Back in the summer of 1998, I was 8 years old living in Bridgeport CT. At the time, my mom taught a PE class on the University of Bridgeport campus, so I grew up for years living in a dorm, sharing a kitchen with some of the students and teachers, always intrigued by what the cool college kids were up to. Every year on the UB campus, they would host an international festival where students would showcase and battle amongst their creative abilities for a prize. Between all the ballets, karate demonstrations, ballads, skits, etc. what really drew my attention was always the hiphop breakdancers.
One in particular was a guy named Kenichi Ebina and his crew, who you might be familiar with now as the winner of America’s Got Talent 2013. While I can’t picture in my head the exact choreography that he did 18 years ago, what I do remember is the loud rap music, the bizarre body movements, the amount of energy everywhere from the breakdancers to the people watching them, tied in with the smell of curry and hot wings from festival stands nearby. Whatever that was, I wanted to either be a part of it, or be it.
At the time, my mom was making me go reluctantly to an African Dance class on campus. After the class, Kenichi and his crew would take over the studio to practice their choreography, and I would try to stay and hide as their little shadow in the back, attempting to follow along with their intricate moves.
Picture my little 8 year old self, oversized pants, my enormous hand-me-down purple hoodie, running around the hallways of the UB campus, rug burns on my forehead from all my attempted headspins on the carpet. I would practice in my room, top-rock, poppin and lockin, stalls, for hours… with my shitty boombox and hiphop cassette tapes, either found or stolen from the college kids. Breakdancing was my welcome into hiphop culture, and all I wanted to do was have fun and dance… until my dad got deported to Canada when I was 11. Luckily, he had some friends who he was able to make a deal with: he would help take care of their big property, and in exchange we could live there for free. The only problem was that it was an elk farm in the middle of nowhere, next to a native reservation, far from anything, any of the people or places I had grown to love. Going to school in Roseneath, I was the only urban kid amongst a bunch of country kids and natives, and I felt very alienated and culture-shocked. During that period of time, I became an angry, depressed little kid, but I also really developed an interest in rap and freestyling as a way to express what was going on in my head and in my heart. Particularly, when one of my school friends introduced me to Eminem in The Eminem Show and the 8 Mile soundtrack, for obvious reasons him being a white rapper with angry lyrics felt very relatable to me, and at the time it inspired me to write my own raps as an outlet for my emotions. For a few years, rap was really an anger outlet, because at that time I was very resentful to my parents, their beliefs, and I felt confused about life. I would be in the house, writing about being pissed off at all the changes, what was going on in the world, and I looked up to people like Eminem; hearing him go through darker situations and come out on top, I thought if he could do that then I could do that.
A lot of people don’t realize how in the early 2000s, partially because of popularized imagery on the internet, a lot of the mainstream rap that was considered cool was filled with the gangster illusion. It wasn’t until a few years later in my life, when I really started delving more into the underground hiphop culture that I realized there were other kinds of hiphop out there that were more inspirational and thought-provoking. I realized that I could use hiphop as more of a spiritual outlet, not just an anger outlet, and use it to become a better person, to get people thinking deeply, and feel uplifted.
So now you have an idea of my journey in hiphop from childhood, and what is hiphop to me now at this stage in my life? Now, in rapping, I find the same energy I had when I was a little kid having fun breakdancing. When I am emceeing, it teaches me the responsibility of what I am giving to the audience; I am not trying to just make them angry, but to feed them knowledge, love, discipline, and fun.
Among all this what is most important in this journey is YOU. You, the listener who keeps this reciprocal energy moving forward so that we can all continue to grow together and have fun with each other.
I look forward to many more sometimes hard, sometimes ugly, always worth while
experiences along this musical Hip Hop journey. Here’s to you as a part of that journey.
If you’d like to hear the most recent milestone of that journey, click here to listen to my most recent album, ‘DK Kountry’.
Thank you for being a listener and for making it all matter.