I attribute the origins for my love of Hip Hop to my two siblings, who as teenagers in the 80s when I was a mere 4 or 5 years old were listening to all the old school legends. Because they got hip to Rap while it was in its early years, I latched on to the music they played and as such grew up on Run DMC, Kurtis Blow, and the Fat Boys among many others. That said however, I strongly believe that my deeper, inherent love of music as a whole is a trait inherited from my dad. He was famous among my family and their circle of friends in Puerto Rico, and later Boston, for playing in parrandas, or Christmas caroling in Spanish if you will. He was always into music. I’ve heard many a cassette and seen many videos of him having a great time playing his guitar and singing with his boys. He passed away in 1990, when I was only 10 years old, but some of my fondest memories involve him playing guitar, and sometimes trying to teach me how to play. I still own the guitar he got me for my 7th or maybe 8th birthday, and while I never did learn to play, I did over time realize that I loved building and recording music, and performing it for a crowd’s entertainment, just like he did, only in my case with Rap music.
Unfortunately we never got to collaborate on anything, as he had passed long before I realized my love of music went beyond just listening to cool tunes on the radio. But with Fathers Day approaching, I got to thinking about Hip Hop father/son pairings and collaborations. That said, here’s a brief, but fun list of father/son Hip Hop moments.
Will Smith & his son, Trey technically appear together on Big Willy’s 1998 smash, ‘Just The Two Of Us’, with a then 5-year-old Trey providing the intro and outro vocals. Who can forget the “now dad, this is a very sensitive subject” at the song’s onset and the comical “how much am I getting paid for this dad” to close out the track? A great father son Hip Hop moment indeed.
Trey isn’t Will’s only son, however, and while he and Jaden Smith have yet to collaborate on any music (though they’ve shared the silver screen together), here’s a great clip of Will on the BBC’s Graham Norton Show in May, 2013. While clearly pre-arranged (the bit was presented as a spontaneous performance by the host, but obviously just to rev the audience up), Will and Jaden go back and forth with the mic, with Jaden flexing some lyrics while Will beat-boxes to kick off the bit. Jaden then transitions into Will’s hype man as The Fresh Prince brings out his long time partner in crime, DJ Jazzy Jeff for an abridged performance of ‘Switch’ segueing into a version of Will’s hit tv show, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’s intro song. Also fun, Alfonso Ribiero’s appearance at the end leading Will, Jaden, and the entire studio audience in doing the ‘Carlton Dance’ made famous on The Fresh Prince of Bell Air years earlier. All involved seemed to enjoy themselves very much, especially Will and Jaden.
Released in January of 1998, ‘I Need Dubs’ features Master P and son Lil’ Romeo flexing their financial muscles over a re-worked version of LL Cool J’s ‘I Need Love’ beat. That’s right, LL needed Love, Master P and Lil’ Romeo need Dubs… With a heavy dose of bling, fancy cars, and sexy women in the video, my guess is Lil’ Romeo was very thankful to his dad not just for providing a platform for his music, but also for all the eye candy provided in this video. I’m sure both father and son really enjoyed writing and recording this track. Just as much as they enjoyed filming the video of course!
Branded as “The Son of Kurtis Blow” (an old school Hip Hop legend for those not in the know) when Run DMC was first emerging onto the Rap landscape back in the early 80s, Joey Simmons, better known as Run, was not in fact related to Kurtis Blow. He did however go on to become one third of perhaps the most important group in Hip Hop history and eventually would have several children, including Daniel Dwayne Simmons in the Spring of 1996. True to his legendary Rap pedigree, Daniel would adopt the stage name Diggy Simmons as a teenager and has been working the Rap mix-tape circuit since 2009. Here’s a fantastic clip of Diggy bringing his iconic dad out during one of his sets to perform Run DMC’s smash hit, ‘Rock Box’. Much like Jaden in the above clip, Diggy takes a step back from being the lead emcee on stage and assumes the hype man role for Run as he rocks the crowd. The two exchange much love and respect as Run closes out the song, making for a wonder father/son Hip Hop moment.
And lastly, we’ll close with legendary emcee Nas’ collaboration with his father, jazz musician Olu Dara, “Bridging The Gap”, off the 2004 release, ‘Street’s Disciple’. Olu Dara provides hook and bridge vocals, while Nas works the verses. On the hook, Olu Dara gives us a little insight into his attempt to mold his young son to be great:
See I come from Mississippi
I was young and runnin’ wild
Ended up in New York City, where I had my first child
I named the boy Nasir, all the boys call him Nas
I told him as a youngster, he’ll be the greatest man alive
And with that as the backdrop for the track, Nas pays homage to his dad with such lyrics as,
“Speak what I want, I don’t care what y’all feel. ‘Cause I’m my own master, my Pop told me be your own boss. Keep integrity at every cost” and “I’m a artist from the start, Hip-Hop guided my heart. Graffiti on the wall, coulda ended in Spoffard, juvenile delinquent. But Pops gave me the right type of tools to think with books to read, like X and stuff“. With Olu Dara playing the trumpet on the track’s hook, this song in and of itself is fantastic in any context, but with Fathers Day in mind it truly resonates as a great father/son Hip Hop moment. In our above examples, the son has been on the younger side, and though the songs and performances are heart-warming and enjoyable, in this case we have two true, seasoned musicians who happen to be father & son contributing strong vocals and music to a track that’s specifically about their father & son relationship. As such, it gets my vote for best father/son Hip Hop moment. Happy Fathers Day to all the dads out there and of course, to my own in the afterlife. Now let’s groove.