The author and his father at Christmas, 2001.
My dad is a 53-year old man who was born and raised in the United Kingdom. His favorite artists include The Cure, New Order, Led Zeppelin, Depeche Mode, Talking Heads, and Morrissey. He does not listen to a lot of rap music, and frankly expecting him to would be ridiculous. His environment and heritage is the exact polar opposite of one that would nurture a healthy appreciation of hip-hop culture, and that is okay.
However, as I started to listen to more and more rap music, there are a handful of songs that have spilled over into the realm of his taste. Songs that he might actually listen to intentionally. Songs that we’ve put on while cleaning up Thanksgiving dinner. I called him last night to talk to him about his favorite hip-hop, and to get a better understanding of what a thorough, diametric outsider thinks is dope. All quotes below are his.
GETO BOYS - "MIND PLAYIN' TRICKS ON ME"
The first time I heard that I really wasn’t into rap. A little background for me, is when I first started hearing rap music I thought it was just a stupid fad. I dismissed it out of hand, like it was something that was gonna come and go in a couple years. But as time when on I realized it was not gonna go away, it was gonna be one of the building blocks of popular music. And I was driving home one night, and I was listening to the radio and they played that song. And I got into the little guitar riff, and thought “that’s pretty cool” so I let it run. But more importantly I started listening to the lyrics, and there’s some pretty gut-wrenching lyrics in that song, about a life I wasn’t familiar with. And I just started feeling its intensity. It’s not silly, it’s poetry. And I realized how some of rap music is pretty meaningful. When he talks about this girl who has his baby and he loves her, but he has a group of guys that he feels allegiance to. This is about life, life that’s going on right now.
OUTKAST - "MS. JACKSON"
I like it because it’s fun, it’s got a really fun beat. The lyrics are kind of unusual. It’s got a slight R&B/Motown tinge to it. Basically it’s just really catchy, and I think that’s the most important thing. “(singing) I’m sorry Ms. Jackson *awww* I am for real!”
THE STREETS - "WEAK BECOME HEROES"
I had never heard rap from a real English perspective. His accent is pretty strong so it really comes through in his music. So I thought that was pretty cool, and then I realized that this is about a guy taking mind-altering drugs, and experiencing that life. I thought it was really interesting, I like the way he talks about time passing. Again it’s relating back to a different lifestyle that maybe I didn’t experience. But certainly because it was rap, which I always thought was going to be from America, but this was something different. That made me realized that this music was crossing borders and boundaries.
JAY-Z - "EMPIRE STATE OF MIND"
I think that’s the new anthem for New York City, it’s brilliant. Alicia Keys is good, but when you put in Jay-Z’s rap, and his poetry to her song. It’s kind of like the diamond in the ring. Her music is excellent, but when he talks about people coming to New York to try and find a dream. It’s the buildup, where it comes to a crescendo, and Alicia comes in with her hook. It’s perfect. The one line that gets me is the one about the woman who comes to New York and Jay-Z says, “Everybody rides her, just like the bus route.” It’s like ”wow!” It’s sad, that’s what a big city is like. Some people make it some people don’t. I think it’s a really great song.
BEASTIE BOYS - "SHAKE YOUR RUMP"
Well I didn’t know much about the Beastie Boys. And I must admit, back in the day when you and your brother and sister were young I thought the Beastie Boys were a terrible influence on our kids. But obviously as you guys got older and I listened to their music more, I understood that they were really fun. “Shake Your Rump” is just a funny party song really. It’s really catchy. It doesn’t have a lot of deep lyrics as far as I can tell, but still, it’s rap for the mainstream. It’s rap for people who don’t really know about ganster rap or can’t relate to the really hardcore stuff. But it does expose a lot of people to hip-hop.