I love music, all genres and variety, except country, sorry it just does nothing for me. Growing up there was always a variety of music playing from my parents, it went from Crosby, Stills & Nash, rock, classic rock, all the way to the classic years of Motown. I gravitated to the black artists mostly when younger, I remember the first time I discovered James Brown and was completely blown away. Then discovering Michael Jackson, that was the cream of the crop for me, I became obsessed with MJ, still my favorite artist to this day.
Soul, Rhythm & Blues, the Motown culture, the rise of Hip Hop out of New York was fascinating to me. One of my favorite shows to watch as a kid was Soul Train on Saturday mornings. My favorite part of the show was the dance off. I was soaking it all in like sponge.
My earliest memories of hip hop was probably around 1982 or so, I was around 12 years old. I remember on a Friday night listening to DJ Red Alert on the radio, 98.7 to be exact, on my boom box and making my own mixed cassette tapes. I would pop a blank cassette in and when a song came on I liked I would press record, then hit pause when it was over, then just repeat again. I would pause out all the commercials and talking so I just had a continuous flow of songs. Then I discovered break dancing, I would practice for hours. Just dancing in general was something huge to me at this point. I self taught my self to break dance, and dancing just by watching Soul Train, Micheal Jackson, etc. I was completely enthralled with the culture of the streets, you want to learn how to dance with soul, or break dance you certainly won’t find that in the white suburban neighborhood where I lived. So the TV and VHS tapes were my tutorial system. A major movie influence was Beat Street, once that came out it was over!
My sister was into ballet and at this one place she took classes there was a sign for break dance lessons, so of course I had to check it out. I remember after my first class one of the instructors came up to me and asked if I wanted to teach. I was like 13 at the time, for one that was a huge compliment, but refused the offer, had no interest to teach. I went to a few more classes and since I was at the same level as the instructor I just stopped with the lessons. In all honesty, I wanted to take ballet as well, a little secret I kept to myself. It was a little dream of mine to be a dancer and somehow make a living with it, oh well that ship has sailed.
Here is a picture of me at 14, maybe around 1984, at one of my middle school dances. It was a very “white” school but there I was going to school in track suites, toe shell Adidas with the fat laces, suede puma’s, drawing graffiti on my notepads and submerged into 80’s rap. Not only was I knee-deep into the music, but the culture as well.
Fast forward the to the 90’s and basically I was at the mall buying at least 3 hip hop tapes a month, maybe more. I have a huge Tupperware bin to this day with all the tapes I accumulated during that time period. 90’s hip hop is no doubt my favorite era. I’m not going list my favorites but if I have to pick one album that really blew me away it was Public Enemy’s “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back”
It was hardcore, raw, aggressive and controversial. The production was on another level, sampling at it’s finest, extremely creative and unique. This album taught me more about black history leaders than any school or book. It was more than music, it was an education as well. I was definitely a soul child, I had to question if it was my Dad or the mailman, kidding!
Peace and Merry Christmas!