I ♥ Tuesdays Vol. 15: Valentine’s Day Edition

When I returned to The Motherland for a visit last summer, I was confronted by my moms about some of my stuff which had been doing little more than collecting dust in my parents’ suburban abode: “Yeah, so about those turntables and records you have in the storage room; we’re going to need you to get those out of here so we have room for your niece’s toys.” Great.  Some of the few remaining valuable possessions I had left in my childhood home were causing such an incovinece that I would be forced to: a) sell them within a weeks time or b) find a new home for my dust collectors.  I flipped the decks for fair value within a couple days via online classifieds  (rest easy DJs, they were shitty Numark belt-drives), but couldn’t bear the thought of letting my wax be thumbed through by the digits of a complete stranger.

I began sifting through the few crates I’ve accumulated over the years – my pops’ original pressings, hand-me-downs from friends who had been forced to part ways with their wax, and a grip of more recent purchases – when I stumbled across a small case of old 7-inch 45s.  For the sake of nostalgia, I began flipping through and found a mixed bag of singles from the sixties, seventies, and eighties.  Two particular records caught my attention: A Def Jam pressing of Beastie Boys’ “Fight for Your Right” b/w “Paul Revere” and Run-DMC’s “Walk This Way” with Aerosmith.  I brought them out to my dad and asked him why the hell he bought those. “I didn’t,” he told me. “Those were yours. You played the shit out of them when you were little.”

My first memories of hip-hop culture spring back to being frightened by Public Enemy videos, wanting a cap with an “X” so badly without any understanding of the significance, and bawling my eyes out when my barber told me I wasn’t blessed with the “type of hair” needed for a high-top fade. Clearly, though, things went back a little further, as both “Walk This Way” and “Fight for Your Right” dropped in ’86 when I was only two. It started to make sense, then, that I had forced my grandma to buy me a pair of parachute pants and choreographed dance routines to “U Can’t Touch This” in ’90, and that I somehow convinced my dad to put cuts in my eyebrows and the sides of my hair in order to more accurately imitate Vanilla Ice as I recited “Ice Ice Baby” in front of the mirror later that year.

Then there was the time that I wore my Oakland A’s jersey and Levi’s backwards to school in 3rd grade, much to the dismay of my big sister who had to walk me to school, and the utter doubfoundment of my classmates and teacher. I didn’t really give a fuck; I felt like the miggity-mack.  Soon after, as my sister neared high school, she started dating older guys who would bring over now-classic tapes and CDs and listen to them discretely as to avoid my parents hearing; they would have flipped had they heard the torture skit on Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers or seen the album art for ATLiens (two records which I distictivly remember blowing my adolescent mind at the time of first listen.)  Shouts to those dudes, whose names I can’t remember, for schooling me in the game outside of what I was exposed to on MuchMusic’s Rap City. 

It wasn’t long before I was buying my own hip-hop albums at the local Sunrise Records; I vividly remember copping Busta Rhymes’ The Coming on cassette when I was 11, listening on low with my ear pressed against the speaker, scared to DEATH that my parents would walk in and smash the tape.  Growing up in an upper-middle-class Canadian suburb, most of my friends were more interested in The Offspring or Bush X at the time, but as hip-hop moved to the forefront of the music industry thanks mainly to the East vs. West turf wars, I suddenly became the dude in the class to come to for the newest the genre had to offer.  And I was hooked. 

Though I had flirted with it for years, hip-hop music officially became my first love by the time I entered high school.  And it has remained so to this very day.  Though I have accumulated countless life experiences, undergone imminence change as a man, and been through various other love affairs over the fifteen-odd years since, my affection for the game is the one thing that has remained steadfast throughout.  Like most relationships worth anything, hip-hop and I have had our ups and downs. But make no mistake: this love is unwavering.  Hip-hop doesn’t have any parents to impress (unless you’re counting TwoHands).  Thanks to Walkmans and iPods, there are never any distance issues to potentially get in the way.  My favorite records don’t expect flowers on their birthday, or get aggy if I forget the anniversary of their release.  And most importantly, the music is always there to lean on, in times of angersadnesspride, or celebration.

All of this to say that – while I fully acknowledge problems exist within the genre – I refuse to believe that we have witnessed the best hip-hop has to offer.  Times change, and with them, so to do expectations.  For those of you fortunate enough to have been around during the birth and and growth of the genre, I am genuinely envious and can understand how you may have become jaded.  Over the past thirty-plus years, what we now call hip-hop has shifted and expanded such a great deal that it now permeates every aspect of our popular culture.  Has it become overly commercialized along the way? One could argue that it has, but I see nothing wrong with exposure if motives remain the same.  Too often, unfortunately, they change drastically with a little limelight.

But not always.  Believe it or not, there is still a whole lot of incredible hip-hop being made in 2012.  Sure, it takes a little more sifting to discover the quality material, but it certainly is out there. The mistake is made when we blindly deafly dismiss anything new in attempts to cling to the romanticism of past classics. I went through a period when I did just that;  I felt like by embracing new movements, I was somehow betraying the classic foundation on which hip-hop had been built.  Will there ever be another Illmatic?  Sadly, no.  But I came to the realization that, if we refuse to support the continued progression of a genre in which damn near everything “traditional” has been beaten into the ground, we only hurt the chances of seeing classic records in the future.

The truth is, there is enough room for all of it: The old and the new, the rugged and the swaggy.  You say Rakim, I say Rocky.  You say Wu-Tang, I say OF. You say Snoop, I say Wiz.  You say B.I.G., I say Bronson.  You say Dirt, I say Danny. You say Common, I say Kendrick.  No, I’m not trying to compare young-bloods to unquestioned legends. But it’s important to remember that established vets were the up-and-comers at one point in time.  The difference, I believe, is that they weren’t entering the rap game under such a powerful and skeptical microscope as we have now, and as a result were afforded a chance to prove their worth before being pigeon-holed or dismissed completely. With the continued support of heads everywhere, there is no telling where the new breed of emcees and the generations that follow can take the genre.  As the great Christopher Wallace once reminded us, the sky is the limit.

I, for one, still love H.E.R.          

— Noakes  

Originally published February 14, 2012 at theblast-blog.com

0 Responses to “I ♥ Tuesdays Vol. 15: Valentine’s Day Edition”

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