Protect. Provide. Parent. As a parent you want the best for your kids from the values you seed in their brains to the music you let them listen to as they grow up. As a fan of hip hop, you want your kid to listen to all the songs you know and love, though the conflict starts once the rapper cusses. You start skipping the cuss words because you don’t want them to suddenly drop an F-Bomb or repeat, “I’ve got hoes” and “Bitches ain’t shit”. Suddenly you’re questioning the songs you know and love from their vocabulary and messages, and the content doesn’t line up with the bar you set yourself as a parent.
Story | William Rivas
Let me preface this by saying I’m not judging anybody’s parenting choices or style. What you do for yours is your choice to make and if I don’t agree with it well that’s okay. If you don’t agree with mine, well that’s okay too. It’s all love. This is solely my experience as a father and a hip hop lover.
It was the summer of ‘97 when I got my first taste of rap. My parents divorced in Toronto and up until that point, Pops had played Rock & Roll my entire life. I didn’t even know there were any other genres of music. Next thing you know we’re in Southern California, without Pops, and everything had changed. My older sister would listen to these girls singing but I never really tuned in to whatever “sad song” she was listening to. I was all about Super Mario 64 and Legend of Zelda. I don’t know where we were going, or where we were coming from. All of a sudden I heard something, I lean forward, and tell my sister sitting shotgun, “What is this? Turn it up”. She turns up the dial and The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Mo Money Mo Problems” was blowing my mind. I became a bonafied hip hop head from that day on…
Hip Hop is a living, breathing, beast that changes and evolves. As society changes so does hip hop. From the Sugar Hill Gang to Ice-T to N.W.A., the music is often a reflection of the time it was made. These reflections are not always positive as they can often be a social commentary on the trials and tribulations of these different artists. “Fuck the Police” was a response to the systematic racism police were displaying at the time. Logic’s “1-800-273-8255” focuses on the suicidal thoughts of today’s youth.
Eminem came onto the scene during a pivotal time in hip hop and his absolute disregard for the standards set by society appealed to the rebellious nature of millions. “Cleaning Out My Closet”, the huge hit off of The Eminem Show (2002), powerfully displayed anger towards his mother, his upbringing, and society; something any misguided teenager could relate to. Eminem became an anti-hero to millions of angry youths, myself included.
Up until as recently as my daughter turned 1-years-old, I would still listen to Eminem with her in the car, rhyming along to every single word of The Marshall Mathers LP. The second verse of “Guilty Conscience” is Eminem telling a guy to date rape a 15-year-old. I realize I can’t listen to that song with my daughter in the car. Hell it’s just hard to listen to period.
Hip Hop is widely vulgar, misogynistic, sexual, drug-addled and homophobic among other things. These things had a large influence on me as youth, there’s no denying that. But as a father, I must ask myself the options of music to feed my daughter: The clean version? Politically charged? Another genre entirely?
There’s no clear answer. There’s no right or wrong answer. My love for my daughter will always be above everything, and though limiting my music choice is a tough, it’s a necessary decision I’ve had to make as a father.
Fortunately for people like me there are plenty of inspiring, uplifting, positive hip hop artists today. Some of them fathers, whose children have the same positive influence on them as mine do. The first artist that comes to mind is DJ Khaled and his son Asahd. You can find Asahd all over DJ Khaled’s infamous Snapchat. He also listed his son as an executive producer on his Grateful album, not to mention attaching a photo of him as the cover art. Khaled enlists fellow father/hip hop artist Chance The Rapper for the heart-warming “I Love You So Much”, which includes the best rendition of the ABC’s your child will ever set their ears on.
– Related: Asahd is Going to Be ‘Grateful’ (Podcast) –
Chance raps about his daughter often in his songs including the Kanye West track “Ultralight Beam” where The Rapper spits, “Tryna snap photos of familia/My daughter look just like Sia, you can’t see her.” He decided to take his time before finally showing his daughter to the world via Instagram.
Kanye West, father of North and Saint West, has introduced a children’s line of his Yeezy Adidas collection.
Additionally, there is plenty of great music out there that, although still adult oriented, can be listened to in the car with your kids kicking the back of your seat. J. Cole and Kendrick deliver strong, influential, positive messages in their music without compromising quality or feeling like a commercial sell-out. Tyler the Creator’s latest single “See You Again” is a hit with my daughter (I know right).
Plenty of artists are delivering songs that don’t relate to drugs, money, and sex (maybe not every song but that’s okay). I can listen to Jay-Z’s confessional 4:44 without feeling like it’s detrimental to my daughter because of its genuinity. I can bump Atmosphere’s “In Her Music Box” feeling like my daughter can grow to appreciate that song later in life.
“She knows all the words but leaves out the bad ones. Except bitch, she always sings the word bitch cuz it makes her daddy laugh it’s her magic trick” – In Her Music Box by Atmosphere
It’s gotten harder. I can’t listen to all the songs I want to listen to with a kid in the car. I can’t listen to some songs period anymore as I can’t support what’s being said. That’s just part of the deal and I’m accepting that with gritted teeth. As a father that’s a hip hop fan, and a hip hop fan who’s a father. you have to dig for the songs that satisfy the cravings without compromising your children’s innocence. Allow yourself to grow as they grow.
(Photo Courtesy: David X Prutting)