Hip-Hop

An Ode to Hip Hop — 44 Years Later

I’m not here to tell you about the history of hip hop. That information is in no short supply, and if you look anywhere online today you will find a horde of articles honoring the birth of one of America’s most amazing contributions to the make up of our society. Born of the struggle in African American and Latinx communities in 70’s New York, hip hop was a movement that spoke directly to the heart of a largely disenfranchised population. Not since jazz had a musical genre been able to express the pain, joy, sorrows, concerns, and triumphs of a portion of our society that were wholly dismissed by the masses. Hip hop gave us the ability to see, hear and FEEL ourselves reflected in the music we heard blasting through our speakers.

But you knew that.

This is just my story. My ode to hip hop.
———-
I had a weird childhood. My parents both had their own issues and demons to deal with — drugs & alcohol mostly — so they weren’t exactly focused on me for the first half of my life. You know, the formative half. From moving around, to my dad going to prison, to my father’s side of the family hating my mom and I because we were Mexican; it was definitely a rocky start for us. I was their first kid, and while I can say with certainty they loved each other, and me as best they could, they just may not have been wholly prepared for parenthood at first.

Things got ugly for my parents and for me, and when I was almost 6 years old I went to stay with my Tio Juan. My Tio had immigrated to America during the Bracero program, working in the fields for 12 hours a day to hopefully make a better life for himself, my tia, and my tia’s children. Turning his struggles into triumph, he inevitably made a successful career for himself in radio broadcasting during the 40s and 50s, eventually retiring. In spite of his financial success, my Tio went through no shortage of issues when he came to America. Stories of racism, brutality, and the daily struggles that black and brown people went through were often my bedtime stories as I rested my head in his palatial Oak Park home. My tio was WOKE before woke was woke.

While this was a hugely important legacy for my Tio to leave me with, there was an equally important lesson that he taught me. This lesson came not through his words, but his actions. Tio Juan had an insatiable love of music. Every square inch of his den, every inch of his bar area, every inch of his workroom — was covered with album art. This was a man who would purchase multiple copies of the same vinyl. Why?

“So you can play one and display one, mija.”
———
thep

My tio gave me the love of music… but Oak Park gave me the love of hip hop. For his many attributes my Tio was in his mid 60s when I first went to live with him, and chasing around an overly-energetic child was not the easiest thing on earth. I had learned to take care of myself early on though, and my Tio gave me the freedoms to roam the neighborhood whenever he needed time to rest.

I was a talkative kid with a lack of filter (shocking I know) so I usually didn’t have a problem making friends, nor was I shy about trying. About a week after I arrived, I took my first excursion to try to find someone to play with. I couldn’t think of another way to do it, so I started knocking on every door on our side of the street as though it was Halloween, but I was asking for friends instead of candy.

That was how I met Andre.

I don’t remember how many houses I had knocked on before someone opened the door. That part has sort of faded out of my mind over the last couple decades. Most stuff has. The memory of what I heard when I found someone that was finally home, is a memory that I will never forget.

“Fuck that shit cuz I aint the one/For a punk mother fucker with a badge and a gun/To be beatin on and throwin in jail/ We can go toe to toe in the middle of a cell”

nwa

Standing in the threshold of the doorway was Dre — he was two years older, about a foot taller, and was definitely listening to different music than what my tio was bumping. He had a sort of confused snarl on his face when he first opened the door, but I remember his expression changing when he probably caught the absolute look of shock on my own face.

“Whats up?” he said simply. He was smacking his gum while he spoke.

“What was THAT?!” I damn near screamed at him.

“What was what?” he replied.

“The music you are listening to. WHAT WAS THAT?”

“NWA. You don’t know them?”

“No. We listen to Spanish music at my house.”

You want to come in and listen?”
———
Dre and NWA was the beginning of the end for me. I followed him into the house and spent what felt like hours listening to every single tape he had. It was the first time I had ever heard music that had translated the anger my tio used to shake with whenever he told me stories of what he went through in this country. What so many of us went through in this country. What so many of us were still going through to this day.

Hip hop. You latched into me that day. You infused my bloodstream. You absorbed into my skin. I felt you in my fingertips. You were a part of me. I went home that day a changed person, with a copy of NWA Straight Out of Compton in my hand. Andre had given me his to borrow.

… My tio didn’t let me hang out with Andre for WEEKS after he heard it. LOL.
——–
Oh Hip Hop,

You have never left my side since that day. Through good and bad, you have been there. When my heart was broken and I felt like I couldn’t survive, you have been there. When my anger shook the walls inside of me, you were there. You have been my most successful relationship, and I am eternally grateful for every gift you have ever given me — they are innumerable.

I love you. You sexy bitch.

Your bae,

Olivia Monahan
Resident Stoner

PS. Inquiring minds want to know. What was the song that caused you to fall in love with hip hop? Holla at me.

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Olivia Monahan

August 11th, 2017

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