A lot has happened to me in the past three years. I dropped out of university, rejected a graphic design scholarship, worked full time for a year, got rejected from a university and eventually went back to university (the same one that rejected me, but for a different course). Oh, and three different girlfriends as well. But one thing that stayed with me throughout is a love for music. The kind of passion that grew to what it is now: all encompassing, silently enveloping almost. But it wasn’t always like this. Before I was fourteen, I wasn’t much of a Michael Jackson fan. I was semi-aware of his legacy within music and slightly more aware of his legacy in pop culture (this was in the early 00s so he wasn’t nearly as big as he was back in the 80s/early-to-mid 90s). I barely remembered who were Jamiroquai were apart from a song I heard when I was little and some videos I saw on music shows. Hip hop didn’t even figure on my radar until 2006 when I discovered Kanye West. By that time, I was a huge Michael Jackson fan and a huge Jamiroquai fan. I don’t know what happened exactly, they just appeared. As I went through college and into university (the first time), I started clubbing and listening to all those mainstream hip hop tracks and loved them, as you do when you’re younger.
Then I hit a wall.
University wasn’t what I had expected. Money was tight and I had no overdraft. I transferred course and between the time of transfer and having to leave accommodation, I stayed in my room for the most part. Depression began to kick in and deciding not to sleep meant I would just be up on my computer doing nothing of worth. But I had my radio and the internet. I’d get my fix of the latest “urban music” (a term I would later grow to hate) and my cousin (The Auracle) sent me three albums I’ll probably never forget for the rest of my life. They were…
Blu & Exile’s Below The Heavens
Q-Tip’s The Renaissance
Flying Lotus’ Reset EP
This was new music territory for me. They weren’t really “mainstream” albums at the time, not in England anyway. They had samples and different types of beats and clever rhyming about culture, equality, history… basically, things that weren’t money, alcohol and partying. I rinsed them out until I decided to find more music from each of them. From then, I knew what I wanted to do – I wanted to be involved with hip hop. At the time, I didn’t think I could make music so I decided to create a label called Starcrazy Records. It was pretty much name only but I did strike a rapport with one producer and it worked well (via MySpace before it became that auntie who’s 50 but dresses like she’s 21). During the Christmas holidays, I spoke with my dad and he suggested going into audio engineering, which sounded appealing at the time. He also suggested I go back to college for two years to do electronics, which didn’t sound so appealing. I eventually dropped out of my Computer Science course and via rejecting a graphic design diploma course for a full-time job due to financial constraints, I kept the music idea going albeit with less vigour than before. My main focus moved to graphic design and when that didn’t turn out right, I had a decision to make. I hate my job and I wanted to go back to study. Design didn’t look as viable anymore but that music thing was still there. I chose Music Technology in the end and applied. Without an interview, I managed to get in. By this time (2010), I had a much better musical repertoire. I had discovered groups like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest and hip hop (along with the stalwarts of MJ, Jamiroquai and Zero 7) was becoming a greater part of my life.
By September 2010, I had left my office job to try another bite of the university cherry. Music Technology was a totally new idea to me. I couldn’t play any instruments so all I really had was Wikipedia-based knowledge of genres and an ability to learn academical things really quickly. In October, a friend of mine gave me a copy of Logic Pro 9. I thought I might as well give this beat making malarkey a go. I producedand started doing more and more. The subsequent tracks became . Eventually, I released a darker, more electronic type album, still with the samples. The lack of instrumental ability on my part meant I had to be more creative with sampling and drumming as not to sound like a rip off. It was challenging but I let my emotions and my fingers do the composing. By the end of my first successful year at uni, I had passed, got an A in two modules and released an EP and a concept album.
Fast forward a year and a bit and I have a total of four albums and an EP out as well as some upcoming collaborations, a label and a blog (the one you’re still hopefully reading). Hip hop saved and changed my life. Sampling changed my life. Learning about the whole culture changed my life. I owe a lot to that one musical organism that people misunderstand so often. You watch the news and the TV shows and their depictions of what they think hip hop is, but they don’t know. Hip hop culture didn’t cause the riots in London last year, it;s not causing kids to be delinquents, it’s not made out of lazy musicianship, scruffy clothes and purely misogynistic and homophobic language; that’s a straight up insult. I’d be lying if I said none of that existed at all within the culture. I’m sad to say it does, but only in certain factions people want you to see, the parts that sell. No, hip hop culture and the music that comes from it is way more than that. It came out of a struggle, a struggle for acceptance, a struggle for freedom. The negro spirituals, gospel singers, blues singers, jazz singers, beboppers, R&B folk, rock & rollers, soul sisters and funky brothers. It was all down to them and I thank them all for their contributions. For what hip hop has done for me through all of this, I couldn’t thank it enough. That’s what this blog is really for – a way of keeping that fire going in times when people say it’s going out. Hip hop is NOT dead. It’s just living in places you might not be looking. So all I can say is: take a look around for a change.