Hip Hop Saved My Life, because my Mother is Conscious Rap
An Op Ed by Hip Hop Educator Karanja Crews
As an African American man, I am part of the first generation of blacks, born between 1965 and 1984, who grew up in the post-segregation era, what is known as the Hip Hop generation. Like the beat of the drum, Hip Hop has been an essential and constant rhythm weaving through the narrative of my life. In several ways, my growing up years also mimicked the path of the music, from rags to riches, from positive to negative, from expressing freedom to perpetuating harmful stereotypes. But, Hip Hop still remains a powerful tool to communicate because of its honest, no-holds-barred expression of the underlying themes of rebellion, freedom, courage and truth. So, I use it to raise the consciousness of youth, particularly African American males, who may be disenfranchised, disconnected and marginalized.
The genre of rap is a continuation on the spectrum of black music, which obtains its roots from Africa and the drum. African Americans used the drum to help us dance with happiness despite hopeless and degrading times. African Americans used the drum to communicate a plan for freedom for the brave souls who took the risk to be freed from slavery. The source of power of black people stems from the drum, to the spirituals, to the blues, to jazz, to rock, to rhythm and blues, to Hip Hop music. Comparatively, the power of Hip Hop helped lead me toward the right direction in life and away from the negative influences. In fact, Hip Hop saved my life!
My oldest brother Aaron, who was 8 years older than me, first exposed me to Hip Hop. He was a dope emcee. Although I heard emcees on the radio, Aaron was the first I knew personally. In 1984, when I was 7 years old, he would let me sneak out the house with him to attend house parties. I remember seeing break-dancing battles, surrounded by walls filled with colorful and detailed graffiti art. I also noticed the swag, the style, the clothing, the culture. The whole environment captivated me. I felt like I belonged in that environment.
During that time, everywhere I went, I saw black people carrying oversized radios with two-player cassette tapes that blasted the music of emcees Run DMC and Whodini. For hours, my friends and I would watch the music videos of rappers Fatboys and Kurtis Blow on television. Rap was a new genre of music, created by young black youth like me, and it was taking over our consciousness by force. I felt so connected to the energy and style of the music. I remember thinking that this Hip Hop movement was not just a part of me: It was me. It was my culture. It was my music. It was not just around me, it was a part of who I already was. I was – and am – Hip Hop….