Love & Hip Hop: How Music Has Shaped My Relationships
By Jaylin Paschal
Hours of my childhood were spent lying beside my father on our living room floor listening to music. I've answered countless random rap trivia questions; mastered the art of picking individual instruments out of a beat; learned all of the great producers. I've proven myself on the aux cord and I've watched more Hip Hop documentaries than you'd believe. I’m accustomed to falling to sleep to the bass vibrations that shake the house, as my father plays music in the basement. I've dug through crates of vinyls looking for hidden gems, have alphabetized and maintained my dad’s album collection, and have developed a relentless, undying respect for the album. Nodding my head is as natural to me as blinking. I try to rap over elevator music. My upbringing has instilled this Hip Hop-oriented lifestyle in me. It's safe to say that I'm not an enthusiast by choice but by default. And since this enthusiasm about the phenomenon is practically a character trait for me, it acts as a foundation of many of the relationships in my life.
My boyfriend rapped. Raps? Rapped? It's whatever. He manages syllables and controls language almost too casually. He makes it look easy. And beyond the literal aspect of him being a drummer, constantly tapping or making a beat, he operates in a rhythmic manner. Comfortable and consistent. I knew I liked him the second time I met him, at a Kendrick Lamar concert. It was pouring rain, in the most laughably cliche way. It was October, so I was freezing. He did what he could to help keep me warm, but not in the gross-just-looking-for-a-reason-to-touch-you-or-make-a-move-way. In a way that convinced me he genuinely cared about my warmth. We shivered and rapped and danced and laughed and marveled and that was our night. So it was us, the cold, and Kendrick that made up one of my favorite memories. And concerts have been a thing for us since, seeing local artists and Anderson .Paak together, and him buying me KYLE tickets for my birthday. There's not a single album I can listen to without thinking about him, and there's not a single album I love that I don't want to listen to or experience with him.
My best friend is my best friend because of Hip Hop. We’re moving away from each other, 455 miles to be exact, and I know that it’s going to be music that maintains our friendship. He’ll send me something about Kodak Black and we’ll whine about Kanye West. He’ll say something about “real rap” and I’ll say something about “real rap” and we’ll decide that we hate the term “real rap.” He’ll try to convince me a XXL cover was good or bad, and I’ll disagree just for argument’s sake. We’ll discuss the greats. We’ll list one of the worst as a great, because we’re petty. He’ll beg me to listen to someone’s mixtape and I’ll send him every rapper-related joke that pops onto my timeline. Miles apart, Hip Hop will be the space we share, just like it’s always been.
My sister and I almost fell out because of Hip Hop. Well, more specifically because of Kendrick Lamar. And well, “fell out” is a bit extreme. Long story short, she rated To Pimp A Butterfly a seven. Our favorite thing to do is butt heads. Like all sisters, we bicker over clothes and bathroom counter space, but our favorite and most epic battles are over music. Most recently, we disagreed on where Anderson .Paak’s Malibu fell on the list of projects of 2016. Again, her rating was far too low to be tolerable. Although we debate--thoroughly and impressively, I might add--our conversations about music strengthen our bond. At the end of the day, we find a song on shuffle that we can both bear to listen to, or even that we both love, and in that moment, we’re inseparable.
My favorite memory of my mama is her rapping the lyrics to A Children’s Story by Slick Rick a capella. I was maybe nine or ten, and had never heard the song before, so I believed her when she told me she was freestyling. Afterall, she freestyled around the house all the time, and would spit goofy rhymes while she was combing my hair. It seemed practical enough. She was just having a really good session that day, in my fifth grade mind. It wasn’t until I was fourteen that we died laughing when it came on the radio and the jig was up.
In the intro I mentioned my dad a couple of times, who is inarguably the largest contributor to my passion for Hip Hop. In some ways, everything in this piece is about my father. He settles all debates; carefully chooses which album the household will listen to, or which song will play next. Oftentimes, he has the final say-so. To me, an album can only be a 9.9, at most, if he didn’t like it. A Hip Hop historian of sorts, his music library is extensive. His cd’s, which I may or may not have stolen, make my long car rides all the more bearable. When I was fifteen, and really got into music, I was told by almost everyone how much I was like my father. And as much as I’d like to shrug that off and deny that influence, he has shaped my taste and introduced me to more music than anyone or anything else. I discovered so much sound and rhythm by following the voice of “This is what I listened to in high school” and “I think you’d like this.” Hip Hop, for us, is more than a shared interest, but one of the ways I connect to him the most.
I could go on, telling about how Hip Hop has managed to mold all of my significant relationships. It somehow has been at the core of my life, allowing me to grow and forcing me to grow, in order to have more personal, meaningful interactions with others. It has been a determinant in deciding who I am and deciding who I am to other people.