Hip hop is the background music of my life. I became a teen in the 80s when Hip Hop was exploding. I wanted to have a love child with L.L. Cool J while rocking to MC Lyte's Ruffneck. Hey, we all can have dreams! Well, I grew up and became a professional women and was told that hip hop wasn't for me. I was asked how could I love something that called me out of my name and told me I had no worth beyond my body. And for years I couldn't justify my love for hip hop and my strong feminist views. But just like a lot of things you grow up with hip hop taught me how to live my life. Here are a few life lessons I learned from Hip Hop.
1. Always rep your 'hood
You know within the first few seconds of a song where the rapper is from. They all tell you their city and how they are keeping it real for their hood. Now, I will admit some of them get caught up in keeping it real. Keeping it real doesn't mean continuing to act a fool because that is what you did when you were fifteen. It means not forgetting who you are and where you are from. A good example of realizing how to evolve and continue to keep it real is Jay Z. I listened to an interview where he talks about stabbing a producer in 1999. He was starting to have some commercial success and had a lot to lose if he went to jail. He states that he realized that the survival skills that had previously kept him alive could jeopardize all of his hard work and dreams. So, he had to let go of somethings from childhood but he has made millions singing about Brooklyn.
I learned early in my professional life that I had to keep it real. At meetings and events I often was the only person of color in the room. I had an image in my mind of what others thought I was. And of course I was never going to be that image. So, I decided to take pride in all the qualities I had developed as a southern black girl raised by a single mother. I also had to learn how to tame some of that energy so that my career and life would not explode. But, you best believe I will always love Sweet Tea and say "y'all".
2. Hustling is required
I grew up believing that hustling was something you didn't want to do. Where I'm from hustling was the guy on the street corner or the uncle who always had a new way to make some quick cash. As a grown ass women I know that hustling is required. Hustling is plain old marketing. Another name for hustler is entrepreneur. A hustler is always telling you about what she is selling. How her product is better than her competitor. What deal she can give you. She tells you how one of her products will make the other one better (entrepreneur call this upselling). She will go to extremes to sell her product. And she continues to believes in her product when others falter. Sounds, like an entrepreneur to me. This is why numerous people in hip hop can transition to successful business people.
3. Fake it 'til you make it
The majority of hip hop performers don't have the stuff they brag about. No money. No women. No fancy cars or homes. Is this lying or the laws of attraction on steroids? Well, that depends on their next steps, hard work and hustlin'. The laws of attraction don't attract unless you do some work. If you just rap about the good life but don't put hours in the studio or promoting your material it will just be a dream.
I decided at 16 years old I wanted to be a team doctor for the Washington Redskins. Well, you can see that didn't happen. And it didn't happen because I didn't want to do the work or make the sacrifices to be an orthopedic surgeon. But, I did make other sacrifices and studied to become a physician. And there were so many moments when I thought I would never be a physician but I kept fakin' until I believed I could.
4. What You say, I'm PHAT!!!
Hip hop taught me to love my curves. Enough said. Most old school rap talked about black women and our bodies with love and admiration. Songs told me that being PHAT (pretty hip, ass and tits) was wonderful. I learned to love my curves in a world that showed me only one view of beauty. But, then the climate of Hip Hop changed and I was told that my only worth was my body. So, Hip hop also taught me about sexism. It taught me early how to stand my ground when I was being underestimated and discriminated against because I was a women.
But it also gave me examples of women who spoke of their sexuality alongside their values and ideas. I grew up with Queen Latifah and MC Lyte. They taught me how to find my power beyond my body without forgetting my sexuality.
I have to admit I don't like a lot of the new hip hop songs that repetitively call women out of their names or only talk about our body parts. I'm definitely more of an old school rap lover. But in being authentic to myself I have to say Hip Hop will always be my first love.
Where in your life have you struggled to be authentic?
Let us know in the comments section.