Vox piece entitled – How this legendary hip-hop producer humanized a machine. It’s about an early DJ named J Dilla who was (some say) THE pioneer in programming samples on an Akia MPC3000. So much so, that his MPC3000 is in the American Black History Museum. The technical understanding and musical talent that shaped so much of what came after is truly awe-inspiring. And though I can say I will not be sporting baggy jeans and a backwards ball cap anytime soon, and I am still not a fan of the sometimes violent and degrading nature of the lyrics, I at least have a better understanding of the creative evolution and cultureal history which has given me a new perspective on a style of music that I had previously found inaccessible.