I'm Breaking Up With Hip-Hop for My Daughter

Hip hopI love Brown Sugar. It’s one of my all-time favorite flicks, partly because you can’t tell me the main female character, Sidney Shaw, isn’t the make-believe version of myself. Even before I saw it, people were calling me like, “You have to see this movie. She’s just like you!” down to the magazine gigs and the brownstone in Brooklyn — but sadly, minus a Taye Diggs and Boris Kodjoe battle royale for my affection. Eh, can’t have it all.

Unlike her, though, there was never an a-ha moment that launched my love of hip-hop. It’s just always been there, serving up the soundtrack for most of my fondest memories and standout experiences. But now things have changed with the music I’ve grown up on and I feel like a traitor when I admit: I think I’ve outgrown hip-hop. As much as I’ve loved and lived the music, I can’t really call myself a fan anymore. Especially now that I’m a mother raising a daughter.


I make this declaration, ironically enough, while spectators are steady buzzing about "Otis" and the impending tour de force that is Watch the Throne. I can’t help but be quietly underwhelmed on my side of the single. I love Jay-Z and I adore Kanye West. But I sense they’ll be spittin’ more unbridled bravado. More models, money, and machismo. More flagrant wastefulness, silly designer name-dropping, and references to the posh luxuries that me and my poverty-line straddling behind can’t afford. Kanye says he’s not going to hell because he did "Jesus Walks." I’m over here wondering what he’s done for Jesus lately.

Even up until a few years ago, I was a womanist who was all power to the people — until I hit somebody’s dance floor. Then I could turn that revolutionary sensor way, way down for the sake of shaking my hindparts to a hot beat. I knew “Get Low” went against everything I stood for, but let that bass line drop and I’d be dropping right along with it, shaking it like the video girls I was so critical of. Now I can’t even crank my rear up to dance to a song because the lyrical foolishness is the loudest part of the production.

When I hear the words that Tween Girl is nonchalantly reciting, even from rappers who qualify as kids their doggone selves, I feel like she’s falling into the same groove. I hate to sound like an old fogie — but I will. Once upon a time, the hip-hop I grew up on was balanced. It represented diversity from different people with different backgrounds painting verbal pictures of their different truths.

What I got from MC Lyte wasn't the same thing I got from Salt ‘n Pepa. What I heard from Public Enemy wasn't the same thing I gleaned from A Tribe Called Quest. They all brought some distinctive element to the table. And though there were certainly the Slick Ricks and the Too Shorts spitting bitch-and-hoe lyrics aplenty, we weren’t pelted with it. We had the option to turn to something or someone else. 

Now if you want to turn it off, you just won't be listening to much of anything. That’s sad. And my daughter is growing up perfectly desensitized to it because that’s the hip-hop she knows.

Staying one step ahead of the lyrics has made me beef my parenting game up. I have to pre-screen videos before I let her watch them. I need to know beforehand if there’s something in those three- or four-minute segments that will require me to explain some overly sexual act or clarify some unsavory behavior. It’s not all instructional — we comment on outfits that are hot or just a hot mess and point out cute guys. I’m sorry for her that the music and culture don’t mean more to her than that, that they aren’t tattooed across her heart like they were when I was her age.
Me and hip-hop ain’t making memories together much anymore. We just don’t speak the same language, and the thoughts that make me smile all have a past tense twist to them. I’m wading through grown-up reality and it’s stuck in arrested development like it can’t let go of its teenage heydays.

Not that I want to hear Rick Ross spit a verse about his past due electric bill or the what-the-hell price of gas per gallon because that wouldn’t make me want to throw my hands up and party much, either. My reality doesn't include switching out a Benz for every day of the week. And I sure can’t sit around and listen to a grown man or woman talk about it, either.

Do you feel torn between parenthood and your love of hip-hop?


Image via raremusicvideo1/Flickr

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