I have a confession. There was a time when I snubbed hip hop. My excuse? I’m from the suburbs. Unfortunately, I can’t claim that I was never exposed. The first beats I heard came booming out of customized, lowered mini pickup trucks driven by mulleted, Oakley Blade-wearing white teenagers. This was my Northern California ‘burb scene in the 1980s.
For me and my pack of junior skater kids, this was not cool yet. These were early days. Alternative radio had not yet caught on to the sounds from NYC’s outer boroughs. We took our tips from Thrasher Magazine and bought into the notion we should only listen to punk rock. Though I considered myself open minded, I was far from it.
Luckily, De La Soul found me. I may have to credit my early diet of classic rock radio for opening my door to hip hop. “Eye Know” first caught my ear because of the Steely Dan “Peg” sample. The guitar chime was a familiar, soothing and safe space where hip hop and myself found common ground. As soon as I heard the drums kick in over the Steely Dan sample, I was hooked.
“Eye Know” was different than any other hip hop track I heard before. Though it contains a couple juvenile innuendos, it is very much a love song. It is thoughtful, emotionally intelligent and a sharp contrast to the confrontational, crotch grabbing, bitch jockin’ tracks that came booming from those ridiculous mini pickup trucks. To me, it was bold statement. It was punk. My skater kid sensibilities approved of this.
“Eye Know” opened my ears to the entire Three Feet High and Rising album, which turned me on to A Tribe Called Quest. Eventually, I learned to step out of my suburban shell and embrace hip hop in all its bombastic boasting and bragging glory. My appreciation of hip hop has allowed me to find common ground with people from all around the world, many of which I have learned some my most valuable cultural lessons and shared my fondest experiences. Though, I have never warmed up to mullets, Oakley Blades or lowered mini pickup trucks, maybe I should? There could be a whole world that I am failing to experience.
(Song recommendation by Nick Ito)