I appreciate all types of Rap music. For my entire conscious life, I’ve been listening to Hip Hop. I was born in Boston, MA in 1980, the youngest of 3 by a good chunk. My siblings are 12 and 14 years older than I am, so at the age that my memory kicks in, right around 4 or 5 years old, my brother and sister were in their late teens approaching their 20s. We’re of Puerto Rican descent, so we listed to plenty of Salsa, Merengue, and even some Cumbia, but my brother and sister were also listening to a lot of Rap music. Being the impressionable youngest sibling, I couldn’t help but to follow their lead. This meant that my first musical preference was Rap music, and truth be told it has been ever since. I often say that Hip Hop and the Boston Celtics were my first loves, and I’m only half-joking. I’ll write about Bird, McHale, Parish, DJ, and Danny Ainge being responsible for many of my favorite childhood memories some other day. Today, my focus is on my love of Hip Hop, and more specifically, how much the lack of parity in the brand of Rap that the industry pushes these days is not only damaging to the culture, but frustrating for the ‘older’ Hip Hop head, such as myself.
To that end, I remember a time when there was in fact parity in Hip Hop at the industry level. For much of Hip Hop’s “first” decade, the 1980s, Rap music was relatively safe and non-threatening to the masses. I put “first” in quotations because the origins of Rap can be traced further back than 1980, but for the simplicity’s sake, given that many of the first Hip Hop records were released in the early 80s, let’s work with it. That said, though tracks such as Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five’s “The Message” took an honest look at inner-city plight, they were curse-free. Thought-provoking and revolutionary yes, but there wasn’t much push-back from mainstream America because lyrically, the tracks were clean. Acts such as The Fat Boys, Kurtis Blow, LL Cool J, MC Lyte, Run DMC, Slick Rick, Doug E Fresh, and Salt ‘n Pepa made tracks that were fun and party-oriented at times, and deeper and reflective of urban community struggles at others. Some tracks contained some sexual innuendo and even the occasional reference to street violence and gang activity. But again, with very little cursing going on and the focus more on lyrics and artistic expression, the mainstream wasn’t too concerned or threatened.