Growing Up With Hip Hop

Growing up as an introvert and feeling like I didn’t have a voice made me feel misunderstood. I constantly asked myself, “When can I break out of these chains?”

Listening to Tupac made me feel as if I had a voice. His music is poetry in motion because he speaks so honestly. It is profound and inspiring.

Nowadays, you typically don’t hear too many people speaking the truth. Through his lyrics, Tupac is vulnerable and doesn’t care what other people think about him, which is something I aspire to.

The film Straight Outta Compton opened my eyes and made me see the world in a different manner. I want to say thank you to Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E and Tupac for simply being themselves and giving me a voice.

Hip hop was established in 1970s by founding father Clive Campbell, better known as DJ Kool Herc. In the beginning of the hip hop era, the sound mostly came from vinyl records spun by scrawny and chunky guys trying to make a payday from playing it in clubs filled with people enjoying themselves, the smell of smoke and sweat, and the beat of the music.

It doesn’t matter whether hip hop music is playing in a shack or an 8,000-square-foot mansion. Hip hop is captivating. It is more than just a type of music. It is a lifestyle. It doesn’t matter if it is old school or new school.

Bryan Alexander Yabout, a student at the University of Arizona from the East Coast, said hip hop has had a big impact on that side of the nation. “The people you see today in hip hop aren’t the people you would’ve seen back then,” he said.

The iconic, old school hip hop artists include Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. They pour their hearts into their music. They have something going on in their heads, and the music is continuously flowing. They speak their truth and tug at listeners’ emotions, revealing hard truths about their family, economic problems, incarceration and views on the world.

Tupac speaks his truth through his song “Dear Mama”­—“I reminisce on the stress I caused, it was hell / Huggin’ on my mama from a jail cell.” This song describes Tupac’s struggle at the time.

Hip hop words and music have inspired many people but affected others negatively. Straight Outta Compton exemplifies the rap group N.W.A.’s story, chronicling the losses and struggles they experienced. This group created an inspiring movement.

Old school hip hop is now pretty much non-existent. New school hip hop has taken its place. Today, the beat has become the most important part of the song itself because of better technology. Hip hop has turned into repeated choruses and mumbling. Not a lot of words are understood. The style is quicker than we might ever have imagined.

UA student Molly Latin prefers old school hip hop. Seeing artists perform is magical. “It [old school hip hop] was one type of fashion, one kind of style,” she said. “There would be people that had their own style, their own beat, and nowadays everyone seems to be having the same beat and style.”

Storytelling has drastically changed throughout the years. Typically, new school hip hop artists (Lil Uzi, Lil Wayne and Lil Yachty) talk about money and girls in their songs. It seems that there really isn’t any significance to what they’re saying.

An example of new school rap is a song called “Lockjaw” by French Montana featuring Kodak Black. The lyrics refer to how their jaws lock up, and they usually end up chomping or grinding their teeth when taking ecstasy. They often degrade women and speak about them disrespectfully.

UA student Chase Chadband prefers new school hip hop. “I really enjoy an artist named Philly and some old music from Wiz Khalifa,” he said.

Hip hop affects our culture through hair styles, clothing and accessories. Hip hop has also created new words. A “sneakerhead,” for example, is someone who collects limited, rare or flat-out exclusive kicks, usually Jordans or Dunks.

Hip hop also plays a big role in fashion. The brand Adidas is frequently worn today, but back in the 1990s, you wouldn’t have seen people in such a “basic” brand so often.

As Dr. Dre wrote in The Tanning of America, “Hip Hop isn’t just music, it’s a culture. It’s a living, breathing thing.”


This story was originally published in The Chronicle, a Dow Jones News Fund Diversity in Journalism Workshop publication. Alexandra Nichols, a Bear Essential News Elite Reporter, is a student at Red Mountain High School in Phoenix. She was one of 12 students selected to participate in the workshop. Visit their website here.

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