Growing up, I had no real concept of racism. I grew up in a mostly white town in Rhode Island where all my friends and I were super into hip hop. I would hear about racism and discrimination in music and I was moved by it, but I had never witnessed anything blatantly racist myself. That all changed when I started hanging out with guys from two towns over, some of which happened to be black. All of a sudden, many people in my town who worshipped black athletes and entertainers, had a problem with the people I was hanging out with. I, along with a few of my friends who happened to be dating black guys, were called N***** lovers by people we had grown up with and been friends with all our lives. I was shocked. As the years passed and I began having the race discussion more and more, I found that many people think it’s “disgusting” if a girl has slept with a black man. I met girls that had 50 or 60 bodies at 21 years old yet when I asked them if they’d been with a black guy they replied, “OMG Never! White guys won’t date you if you’ve been with a black guy!” This blew me away because the racism wasn’t always overt, but it was there. I began noticing an undercurrent in society, an unspoken feeling among many people.Continue reading
I spent the Spring of 2007 living in Florence, Italy. Besides iced coffee and hot American guys, the thing I really missed was hip hop. With a shaky internet connection and little to no knowledge of/access to music steaming sites, I was left with the few hundred songs stacked in my iPod to get me through my four months there. The time lag between American hip hop culture and European hip hop culture was around 6 years, at the very least. Coolio frequently played in the club, and international travelers got as excited about it as we did when Kendrick dropped his “Control” verse. I have a distinct memory of getting in a local promoter’s Audi with some friends where he had Get Rich Or Die Trying videos looping on his dash cam. He was very proud and even pointed it out to us like it was the most exclusive shit he’d ever gotten his hands on.
Fast forward to 2013. I was attending a Chris Brown x Reebok shoe giveaway for work and my boss asked me to give her brother a ride to the event. He was 17 years old and visiting for the week from London. I agreed, not quite sure what I would have in common with a teenager from the other side of the pond. Two minutes into the hour long ride to Crenshaw High School, I got my answer. J. Cole, Jay-Z, and Kanye had all recently dropped albums and were in heavy rotation in my car. As song after song played, I heard him rapping verse after verse. I was shocked. “How do you know all this music,” I asked him. “It literally just came out.” “Uhhhhh, we get music the same way you do,” he replied. “I’ve been listening to these for weeks now.” I switched it up and put in a Meek Mill mixtape. Again, he knew every song. No matter what I played, he knew.