What Hip Hop Means to Me - Solomon W.F. Comissiong

Solomon W.F. Comissiong
President, SCMB Educational Consulting


What Hip Hop Means to Me:

Words, beats, and life! Words, beats, and life! Those three things are what R.A.P. (Rhythm And Poetry) became to mean to me. It is what defines how I felt about the music that I fell in love with almost instantaneously. I became consumed with this music that made my body move but at the same time stimulated my curiosity for learning. I mean, it was obvious that I was being entertained by this music…that much I knew. What was not obvious was the fact that I was learning things from this new style of music at an incredible rate. It was so regaling to me and I was so young that I had no idea what was being feed to my brain. I just simply could not get enough of it. Rap music was life. The words and the beats became my life.

When I came to the US from Trinidad around the age of 10, I was devoid of the music that I grew up on. There was an absence of the rich steel pan and soca music that Trinidad had provided me. Suddenly I was in a place where those forms of music failed to exist. I mean, no one outside of my apartment was listening to anything that resembled soca or steel pan. I quickly had to adapt to a new way of life as do many children who come to the states from other countries. I had always taken to things that I found interesting. I took to basketball immediately and I took to rap music in the same way. I became entranced the first time I heard that sound accompanied by spoken words flowing out of my friend’s boom box. It sounded like nothing I had ever heard before. I could feel the passion that emanated from the rapper’s voice and the beats that clung to it. That day I was formerly introduced to rap music. Rap music became my solace, my teacher, my buddy, and one of the sources of my black identity.

I grew to know artists like: KRS-ONE, Public Enemy, Poor Righteous Teachers, Brand Nubian, Intelligent Hoodlum, Queen Latifah, Main Source, the Native Tongues Crew, Too Short, and LL Cool, to name a few. I didn’t know them personally, but I sure felt as though I did, based on all the time I spent listening to their words. The words these artists rapped was nothing short in ingenious. I was so entertained by the rhythm, the beats, the lyrical content, and the style that these musicians encompassed. I later found out that some of these artists became among the best teachers of history that I had ever had. I was not formerly taught by them in a conventional classroom with a dilapidated blackboard, out dated text books, and squeaky wooden desks. That was not my classroom for instruction. When I was being taught by the likes of BDP and Public Enemy my classroom occurred wherever I happened to be listening to their music. Sometimes it was on the bus while my walkman’s headphones rested gently on my ears. Sometimes it was outside near the basketball courts where they (rap artists) lectured from my friend’s boom box, or “ghetto blaster” as we used to call it. These lectures could take place at any time or anywhere. All I had to do was listen to the music. The best part was that it was fun to learn from them. I didn’t even realize until I was older, as to how much I actually was learning about history, politics, and vocabulary.

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