This text initially appeared within the August 1993 difficulty of SPIN.
The music is my life.
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Is New York, New York, actually the birthplace of hip hop? Is that this final metropolis—the popular setting for many modern-day movie fables —the place the place the seed took maintain? The place the rhymes first flowed and a tradition took kind? This compressed, soiled place, this mainstream cultural stronghold, is the steamy-hot/snowy area the place a technology discovered an identification, the place all of the shit went down?
It’s the place DJ Scott LaRock died and Slick Rick went to jail. The place Run discovered Christ and Griff bought dismissed. The place sneakers grew to become the rule and never the exception; the place Latifah grew Treach, and the place the Guru squoze hip hop out of Hen’s horn.
And right here she is, Ms. Hip Hop, generic girl-fan. In that place. Town. Wanting round for the elusive ticket, the road, the string that tied all of it collectively and turned the music right into a factor, a motion—a music.
She is a local Californian in New York for the third time. She by no means stays lengthy. She all the time flies again West, over the mountains and the lakes, relieved when she sees Lake Tahoe, ecstatic when she spots the Golden Gate Bridge, its yawning pink span as welcoming as a well-recognized mouth upturned in a smile. Then she is aware of she is in California, a subdivision of the united statesA. as lengthy and skinny as she wish to be—an enormous state damaged up into sprawling counties, the seductively heat state she calls her house. California has its glories, and it holds on tight to its trophies—the Eagles, Sly and the Household Stone, Jefferson Airplane, Tower of Energy. However as grand and forthright as Cali hip hop is circa 1993—the Coup, Snoop Dogg, Souls of Mischief —within the East lay the lungs and coronary heart of hip hop and so the West holds court docket in its lengthy shadow.
Tommy Boy president Monica Lynch requested, “Has New York fallen the fuck off?” a very long time in the past, like perhaps it could jar East Coast B-boys and -girls into motion. However to no avail. The solid pumps hip hop blood, however out West are the sinewy appendages, out West is the place of us are strolling and speaking it.
New York beckons, although, like an outdated buddy with gossip, like a preacher who simply may know the Reality. The buildings are older, the road fumes stronger, each different automobile is a taxi. The periodicals appear important, appear to have greater than a tenuous connection to town. The trains hiss and moan and chug. The place is cutthroat, envious, and imply. Pleasantries are hoarded like cash and doled out with out enthusiasm. California is one large nation city in contrast with Manhattan and the encompassing boroughs. California piles on big-city make-up in L.A. and Oakland, San Diego and San Francisco— however actually, the place is unfold out like an enormous cabbage farm, just like the far-flung desert it’s.
However cabbage farm or no, in city southern California, even a largely middle-class Catholic schoolgirl like Ms. Hip Hop is aware of which neighborhood is blue and which is pink. She is aware of when to hit the asphalt within the car parking zone of Shakey’s or Astro Burger as a result of boys are capturing bullets within the air or at sure automobiles as a result of their varsity hoop squad misplaced. Or as a result of they received.
She remembers when “city” didn’t have a detrimental connotation, when city meant of or having to do with a metropolis or a metropolis. She remembers when “metropolis” didn’t imply dank and darkish and poor. She vaguely recollects when Black folks weren’t mechanically related to cities and urbanity. She’s examine it, about when African-People lived totally on farms and within the “nation” and within the South. Arrested Growth’s Speech reminisces about that period in “Tennessee.” Making delusion of the post-sharecropping period and nation life, he talks convincingly, painfully about climbing the bushes his forefathers hung from. It sounds so cleaning and unhappy and fantastic. Simply as American Black individuals are mechanically related to cities and all of their ills, Speech needs the outdated life, the outdated values, the outdated methods—again to the earth. To being “pure.” As if that state—”naturalness”—is an choice at this level in Western civilization.
The Catholic schoolgirl, the sensible hip hop woman—she is ever anxious for peace for her folks and her personal way of thinking. She wildly reaches for this “oldness,” this higher means of being. However whilst a mindset, whereas she stands on the streets of New York or West Los Angeles or Fresno or Kettleman or Napa, California—it doesn’t work. Pictures of picket porches and yard cornstalks, of roosters pecking and kente material flowing, the brightly painted footage in her determined creativeness fade like a mirage in an outdated cartoon: rapidly and fully. Instead are frowns and weapons, televisions and straightened hair, housing tasks and stucco single-family houses. Quick automobiles and loud music. Hip hop. MC Breed and Too $hort. Onyx and Ice Dice.
Nonetheless she appears for hip hop’s coronary heart in New York Metropolis, believing she will be able to discover it, considering naively that if she sees it, she may outline it and the definition would make a distinction in all that she sees, in all that her thoughts conjures and remembers. So she presses on.
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