The summer of 1997 is when I fell in love with hip hop. I liked it before then. My father and his friends have told me stories of me being a toddler coming into his studio, getting onto the mic, and pretending to be one in the late ’80’s. I had my favorite songs that I would hear on the radio, could rap along with the hits, and at eleven years old had memorized all of the words to The Fugees’ sophomore album, The Score. Hip hop was an acquaintance. We would say hi to each other, have a casual conversation, and play with each other every once in a while. Hell, throughout the 90’s I used to flirt with it not quite knowing that’s what I was doing. The summer before I started seventh grade we had hung out so much not only had it become my best friend, an organic relationship blossomed into something I couldn’t get enough of.
In 1997, hip hop was in the beginning of a transition. 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G. were killed within months of each other and that ultimately lead to a shift in the music; and the cultural landscape had followed. It was no different than an eleven year old kid from New York beginning to go through puberty. I had just finished y first year of middle school. Sixth grade is still elementary school-ish, you just have a little more freedom and a locker. My junior high was a magnet school on the other side of Queens. That in itself had opened me up to a world I knew existed; but what was once just theory had begun to be applied knowledge.
I lived in St. Albans, which is in the southeast, and my school was located on the northwest side. My bus ride was over an hour long. The route started in my neighborhood that was 100% black, rode through affluent Jamacia Estates, stopped in predominantly Jewish Kew Gardens, and ended in East Elmhurst, which is predominantly hispanic. That hour-plus ride was when I started listening to the radio every morning and began to pick up on all of the new music. At 8PM, I sat by my radio listening to Hot 97’s with my finger ready to release the pause button because record and play were locked down.
The summer of 1997 was the time when I first began to formulate my own identity. Hip hop was and still is the foundation of how I express myself. As one can attest to in reading this blog or meeting me in person, and this is a large part of my foundation.
Over the course of the next few days, my posts will be based around songs from that summer that defined me.