When Did You Discover Hip-Hop?

In the movie Brown Sugar, they ask, “When did you fall in love with Hip-Hop?” Allow me to amend that. When did you discover Hip-Hop? Or music in general if you are specific to Hip-Hop.

For me, it was the summer of 1992. At least that’s when I realized it. I was 12 years old, just finished 6th grade. I already had all the typical, pop-friendly rap in my collection – Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince, Tone Loc, MC Hammer, etc., as well as some more “grown” Hip-Hop like Public Enemy, Digital Underground, and NWA. And apparently others saw my love for Hip-Hop even before I did – when Black History Month rolled around in 6th grade, each student in the class was asked to give a short speech about a famous person, event, aspect of Black history. While most students were assigned the standard topics, my teacher requested I speak about Hip-Hop.

But the summer of 1992 changed everything. I was at summer camp for 2 months as I was almost every summer of my childhood. It was in northern Wisconsin, about 6 hours north of Chicago, and was basically a sports camp for kids from around the same area as I was. Wake up in the morning and play basketball, softball, flag football, soccer, floor hockey, and more til it was time for sleep.

But there was also down time: after meals, before sleep, during rainy days. And it was during that down time that one of my cabin’s counselors took me under his wing. He was probably 17 or 18 at the time, though to a 12 year old he seemed much older. And like a mentor of sorts, he saw my love of Hip-Hop and worked to educate me more. He had a CD collection of about 100 CD’s. which at the time, blew my mind. And during down time, he would play me music by artists I had never heard of at the time.

During those 2 months, I learned about groups like Poor Righteous Teachers and Compton’s Most Wanted – 2 groups from almost complete opposite ends of the Hip-Hop spectrum. And I learned how far Hip-Hop extended beyond not just MTV, but even beyond Yo! MTV Raps.

When I returned home that summer, I buried myself in The Source, Rap Sheet, Rap Pages, 4080, and several other now non-existent magazines, and taped every episode of Yo!. And my CD collection began to grow accordingly. I was not only after the current albums, but going back and getting artists’ back catalog. I searched out Yo! Bum Rush The Show and People’s Instinctive Travels and The Paths Of Rhythm. I couldn’t stop watching Juice, mesmerized by DJ Gee-Q. Yes, I now recognize that wasn’t the best turntable work, but that was the spark that ignited the flame. I had my first turntables when I turned 13 – some amazing Gemini belt drive tables and a Peavey 19″ mixer, and 2 copies of Public Enemy’s “Can’t Truss It.”

Now, 18 years since that summer, I love Hip-Hop as much as I always have. Most of my best memories in life are either tied to Hip-Hop, or certain Hip-Hop songs and artists remind me of. My love of Hip-Hop lead me to love other music, and dig for artists outside the radio landscape of all genres, and lead me to my career in music. And it lead me to many of my closest friendships, and has even helped strengthen some lifelong friendships.

So there it is. That’s how I feel in love with Hip-Hop, or when I realized Hip-Hop would be my life. I know it doesn’t start with Sugarhill, or Run DMC, or some of the original Old School’s greatest, but I can’t help when I was born.

Now it’s your turn. Fill the comments and tell us when Hip-Hop entered your life.

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One Response to When Did You Discover Hip-Hop?

  1. De. says:

    I’ll make this one quick. 5th grade (circa 1986). The first major artist I remember melting my brain was LL Cool J but remember listening to Rappin’ Duke and Planet Rock on the radio! Run DMC was one of my first favorites too. I owe it all to my big brother. He gave me a compilation tape and Walkman (What?!) with Run DMC, Salt & Pepa, Fat Boys, Orange Juice Jones, Slick Rick, and a bunch of others. I’ve been in love ever since!

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