Like most kids who grew up in my PJs, my father wasn’t around. To make direct reference to Shaq’s classic CL Smooth featured song, “biological didn’t bother.” Like many youths in the bubble of the golden era of modern Hip Hop was—in many ways—my father figure. It taught me how to dress, respond to social cues that were relevant in my environment, talk to girls, and how to view hegemonic powers that be. Was Hip Hop a perfect parent? No.
In hindsight, youth from (often) broken homes speaking from their experience to likeminded younger youth was—while sometimes marked with brilliant insights—a blind leading the blind situation. Especially if you factor in commercial influences that may be perpetuating the direction of the content. It took the most dedicated listeners to cut through the bullshit and uncover the life lessons.
Public Enemy’s message of social consciousness became drowned out by gangster shit, sadly.
One such lesson was fatherhood; my childhood predated my internet usage, so the only time you heard about fatherhood in Hip Hop was when the artist made explicit mention, like Xzibit’s “Foundation” off of his debut album. We didn’t get to see candid footage of an artist’s eye’s twinkling with joy as they embrace their children.
The culture has undergone many changes stylistically and philosophically, and one has been the emo-tification of Rap. Feelings are OK, and being tough all the time sells but doesn’t resonate as much as sharing your soul. This is why a video of Chance The Rapper, an artist who breaks many molds, unpacking Grammys with his child and then breaking down into tears is so endearing.
Then there’s the video of 6lack, who is a must-listen artist for any of you who have been sleeping, explaining to Erykah Badu how he watched his child be born while she performed a live set at a California music festival.
The most compelling example, though, has become Dj Khaled. He brings his son everywhere, taking every opportunity possible to proclaim his love publicly and tell his son how beautiful and special he truly is.
The broken-home narrative was a predominant in Hip Hip, and sadly the intro to Naughty By Nature’s “Ghetto Bastard” is sometimes still the case. But a prerequisite for being an artist no longer includes being street affiliated; perhaps this new generation of overt fatherliness will help mold a generation of men excited to step up and embrace the most rewarding challenge life has in store for them.
As a father myself, artists like XXXtentacion scare the shit out of me.
I get it, he’s an exaggerated manifestation of all the feelings younger listeners may have inside, but he also allegedly beats women. Fredo Santana drank [lean] to the point of Kidney failure. Where are the fathers?
I don’t want my daughters looking up to and following the influences of some of these women MCs, and I don’t want them thinking that some of these shit-heads are the types of men they should respect and fawn over. But, I bumped Lil Kim’s Hardcore and listened to Too $hort, so I recognize the hypocritical nature of my concerns.
Regardless, as a self-described Hip Hop father, I’m going to do my best to steer my kids in a proper direction; all father’s who consider the culture important. Perhaps we can–collectively–parent a generation of listeners that know better, demand better, and pay it forward to their children.