Notes from a Hip Hop Parent

Back then, I never imagined that they would one day grow up exposed to a Hip Hop industry that would not reaffirm the culture I was exposing them to as a parent.

I am a first generation Hip Hop Head.  I have been part of the culture for almost 40 years.

When my children were young, I claimed and embraced being a Hip Hop parent. The first song I can remember them singing, while they were still in their car seats, was Rah Digga’s “Curtains” – HEY DON’T JUDGE ME.

Back then, I never imagined that they would one day grow up exposed to a Hip Hop industry that would not reaffirm the culture I was exposing them to as a parent.

It didn’t hit me as to how far off their understanding of Hip Hop was until I recently debated by son about the difference between a Rapper and an Emcee.


While there is much in Hip Hop we agree about, something as small as him sharing that his generation no longer uses the word Emcee to distinguish rappers was enough for me to accuse him of disrespecting the culture of Hip Hop.

What can I say??? – I am a traditionalist when it comes to things I find valuable (i.e. family, sports, grillin’ Meat, Hip Hop culture).

While we talked, I tried to convey that it is not just semantics. There is a difference.

An Emcee aka M.C. – moves the crowd. Literally (getting people dancing) and figuratively (inspiring minds and hearts), they move folks with dope, understandable, and succinct lyrics.

While a rapper is someone who makes money by making rap music. So for a rapper, getting songs on the radio and marketing to the current rap music consumers is critical because rapping is their profession.

Simply, just rhyming words does not make you an emcee. Like I told him – most emcees are rappers, not many rappers are emcees.


I once read in ‘The Art of Emceeing’, “A rapper is to an emcee what an average street fighter is to a trained martial artist. They are both fighters but the degree and depth of their skill is very different.”

Nuff said!

Now that this Hip Hop Parent has Hip Hop children, who are soon to be Hip Hop Adults, I find myself being more intentional in passing on the culture of Hip Hop. That means debating emcees vs. rappers, teaching them the Nine Elements of Hip Hop, exposing them to the Hip Hop classics, and eventually going to live shows and festivals.

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I admit, when I was their age, I was not aware that I was part of this evolving and emerging culture called Hip Hop. But I have learned that Hip Hop is ingrained in me; thus, I am doing my best to instill it in them before they totally move out of my daily influence.

I often get told by other parents, parents who chose not to be Hip Hop Parents, how surprised they are at how knowledgeable my children are when it comes to Old School Hip Hop.

“I wish my kids knew more about real Hip Hop. They have no idea who KRS ONE, Lyte, or Rakim is,” they tell me.

Truth is, I didn’t have the luxury of letting the Hip Hop industry expose them, it was up to me. Similar to how my parents, who moved hundreds of miles away from their families, intentionally instilled the reverence for family values in me and my siblings.

As I tried to explain to my son, I wasn’t always this guy. I was once young and irreverent too. I was a young person looking to buck tradition because I want to establish my own identity. I also did not like being at the bottom of the totem pole in life> It was frustrating.

Having been young, my advice is – “Be patient grasshopper and keep having birthdays. Your day soon come.”


I now value traditions. They are important to conserve and pass on to generations behind me.

No longer do I have to limit their exposure because of the profanity and content.

Especially since they hear much worse content than what I was listened to when they were not around.

My spouse was much more conservative regarding the profane lyrics, so for a few years there was a battle on whether Redman or Eminem was appropriate on our road trips.  There were times where I could see her cringe when a four-letter word came through the speakers. Initially, I would skip that track because I wanted to avoid the conflict.  At this point, those days are gone.


So where do I go from here?

Since I AM Hip Hop – I enjoy finding ways to share this gift appropriately and effectively.  Making sure youth I come in contact with understand what the culture is and is not.

It makes me feel good when I see my son or daughter singing along to Audio Two’s “Top Billin” or Slick Rick’s “Children Story.”

Hip Hop is my culture. Eventually it will be their culture, so I hope to offer them all the magnificence and inspiration it has brought me, so they too will feel the depth within Hip Hop.

Here are my tips:


Talk Hip Hop – They have to know our language so speak it to them. As much as you can, speak in Hip Hop vernacular so they know our definitions and terms are valued.

Listen to the classics and authentic Boom Bap – While driving, I blend in my artists with their current artists of choice. Plus, at my barbecues, I play the classics, so they can witness that there are others who enjoy this culture and not just their “Old Man.”

Go to festivals and presentations of Hip Hop Culture – I have not done this enough, but as I get older my plan is go to more with them. Rocking my Hip Hop traditional clothes, I might even get them to do the same and “dress up” with a Kangol. LOL!

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Expose them to the full culture of Hip Hop – I always try to distinguish Hip Hop Culture and Hip Hop Industry. The culture includes Beat Boxin, Breakin, Graffiti, Street Entrepreneurialism, Deejayin, and Fashion etc. The Industry is about profit, usually sold using sex and violence. Of course I am sure I sound crazy at times, but hopefully the more I do it, it will resonate one day like many of the lessons my parents drilled in my head.






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