I Believe That Hip Hop Saved My Spirit
When I was six I met my first best friend. Her name was Joanna and she was four years older than me. We didn’t even notice that we weren’t the same age until we realized that she was older than my big brother. We met playing outside in the neighborhood and hit it off immediately. Not long after we started playing together everyday I began confiding in her about my family problems. I was the youngest of four and was being treated as so. Being four years wiser, she began giving me advice. She had two older brothers and knew where I was coming from. She told me to stand up for myself and when I expressed how hard it was for me to do so she gave me a piece of advice which I had never heard before or since that moment. She told me to listen to hip hop. She promised it would make me toughen up, and give me the nerve to stick up for myself.
Music had always been a part of my life but it wasn’t a part of my life that I could control. I shared a room with my three siblings and being the youngest, was never permitted radio privileges. Listening to their music was never a problem for me. It was ok music and I had found a few songs that I liked too but when Joanna advised me to broaden my musical horizons I began finding ways to listen to hip hop. I’d change the station on the only stereo in the house; my sister’s which was normally set to an alternative rock station. As long as I changed it back before she got home she would have no idea that I touched her things and there would be no problems. If my sisters were in our room I’d try to change the channel on the TV in the living room to music videos on The Box, which normally played mostly hip hop.
I didn’t feel tougher from listening to rap like I was promised I would. I just liked the music. Joanna and I would sing along to the radio in her dad’s car and listen to music at her house. I even got a radio for my bike so that we could listen to music while we rode around the neighborhood. It became another part of our friendship that no one could touch. After a few months I did realize a shift in my personality. I wasn’t “ghetto” or “angry” or any of the other adjectives thrown at hip hop. I was different. I was the kid in the family that liked rap. I gained an energy and voice that I had never seen in myself before. I was still the smallest kid in the family and got my share of conflict but I had a new resilience which came along with knowing my differences from my sisters. I had a taste that I didn’t have to share with them and it made the things I did have to share seem smaller. I believe hip hop shaped my independence.
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