I want to begin by stating how immensely difficult it is for me to express how much music, especially Hip-Hop, means to me. I am someone who feels so deeply. Whenever I listen to a song that I connect with, it is like something inside of me has been awakened and I am able to connect with humanity. From listening to a simple lyric, it’s as if I’m able to find pieces of myself in someone else.
I fell in love with Hip-Hop because of one man – James Dewitt Yancey, also known as J Dilla. Dilla, a visionary Hip-Hop producer, injected a softened, swaggering humanity into the rigid existence of classic Hip-Hop drumbeats. I became enamored with Dilla’s work when I first heard his production for Pharcyde’s track, “Runnin”. The beat was so alluring and captivating that I drowned in the feeling of the song. His songs were unlike anything I had ever heard before. He is the producer of Detroit rapper, Proof’s simply entitled song, “Life”. When I first listened to “Life”, I could feel the song. I felt the lyrics and the jazzy atmospheric sound that was a culmination of encompassing melancholy blues.
Employing a sample of Miles Davis’ “Blue in Green”, it is a song that is so devastatingly beautiful. The song features Proof reminiscing about a former friend with the lyrics, “This life I live, fighting and shooting/ It’s polluting my mind but I turned out fine/ We used to strangle and smash, mangle and blast/ Although we was opposites we was Tango and Cash.” “Life” had a profound effect on me because I found comfort in the sadness of the lyrics. J Dilla’s songs always meant so much to me because they were the paradigm of humanity and desolation, beauty or ugliness, mournfulness and love. His songs reflected people that I had never met but somehow knew.
In addition to J Dilla, another instrumental figure responsible for my ultimate connection to Hip-Hop was the work of Japanese producer, Jun Seba, also known as the weirdly monikered, Nujabes, who is responsible for introducing me to the world of Chill Hop, which is a term coined in the early 2000s for utilizing ambient, Trip-Hop, Neo-Soul, Down-Tempo and Jazz while synchronizing the listener to be in a “vibe.” He created a sound and style that I’d never heard before and one that I have never loved as much. It is luxuriating, embracing, contemplative and eminently possessive. To me, his sound is the embodiment of unchanging love. Nujabes’ “Lady Brown” featuring Cise Starr is a song that changed my life. It so wonderfully encapsulates the beautiful expression of poetry with such lyrics as, “She’s a compilation of my mind’s representation of a representative/ Representing an excellent revelation/ Of time and dedication/ Never impatient.” When I heard this song for the first time, I felt like I was drifting away like a feather in the air.
As someone who is naturally lonely, I believe that I build connections with things rather than people. From an early age, I felt a deep connection to Hip-Hop because it personified everything that I wanted in life, everything that I wanted to be and everything I couldn’t be. Also, this type of music holds such an immeasurable place in my heart because through beats and lyrics I feel the souls of people that are like my own. Hip-Hop is, to quote a line from Nujabes’ song “Feather,” “like a rare mineral- an extraction of perfection.”