But I didn’t get a chance because I loved the movie. So much so, as a matter of fact, that I went back a second time with Girl Child in tow. I was hype. Hip hop and I have long been at an impasse, like two friends who grew up together but don’t really talk that often anymore, mainly because they don’t have anything in common to talk about.
Outside of the greats who flowed in and out of the film and a handful of others who weren’t featured, I can’t really connect. Heaven help anybody who thinks they’re going to take me out with them for a night on the town and have someone to consistently cut a rug with. Even up until a few years ago, I could still kind of park my high standards at the door and have a good time for good times’ sake. I could turn down that internal sensor that hears elementary school lyrics flanked by basic, Casio keyboard production and still shake my hindparts. Now, not so much.
My best friend, on the other hand, still enjoys the ability to filter the nonsense when it’s time to cut loose and just enjoy herself. She knows young rappers by name and does dances to go along with the appropriate tunes from the 106 & Park countdown. So when we go out, she’s all hip and with it. I am all crotchety and cranky.
“Ugh, I hate this song,” I complained when an ode to White girls blasted through the speakers. I posted up against the wall in protest. She danced me back out.
Two Chainz blared through the speakers. Back to the wall I went.
Basically, unless the DJ’s playing The Percolator, unoffensive dancehall or heyday rap tracks, I’m pretty much a drag to go clubbing with these days. Sorry Keisha.
You know how, in Brown Sugar, Sidney Shaw can recall when she first fell in love with hip-hop? You can’t tell me I’m not the real-life version of that character, down to the magazine gigs and the brownstone in Brooklyn — but sadly, minus a Taye Diggs and Boris Kodjoe battle royale for my affection. Like her, my love affair with hip-hop has always been there, serving up the soundtrack for most of my fondest memories and standout experiences. Like when I mustered up the nerve to ask Shide Fells to couples skate in the fourth grade, the spark for my get ‘em girl attitude was lit when the first few notes of “I Need Love” plinked out.
But me and hip hop ain’t making memories like that anymore. We just don’t speak the same language, and the thoughts that make me smile all have a past tense twist to them. I’m over here wading through adulthood, and most hip-hop just doesn’t reflect my reality or my passion or my hunger. Not that I want to hear Rick Ross spit a verse about his past due electric bill or the what-the-hell price of gas per gallon. But people are dying in tsunamis and earthquakes. They’re starving, homeless and malnourished. They’re being blindsided by cancer and AIDS and insufficient healthcare. They’re getting locked up and denied justice. I can’t worry about “Gucci Gucci” when conditions are aching for my help. And I sure can’t sit around and listen to a grown man or woman talk about it, either. Maybe I’m just getting old.
For the hour and 53 minutes that I watched Art of Rap, I was proud of hip-hop again. I appreciate the thought and craftsmanship Rakim and KRS and Nas invest into their rhymes. Always have. Hearing them break down their thought processes actually struck a nerve with me as a writer, though you will never, ever hear me try to lay down a verse because I knows my lane and I stays in it. For a fleeting moment, I got that excitement, that joy back. And it reminded me that there’s still good in the music, even if it’s a little harder to find than it was when I was digging in the crates.
Are you still in love with hip-hop?