"Where Would I Be Without It?"
In 2001, I was six years old. Like most other six-year-olds, I wasn’t concerned with much outside of toys, video games, and my own imagination. Little did I know that I was about to develop a new obsession that would trump all of my previous ones.
Who knew that the phrase, “You are now witnessing the 8th wonder of the world,” would completely change my life? I watched Jay-Z make his way to the VMA pre-show stage with his Bulls-colored Rocawear headband and Michael Jordan jersey. I didn’t know exactly what I was witnessing in the moment, but I did know that it was an introduction to a world that I wanted to explore. It was at that moment that hip-hop became my new obsession. At 24 years old, 18 years removed from that pivotal moment, that sentiment still rings true.
Whenever I recall that moment, I stop to ask myself, “Where would I be without hip-hop?” I’ve asked myself that question countless times, and yet, to this day, I haven’t come up with an answer—I don’t think I want to. I don’t want to picture how my life would look without hip-hop. I often wax poetic about how much hip-hop influences pop culture, mass media, and the tiny details of everyday life, but above all else, hip-hop is the reason I’ve become the man that I am today. Hip-hop culture consistently contributes to my personal growth and development. Above the trends and the day-to-day news that involves hip hop, this culture has become a safe haven for me. Growing up, in my times of distress or disconnect from my family, I could put on a Jay-Z album and feel like he understood me; I could put on a Kanye album and feel like he was speaking directly to my situation; I could put on a Lil Wayne mixtape and feel invincible.
Lupe Fiasco’s “Food & Liquor” was the first album I bought with my own money. I made it my business to watch Rap City and 106 & Park before I did my homework. “Fade To Black” was the first movie to spark my desire to work in the music industry one day. The first time I lost one of my closest friends, “A Kid Named Cudi” got me through that entire year. To other people, those facts may seem trivial, but those are some of the most important stages of my life. There wasn’t—and still isn’t—a single aspect of my life that hasn’t been affected by hip-hop. From my dreams and ambitions to my personal life, hip-hop culture has been there every step of the way. It’s a difficult feeling to express or put into words.
I still have the same heart of that six-year-old sitting in front of the television watching the VMAs. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to repay hip-hop for all that it’s done for me, but I look forward to being on the other side of the television screen, using hip-hop as a tool to inspire the next curious six-year-old.
With all of that being said, this is my thank you to hip-hop: thank you for providing me with inspiration in times when I felt no drive to create or to dream. Thank you for showing me that there is still a chance for people who look like me—that it is, in fact, still possible to make the most of my situations and create generational wealth for my family. Thank you for blessing me with music that has carried me through every point of loss and grief that I’ve experienced in my life. Thank you for always being the light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you, hip-hop. I am excited for the day that I am finally in a position to contribute to your growth and advancement as much as my heroes already have. I don’t know what my life would be without you, but I’m forever grateful for the moment that I discovered you.
To anyone who took the time to read this, I want you to ask yourself one question: where would you be without hip-hop?