Since I was just a little guy, I’ve appreciated hip hop culture. I grew up in a mostly white and asian community and since I was brown, I felt very little connection. Not only was I brown but I didn’t speak Spanish which left me feeling like more of an outcast. My sister’s closest friends growing up were black. My sister and her friends introduced me to hip hop and RnB before I cared to seek out music myself. I began to know music from Blackstreet, Mariah Carey, En Vogue and Boyz to Men like the back of my hand.
As I grew up I began to explore my own musical taste that consisted of mostly of early 2000s Emo/Pop/Punk music but I still had a connection to hip hop that I continued to go deeper with. I fell more in love with Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys and Def Poetry. There was something in the poetic flow of hip hop that resonated with me.
I realized that my connection came from a feeling of being an outcast. Always struggling to figure out my place in the world. Hip hop culture spoke to me in a way that nothing else had. When I was in high school, I would stay up late to watch HBO’s Def Poetry Jam thirsty for knowledge and inspiration on subjects of love, failure, the struggle and hope.
Everything in hip hop culture is felt with more passion than anything I have ever experienced. Love is talked about about in such vibrant colors. Struggles are talked about with hurdles of endless heights and yet some how enough energy to traverse any obstacle. Hope for acceptance, success and normalcy is expressed so beautifully that I feel it so deep in my bones.
Beautiful art and expression come from a place of real struggles. Struggles are felt by all in various degrees but the deeper the struggle, the more beautiful and authentic the art. Hip hop has been used an escape and also a coping mechanism for artists. Even though there is a lot of hip hop that is fun, there is just as much that talk about what it’s like living being black in America. Tupac and Biggie rapped about what it was like growing up in poor neighborhoods and a life of drugs and crime. Lauryn Hill rapped about the struggle of being a female MC in the hip hop world.
With the appreciation of black music that blends in with pop culture, there also has to bean appreciation and acceptance for black music that expresses raw feelings and more specific experiences. Society loves a track like “Crazy In Love” but has a harder time rocking out to “Formation.” Rock radio will play Macklemore’s funky tracks but even pop radio won’t play Kendrick Lamar’s raw singles. What this turns into is cultural appropriation. It’s easy for people to handle the palatable tracks but can’t handle the raw emotions that led to it. It’s harder to fully appreciate it without seeing the full picture.
Struggle is universal. Everyone can connect to hardship in some way. Acknowledging the people struggle in different forms, ways and levels is what is important. I hope that eventually it’s not so controversial when an artist talks about their real struggle or references something very specific to their culture that the mainstream didn’t even realized they identified with(I also keep hot sauce in my backpack.) As a 27 year old Mexican American male I have learned more about my heritage, black culture, who I am and where I fit into this crazy world, but I will never forget how hip hop/ black culture nurtured me as a little one.
28 Days is a project about perspectives of people whose lives intertwine with the black struggle either personally or through others close to them. Along with their perspective they entrust us with what they hope for moving forward.
We hope this helps drive conversation, breaks down barriers and incites change.
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