You see, I was raised in a house hold that appreciated and exposed me to a diverse range of music.
Growing up, my parents loved the classics - Whitney, The Jacksons, Michael, Janet, Donna Summer. But there was also a lot of country music played, funk, classical and rap, so I've always had an open-mind, not just towards music but life in general (growing up where I grew up, there were a lot of influences around, I'll get to that later though).
I regret not being old enough to fully enjoy or appreciate playing the vinyls on the record player! 😭
A typical kid growing up in the 90's without the internet and the likes of google, myspace or soundcloud to discover new artists, I listened to a lot of popular music and whatever was playing on radio and music TV channels, which of course included a lot of rap music. It literally wasn't until we finally got internet in the house that I began to find out all I'd been missing out on!
The media had and still has an overwhelmingly American bias, as we all know, especially over here in the UK, so it was easy to find up-and-coming and underground music during my formative years.
And then with all the US imported TV shows and magazines and the mainstream emergence of more Hip-Hop and R&B radio stations here in London, that's when I really started to find all these new artists (I kind of had a knack for finding new artists). I remember I would hear a song and then go and look it up online and find out it was a sample of another song and then I'd research that song and that's how I would find out about all these old school artists like Gang Starr, A Tribe Called Quest, The Pharcyde, De La Soul, Souls of Mischief etc (I kind of had a knack for finding new artists) and that's why I've always been so fascinated by how they even come across these sometimes obscure songs, take a small part of it song from 1973 and transform it into something special.
I was so fascinated by producers and musicians, I remember back in the Myspace days all my friends on there were involved in making music and I'd go to their studio sessions and watch in complete awe how the whole process would come together.
I was constantly researching and just eager to learn more about this genre, this lifestyle. Only my sister knows this, but I used to steal copies of Vibe and The Source magazines! They were so expensive over and I just had to know what was going on in the world of Hip-Hop, (not an excuse I know, trust me, I always felt bad after) so whenever I didn't have enough money for lunch and a magazine, I wasn't stupid enough to miss out on lunch! It's kind of funny looking back, because while my classmates were stealing clothes and accessories, I was stealing magazines... crazy.
There were so little resources available at the time that a 15-year-old could get access to so I had to do what I had to do.
These are some of the copies I actually bought/stole and it makes me laugh because I had no business reading any of these at all! But that's just a testament to show how powerful and influential the hip-hop culture is. I guess for me it was like these people were from a different planet, I couldn't relate to their lives at all or how it was for them growing up but it was still so interesting. I had a fairly normal upbringing which was quite sheltered for the most part, but I guess what we all had in common was the love for the music.
I was so inspired by Brandy's character Moesha on the show with the same name, I became obsessed with Vibe magazine and it was around that time I decided I wanted to become a journalist or writer. But I digress.
Going to America for the first time when I was about 14 or 15 furthered my obsession with the culture - So embarrassing now but at the time, I was so desperate to blend in with the Americans, I made sure I dressed like them... well my interpretation of what the average New Yorker who was raised in the projects (safe to say I've pretty much been obsessed with New York ever since).
I begged my mum to buy me a pair of timberlands, I already had my baggy jeans and my snapback cap (that I would of course wear back to front) courtesy of Virgin Atlantic who flew us there to boot, got my lavender timbs and I was good to go!
Hip-Hop and rap music ultimately got me into basketball, fashion and even Grime music which originated in the streets of East London in the early 2000s. As the years have gone by, I've really
come to appreciate what hip-hop was and is and everything that makes it what it is. I find myself these days going back and listening to the older stuff because music these days really isn't cutting it. I think we could all find some inspiration by going back and appreciating the talent from yesteryear.
Here's to Rock The Bells, and more hip-hop festivals in general coming over or back to London!