So I’m sitting on the train one day coming home from work, and for some reason I can’t remember, I don’t have my headphones with me. I’m forced to listen to the irritating ambient noise of a rush hour train: people sneezing, babies crying, asinine pre-teen conversation. And above all other sounds, from alllllll the way on the other end of the train, I hear the tinny, annoying buzz of someone’s headphones that are turned up WAY too loud. Despite the person’s distance, I can clearly hear the manic strings and feverish barking of DMX’s “Stop Being Greedy” spewing from their earbuds. I’m pissed. I scan the train anxiously, hoping to dole out one stink piece of cut eye to the Disturber of Peace. Then, after a moment, I see her. Her nose is buried in a book, her ears are plugged and she’s subconsciously bobbing in her seat…to DMX. It’s my mother.
If you haven’t realized by now, my mom is pretty darn awesome. Other moms are cool I’m sure, but out of all of my friends, I’m the only one who can proudly say that my mom actually put me on to hip hop. My musical taste in general, stems from digging through my mother’s collection of cassettes (back in the day, she was too cool for vinyl); where I would find gems like Janet Jackson’s Control, N.E. Heartbreak, and Toni Braxton’s classic debut. My mom and I would listen to Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40” on the radio and I grew fond of Extreme and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. We’d watch the video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and my mom explained to me what “contagious” meant while she sang along with Kurt Cobain. We’d listen to Byron Lee and do the “Dollar Wine” every Sunday when my mom’s favourite soca radio show came on. Yes, my mom’s taste in music is broad and varied, and it’s one of the best things I ever inherited from her. But while I do have a love for many genres, hip hop is the one closest to my heart, and for that, I have my mom to thank.
My mother put hip hop on my musical radar at a very young age. When I was 4, my mom taught me the words to Maestro Fresh Wes’ “Drop the Needle”. (I LIVED for the line about the black tuxedo!). The first hip hop album I remember listening to in its entirety was Queen Latifah’s Black Reign, which I regard as a CLASSIC and still play to this day. My mom used to play that album EVERY DAY, and although Queen Latifah covered heavy subjects like domestic abuse, gun violence and the HIV/AIDS epidemic, my mother never discouraged me from listening to the music with her. (I “may” have gotten in trouble at school for explaining the meaning of “Coochie Bang” to my second grade classmates. But that’s neither here nor there).
My mom has a soft spot for West Coast hip hop, and so I grew up on Skeelo, Dr. Dre, Snoop, and Domino (Ghetto Jam!). My mom taught me about sampling, and how artists would take old songs and make them new again through hip hop. Even today, I can pick out even the most expertly chopped samples.
When I started building my own music collection as a pre-teen, bringing home Life After Death, Tha Last Meal, and other parental advisory masterpieces, my mom didn’t confiscate my CDs. Instead, she sat down and listened to them with me, stressing the importance of listening to, but not necessarily acting out, the lyrics. Hell, my copy of The Score by the Fugees? Ripped that off my mom. Even during my first year of university, she sent me Snoop Dogg’s R&G: Rhythm and Gangsta in the mail, with a post-it note indicating which songs I should listen to first! While hip hop for many kids was a forbidden treasure; something they had to discover on their own and hide from their parents, for me, hip hop was something I shared with my mom. Pretty. Darn. Awesome.
As my journey in hip hop continues, and I find myself with a mic in one hand and a laptop in the other, my mom continues to support. Does she come to all of my shows? No. Does she read every single article I write for Bad Perm? Not quite. Is her iPod filled with an entire playlist of my music? No — my mom is more of a Rick Ross fan these days. BUT…when I was a broke Windsor student, and HAD to see Jay-Z live in concert for his Heart of the City tour, my mom copped me a ridiculously overpriced ticket because she knew how big of fan I was. I never forgot that. When I told my mom a couple years ago that I was leaving my cozy bank job to go back to school and study music full time, she didn’t lecture me. I’m exceedingly grateful for that. When I finished school, and started interning for a music publisher — for free — my mother didn’t threaten to disown me for not getting a “real” job. I’m appreciative. She is patient with me when I (unintentionally) ignore her in favour of getting another article done for Bad Perm, and when I have a show to do, she leaves me good luck post-it notes, which I collect and keep, because I truly cherish them. (My family is big on Post-its, it seems).
There are a lot of things that I’m incredibly grateful to my mother for, and most of them have nothing to do with music. But, when I look at my history with hip hop, I realize that my mother has been as important and influential to me in this area as she has been in every other area of my life. And while I do pretend to be embarrassed when my mom asks “Adrienne, have you seen my Lil’ Wayne CD?”, or ends her text messages with “get at me, dawg”, I must admit, my chest does swell with pride. When it comes to musical taste, my mom actually has…swag.
Don’t tell her I told you that, though. She might start listening to Soulja Boy on the train.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!
*fun fact: the album covers in this post are CDs that my mom actually owns. Swag, I tell ya. Swag.