Growing Up & Hip-Hop
So I just finished watching a documentary on Hip Hop and all I could think about is how much I don’t know. There were so many artists and lyrics I never heard of. At some point, I was fixated on where the documentary was being filmed because that’s what I definitely knew. I could connect with that because I grew up in the Bronx. I thought to myself “Pppsh! And you called yourself a Hip-Hop fan??! !Habladora!”
I started to wonder where the hell was I when everyone else was in on the
underground Hip-Hop scoop. Oh yeah, I wasn’t allowed to listen to Hip Hop at all. Because Mami called it “música de Morenos.” She thought it was anti- American and celebrated everything that was wrong with people of color. She thought listening to Hip
Hop would somehow make me less qualified for college or a career. I heard it so much that I somewhat believed it too. My mom is a housekeeper for rich white folks in the upper Eastside or Upper Westside (depends on the day). So the people she could reference to
being American and successful were her bosses and their families. So that meant I couldn’t’ buy cd’s, sneakers or clothes that resembled Hip-Hop Culture.
I remember whenever I walked into the music record store with my mom, I would pretend like it didn’t even exist as we walked past the Hip Hop section. But when she wasn’t looking I would sneak by to “window shop” the entire section as I held the latest Britney Spear’s album in my hand. That way I could play it off that I was looking for her because I had “already found what I was looking for”. Don’t get me wrong I loved Britney Spears, Christina Aguilara, and Mandy Moore. But that’s what I was allowed to listen to. I was limited to what I wanted to listen to simply because of the color of their skin. So I rebelled. In my form of rebellion, I would record any Hip Hop I could get from the radio. Ya, remember that right? (Hitting record on one boom box and letting the other one play the radio). I had dozens of cassette tapes that I had used to record labeled with “Jackie’s tape #____.” If it didn’t say the artists name it meant it was straight up Hip-Hop music. Imagine the day I asked my mom for Nike uptowns. She nearly lost her mind. How could her daughter dare want to wear those “moreno” shoes! It happened like this actually: one day I saw Justin Timberlake in a magazine wearing “uptowns.” My eyes grew big and I couldn’t be more excited to see this! This was going to be part of my pitch. At the age of 15, I decided I was going to ask my mom for “Black Nike uptowns.” Here were my reasons:
1- Justin Timberlake is “American” and he’s wearing them so it’s ok.
2- I haven’t asked anything for Christmas since I was 12.
3- I was willing to give up all my future birthday gifts for this one.
4- I didn’t want a quinceñera nor a Sweet 16
Imagine that... I risked all that for a pair of uptowns. (not Jordans because then I’d be pushing it. They were too expensive for a single mom of four). I got the uptowns after much debate. And you better believe I wore them every day without a complaint. They were my small form of expression. They told others I was from The Bronx and that I loved to listen to Missy Eliot. They were a statement.
The Bronx is infamous for its roughness and the NY Yankees. So Hip-Hop made me feel so BX. I was born in Manhattan but grew up in The Bronx. The Bronx was where I learned my roughest lessons about friendships, survival and female empowerment. The Bronx is where I learned to heal toe and play double dutch. It’s where I met the most loyal and honest people who you should never mess with. The Bronx and Hip Hop is a part of me. It comes out when something is really funny (where I be dead laughing) or really upsetting (where I be dumb tight). All these life lessons I learned in secret. I learned it when I was not home. I learned it through Hip-Hop. I learned it during my form of rebellion. I learned great and powerful lessons through Hip-Hop. Hip-hop still exists. It’s still growing and flourishing. But growing up around Hip Hop meant you were part of something bigger than yourself.
Written by: Jackie Marquina