I feel Hip-Hop—physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, politically, pedagogically. I am Hip-Hop because Hip-Hop is so many different things. I have published and presented at academic conferences on the subject of Hip-Hop. I teach a multivalent vision of Hip-Hop to my students in a variety of academic classes and I choreograph “freestyle” fitness routines.
My teaching in both these spaces brings Hip-Hop to populations that might not otherwise engage with this culture and art form.
I love Hip-Hop for its power, its depth, its edge, its truth, its flow.
But it is easy to get distracted from the things that I love. I have too much to do, and I am spread too thin. I am interested in too many things, and I have too many commitments. When I have time to listen to music, I am often memorizing Group Groove choreography and I listen to the same ten tracks over and over again. I repeat a song over and over until the music and choreography are a part of me.
But this is also how I listen to music that I enjoy. I get obsessed with a song (or an album) and it haunts me and follows me, and the songs that resonate most with me often becomes a part of one of my fitness classes. Hip-Hop is part of this obsession, but to keep up with the Hip-Hop that isn’t most readily available--on TV, on the radio--takes work.
I stumble upon new songs. I circle back to favorites. I rediscover. And my friends and students send me links.
Last semester, I noticed that something felt off. I was busy (as usual). Generally happy (as usual). I was stressing over the details of life and feeling frustrated. I felt disconnected and disconcerted. I was reminded of the power of Hip-Hop when the BreakBeat Poets visited campus; I witnessed (again) this power of Hip-Hop through my students and colleagues. I realized that what was missing was my connection to life through Hip-Hop.
On my next long drive, I listened to Lupe Fiasco’s album, L.A.S.E.R.S. I was transported, pulled into that swirl of love, and politics, and beat, and flow, and soul. I felt renewed and reminded about what is important in life and why I love what I do. In the past I had connected with "Letting Go," "Words I Never Said," and "I Don't Wanna Care Right Now" but this time new songs on the album stuck out to me. I was haunted by "Beautiful lasers (2 Ways)" and “Coming Up” became a regular on my rotation and a part of my fitness classes.
Lupe Fiasco explains in his album notes: "Lasers are shining beams of light that burn through the darkness of ignorance. Lasers shed light on injustice and inequality. .... Lasers act and shape their own destinies. Lasers find meaning and direction in the mysteries all around them. Lasers stand for love and compassion. Lasers stand for peace. Lasers stand for progression. Lasers are revolutionary. Lasers Are The Future."
Lupe Fiasco’s words resonate beyond his music. It’s easy to pass by the moments, to let our lives run out in our responsibilities, obligations, distractions. Hip-Hop brings me home in ways that no other form of art and culture can. Hip-Hop saves my life over and over. It reminds me who I am and who I want to be. It reminds me that I am still coming up.