(Excerpt)The Soul of San Francisco

This article appears in full in my book WORD: Rap, Politics & Feminism, and online at the Museum of the African Diaspora’s salon “I’ve Known Rivers” Project.

Rap is something you do
Hip-hop is something you live
—KRS-ONE, “Get Yourself Up”, Hot 12”

Rap and hip-hop is over twenty-years old. It is legal and able to go the clubs and groove with the old folks. No longer the ingénue with the chip on her shoulder, rap is now the old lady in the club with a tumbler of gin and tonic and too much jewelry. When Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “White Lines” comes on, she stands up with both hands in the air (tumbler in one) and hollers, “That’s my song!” This is rap, the birth mother of hip-hop. Rap has nurtured me and grown with me –the sibling I never had.

I won’t start this story with “…when I was kid”, but when I was a kid, I was introduced to rap in the 6th grade. I remember taking trips to Lake Tahoe with cousins, my mother, aunties and uncles. The cousins packed six deep into an orange Gremlin or green Pinto (unbelted and sitting in the back). To pass away the hours to Tahoe, we would try to remember every line to the Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” Inevitably flubbing Master Gee’s part, I would be glared at and reduced to popping my fingers and mumbling the sound of the words –like in church when I didn’t know the hymn. Back on the block, my cousins, school friends and I would play our records on our portable record players, and make up dance steps to rap songs like “It’s Nasty (Genius of Love)” (Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five), “The Breaks” (Kurtis Blow), “Wordy Rappinghood” (The Tom-Tom Club) and “Numbers” (Kraftwerk). As a third generation San Franciscan, I was lucky enough to be exposed to all rap and all kinds of musicians that were brave enough to dabble in rap and rap beats and breaks. Everything from German electronica, New York rap, New Wave, punk and disco filled our household. Then the movie Breakin’ happened. I was hooked.

Read the full essay at I’ve Known Rivers Project…!