Deeper than Rap… How Hip-Hop Became One with My Soul pt. 1

A dead end street: Aunt Leora up the street next to my cousins living in a double wide mobile home, across the street from my Uncle Chris and Aunt Diane with cousins Susan and Michael living there while they raise hogs in the backyard that we used to fed for fun. My other cousin’s grandfather lived right next to him where people used to drive half a mile behind his house to partake in some illegal dumping of whatever they wanted to shed in their lives (wouldn’t surprise me if there was ever a body dumped back there *Kanye shrug*). Coming back towards where we stayed, there was a watermelon patch that my Uncle Fletcher, also known as Bishop C.F. Porter, would cultivate and tend to. We often boosted a few of those sweet, seeded melons without paying him, but his moral standing as a preacher kept him from scolding us too much. Praise Him! Next to the patch was my “Uncle” Willie who often hunted behind his house and would have barbeques of whatever he hunted. I’m pretty sure I ate some possum a couple of times… Lined on the street were blackberry vines, left over snake skins from the serpents that slithered all through the woods we ventured often, and random rock patches full of a variety of stones and seashell fossils. I say all of this to say, yes, I’m country! So how did a young field frolicker get into one of the world’s most urban forms of musical art expression, hip-hop?
All the family surrounding me in my dead end street neighborhood was actually all on my mother’s side. My father hails from Enugu, Nigeria. He is responsible for my interest in music and art in general. We’re both right-brained individuals i.e. creatives and left-handed. He’s an artist who eventually created his own clothing line. But the musical selections he introduced me to were the primary reasons for affinity for a diverse range of music. My grandmother on my mother’s side would play your typical cuts in a Black American family, including all the soul, jazz, funk and blues, and I attended a COGIC church where I sung in the choir and was the backup drummer to the backup drummer. My father, however would often play ballads of traditional Nigerian music and Nigerian High Life music. He even made me a CD of traditional Nigerian music that I took with me to college that I would play nearly every morning when I awakened. But this was not the only music he opened me up to…
One thing about my father, he was a true Nigerian man, but he was more flexible in his thoughts and ways of raising children, so he exposed us to more than what you would typically think of in a traditional Nigerian household in the United States. See, my dad always knew the hustle men in the neighborhood. Everyone from getting cars to getting the bootleg mixtapes that came out. Now, the content on these tapes were extremely different from my favorite artist during my early elementary school days from when we lived in Fort Worth, TX. I loved MC Hammer! I had his music videos, the “musical” movie and a MC Hammer doll with the glitter purple suit! I was real with it! But these tapes my dad brought home came in at the same time I was entering middle school. These tapes would be anything from your mixes of the top R&B songs, the new hip-hop club bangers, and of course your homegrown Texas tapes of the buzzing Texas artists: Swishahouse, DJ Michael Watts, DJ Screw, Geto Boyz, Mike Jones (Who?), Chamilionaire, Paul Wall, Slim Thug, Big Pokey, Big Hawk, Pimp C and Bun B, Big Tuck, Z-Ro, and the list goes on. Chopped and Screwed music became a part of my everyday routine. We would ride to these tapes as we headed to sell some of his clothing line parcels at different events such as the Juneteenth Parade and, my favorite, Kiloland (the small, East Texas version of the Kappa in Galveston or the Atlanta Freaknik).

Attending an urban school in the West side of Tyler, TX will definitely reinforce this newfound surge of music I had become accustomed to listening to on the regular. We spent many free moments in the hallways, bathrooms and breezeways at A.T. Stewart Middle School during lunch and other free times discussing who had heard the new screw tape, reciting the dopest lines from the latest songs to drop, and having ritualistic hip-hop cyphers where everyone would be around. Either I was a just a bystander soaking in the rhymes or coming through as the “low key and rarely called upon” supreme beat maker with two no. 2 pencils or a couple of Bic pens (I still got the juice with those pencils). Being that we were Texans to the core, the cyphers would consist of an abundance of “Man hold up”, “I done came down”, “Break them boys off”, “I done swung, I done swang”, “pop my trunk” and your every-now-and-then reference of “4 swangers and adapters”. The ebb and flow would just be my homeboys taking turns on the imaginary mic after about 8 or 16 bars unless someone would “catch wreck”, meaning they were in a zone and were verbally assaulting the mic. The more wreck they caught, the louder they would get, with every bar ending with the admirers saying the “Man!” or the country version “Mane!” while increasing in volume with the lyrical spitter. These circles shaped my perspective of the energy produced with hip-hop along with the admiration of the creativity that happened for us nearly daily. I was hooked, but I wasn’t done. I needed more, which led me on a search of newer sounds, different artists, and getting out of the heavily Texas-influenced bubble…

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