Like all things in existence, my love for hip hop has a beginning. Please allow me to share this genesis with you. It was during the summer of 1988. I’d just turned twelve and was getting ready to embark on the grand adventure that is high school. Up until then I’d been a music fan but mostly listened to mainstream radio, and whatever my parents played around the house. In other words, it was all about pop hits, Haïtian “konpa” and french oldies. I won’t lie, I enjoyed all of it, a lot.
My father announced one morning that his goddaughter (let’s call her Sheryl) would be coming over from New York to stay with us for a few days. Not having any siblings of my own, I was excited about this, as I was going to have company for a few days, someone new to chat and have fun with. Sheryl arrived and everything about her surprised me. At about sixteen years old, she was a little older than I was, and that, coupled with the fact that she was from the United States, made her the coolest person I’d ever met in my life.
At some point, while we were hanging out and enjoying some of the music I owned, Sheryl asked me:
“ -So Wes, do you have any rap?
-Do I have any what?
-What is that? ”
She smiled, pulled a TDK cassette out of her purse, put it in the tape deck, pressed rewind, waited for it to be done, and pressed play. I watched in silence, clueless as to what was about to happen.
Wow. Wow. Wow.
Needless to say, my life changed that day. The rest of the summer was spent listening to that song, not the album, THE SONG. I studied it. I worked hard to understand it, learn it by heart, master it. At twelve years old, L.L Cool J’s I`M BAD became second nature to me.
The first day of school arrived and I was one of the new kids in a new and strange environment. Although I enjoyed the company of others to some extent, being an only child and coming from a small family made me a bit of a loner. Having said this, I wasn’t sure how to go about making friends on this new planet. Then it happened.
I was standing in the middle of the schoolyard, talking with a familiar face from elementary school, when I decided that it was time for me to share this “rap” that I had learned about a month ago. I cleared my young throat and started “rapping” in my high pitched pre adolescent voice: No rapper can rap quite like I can, I take a muscle bound man and put his face in the sand…
The ice was broken. The kids flocked in awe around me.
Recess ended and I was at least 10 friends richer than I’d been in the morning. The richest twelve year old boy in the world.
I don’t recall seeing Sheryl since that summer in 1988.
She brought hip hop into my life and in one form or another, it’s been with me ever since.
In many ways, hip hop helped make me the man I am today.
Thank you Sheryl.