I love hip-hop music. Ever since I was young, the beats, clever lyrics, and artful storytelling has created a soundtrack for my life. Through the ups and downs, I have always been able to relate to the ongoing struggle conveyed through this genre, and at times, come to depend on it for motivation. My life, my movement, and my spirit are running on hip-hop.
My childhood came with a lot of questions…
I was a multi-racial (read: not white) kid adopted by a white family. Apparently nothing is more curious than this. Musings like: ‘Where did I come from?’ ‘Why do people keep asking why I look different than my parents?’ ‘Why do people care?’ rolled around in my head. I was bombarded with questions from all different directions; from schoolmates to strangers on the street…’Which one of my parents had jungle fever?’ ‘What am I mixed with?’ ‘Who are my real parents?’ ‘Why don’t I act black?’ ‘How come I act so white?’
It seemed everyone had a different expectation for me and felt entitled to unsolicited inquiries about my personal life.
It is vexing. Luckily, my brilliant parents had the wisdom to enlighten me on my situation. They said, “People will recognize quickly that you are different. That you look different and that our family is different…and they will have questions. We are here to help you whenever they arise, but how you answer is up to you.” As a kindergarten student, I didn’t fully understand what they meant, but in time, these words have come to serve me well.
This is not a post about race, it’s a post about motivation through music.
What mom and dad were trying to convey to me is that I define myself. People throw shade at things they don’t understand, but I need not subscribe to the opinions of others. People will tell you aren’t ready or that its impossible, but what do they know? My values, dreams, accomplishments, and behavior determine my character and my path in life.
F*ck the haters. Don’t listen when people say “you can’t”. Do YOU. Don’t let your last name or your neighborhood limit your aspirations. Go make yourself, because you are the only one who can. Don’t let the fear of others stifle your dreams.
So how does this relate to my love for hip-hop music?
There are many recurring themes in hip-hop music; the strongest among them is that adversity is certain in life, BUT that we have the power within us to rise above.
Not every hip-hop song is about struggling through conflict or overcoming negativity, but many of them are. Some hip-hop artists are like field reporters that share up-to-the-minute details about life in various marginalized populations. Other artists relate through comedy, or stories from their past. In its early days, hip-hop music offered a glimpse into a life most Americans knew nothing about.
In addition to keeping it real, I think hip-hop music encourages us to make the very best of our situation.
We can pause where we are, not only to celebrate how far we have come, but also to refocus on our path forward. Hip hop music helps me realize that I am enough. I am a dynamic human, and while I may not be perfect, I have some damn fine qualities. It helps me to remember exactly where I came from and appreciate the effort I have invested in myself to get here, now. Most of all, it motivates me to keep pushing forward.
Regardless of who’s featured on the track, this message of self-reliance and staying true to yourself despite challenges and doubt can be applied to all areas of life. Whether it’s the soundtrack to your training plan, your party playlist, or your get-pumped-on-the-way-to-work song, everyone has “their jam”. You know, that song or album that makes you feel like you can take on the world. You love it! And I love it for you. Who doesn’t need to remember that they are, indeed, totally Grade-A, shiny, diamond badass?
At the end of the day, hip-hop music resonates with me because I am human and I struggle.
I want to be more resilient; maybe even poke a little fun at the lessons I have learned along my way. I can use a reminder that I’m not alone and it’s going to be alright. And that’s what hip-hop music does for me.
Here are some of my favorite lyrics from Chance the Rapper’s record “All We Got” from the Coloring Book album
Wish I could tell you it’s ready
Tell you it’s ready today
They don’t give nothing away
You gotta fight for your way
And that don’t take nothing away
Cause at the end of the day
Music all we got
Isn’t this all we got?
So we might as well give it all we got
Music all we got
running on hip-hop,