Wednesday, April 8, 2009

"Hip Hop and the EP Experience"

It is amazing how embedded in my gray matter and in our creative aesthetic hip hop music will forever be. I've always loved music, with stacks of vinyl when I was 7 yrs old, but my life definitely changed when my pops bought me Run DMC's King of Rock cassette at a ticket broker/bookie in Scranton in the 3rd grade. I listened to it over and over again and "let the tape rock til the tape popped." My boy Mark Michalczyk had his big brother Joey's bootleg Memorex 2 Live Crew tape that was banned from stores--we smuggled that tape like it was weapons grade uranium.

Moved to the Jersey shore at 10. By 6th grade my little catholic grade school was deep into rap. NWA, Naughty by Nature, Cypress Hill, House of Pain... Classic. One of the earliest common interests that bonded Sko and I was our love for this angry, poetic, misunderstood artform.

Equally balanced by how my mom raised me and the multiethnic, multicultural experience that was running the streets and playing ball as a kid on the South end of Brigantine, Public Enemy's music so influenced my views on racism and social equality in modern America. I'm so thankful for the lessons taught by Chuck D, Flav and Terminator X.

I remember me and Sko hitting up the spots at the Shore and Hamilton Malls to scoop up tape singles and going to Rainbow Records on Atlantic Ave with Jerry to get the new mixtapes from New York. I remember being a white kid at Holy Spirit and being one of the only freshmen (Joey Mac too) that openly listened to hip hop. By the time I was a senior, everybody was so burned out and kumbaya that I had rich white girls borrowing my Raekwon and Mobb Deep CDs.

Even the videos on BET, The Box and Yo! MTV Raps back in the day had a profound impact on me as a visual artist... Gritty realism, frenetic editing, rich colors a female curve or two... They are part and parcel of what is constantly evolving and maturing into the EP look ("Glam Grit" as Gus would say).

I've long found myself defending hip hop to people of all walks of life who just don't get it and probably never will. That said, I've also opened many a heart, mind and ear to the music we love and can boast many a hip hip conversion in my day. This minor missionary work, and the words that flow from our pens and the images we put on screen are a small way of paying back this music form that has contributed so much to our lives. Thank you, hip hop. I owe you.

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