It was Christmas and my aunt gave me my first rap album. Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle.
I remember cutting boxes up, flattening them out and tapping them down outside my house. When Krumping hit, I formed a dance trio with my two friends Jamaria and Tofu and we’d put together dances to songs from Krump Kings and Pretty Ricky, to perform at house parties.
I got expelled from my middle school and was put on probation for a year. I found support and guidance from Tupac, NWA, Outkast, Immortal Technique, 50 Cent and Del the Funky Homosapien...Most of which was given to me by my big brother, Pablo.
Pablo took me to my first live concert: we saw George Clinton and the rest of Parliament Funkadelic at the Anaheim, CA House of Blues. Although it wasn’t a rap show, I began to see some of West Coast Hip-Hop’s musical roots.
I continued to grow with my music, finding my political views mirrored in artists like Nas, Lupe Fiasco, Kanye West, Blu & Exile and Rico Pabon.
I’d catch myself free-styling over the instrumental breaks of my favorite tracks, still too embarrassed to take myself seriously and write anything.
My friend’s older sister was killed my senior year of high-school...not knowing how to deal with it, I wrote my first verse and dedicated to her.
Moving across the country to Massachusetts for college, I quickly became friends with a group of Hip-Hop heads who encouraged me to write more frequently. To get me going they’d write diss tracks, egging me on to write back. I did.
My penmanship was so bad, that I could only take my raps seriously if I typed them. I spent nights in front of my laptop writing. I would go to bed, come up with a line in my head and rush back to my desk. I couldn’t sleep. I constantly had new lines and ideas surfacing in my brain and I had to put everything down. When I finally did sleep, I would dream in rhyme. My roommate sophomore year told me I freestyled while I slept.
December 2010, I played my first live show. I always felt more comfortable spitting over live music, so I got a band together and performed at my school’s winter showcase. The genesis of a emcee. I found myself in writing, but I became myself in performing.
I was hooked. Itching to get back on that stage. I hit up every open mic, bar, music hall and festival I could get into. If it was live I was there, putting bars out into the universe. Priding myself on being able to rap to anything, I’d collab with acoustic guitarists, five piece Jazz/Hip-Hop bands, a folk rock group and even a 20-person experimental improv ensemble.
I had been studying theatre and performance at school for the past 2 years and in the fall of 2012, my mentor, Djola Branner gave me an anthology of Hip-Hop theatre works, “Plays From The Boombox Galaxy.”
As I began looking back, stocking my iTunes with Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Guru, Black Star and Wu Tang, I stocked my bookshelf with Hip-Hop theatre artists, Zell Miller III, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Aya de Leon, Will Power and Hip-Hop historian, Jeff Chang.
I wrote, produced and performed the first version of Mixed-Race Mixtape. In Hip-Hop theatre I had found the space where I could include all the elements that made me complete.
I write to my fellow Hip-Hoppers; writers, performers, emcees, movers, taggers, educators, avid listeners, activists and artists of the movement. How did this culture shape you? What album got you through the death, the breakup, the divorce, the move, the day? When did you realize Hip-Hop had saved your life?
You know the potential that Hip-Hop has, what it’s done for you, your community and this world. We don’t just love Hip-Hop, we need Hip-Hop. I need Hip-Hop and I need the Hip-Hop community’s support.
Hip-Hop is about identity. It’s about claiming self, your ability, your authenticity, your originality, at a time when the world wants us to stay inside the lines.
It’s about standing up for the neglected, the marginalized, the silenced. Offering a new perspective and a counter narrative; one that includes us.
It’s about community: about you and me and our story. Because they all matter. And at a time when we need to be reminded who matters; black lives, brown lives, women, LGBTQIA, Hip-Hop and this show become more relevant and needed then ever before. "Hip-Hop is about seeing the something in what we are often told is nothing" - Ariefdien + Abrahams “Total Chaos”
If Hip-Hop has done half for you that it has for me and my community, I ask you to please take a deeper look at Mixed-Race Mixtape and our mission. I’m confident you’ll agree that this is Hip-Hop worth backing.
Hip-Hop is about support. And I need yours. Please give what you can and spread the word.