“This is the first hip hop album I want my daughter to fall in love with” is how I felt when I listened to Eve, Rapsody’s third album. It is a masterfully put together, one hour and three-minute love letter to and for black women, made by a black woman. I played it almost every time Cydney was in the car last summer. However, at eight years old, my daughter didn’t gravitate to it; it was a little past her understanding. However, I know the message and the music will stay with her and one day, she will love it.
Cydney is a hip hop head. It was not my intent to groom a miniature, girl version of myself. As my child, she all but had no choice but to listen to whatever her father played. As her father, I am aware I am her first love, and she will gravitate towards the things I like. She wants to bond and considers it quality time. Once upon a time, I shared a similar dynamic with my dad.
The son of a musician, I spent a substantial amount of my youth backstage at concerts and studios. At my grandmother’s house, I would walk into the basement, where the loud music came from, see my dad toil away in his home studio. I wanted to be a part of it. I’ve seen my little girl have the same expression in her eyes, soak it all in, and want to do it herself.
I have introduced hip hop to my daughter because it is a large part of me. If and when there are times she will not understand who, what, or why I am; when and where I come from; and how I see the world, it can and will give her context to fill in some gaps. Along the way, she will learn about herself. In time, she will make her own decisions about who she is and discover ways the two of us are similar beyond DNA and osmosis.
On the cusp of tweendom, Cydney is no longer a little kid. I listen her 17,000 questions she asks at once and how her interconnected thoughts turn one story into several; she is a girl. Because of how I am wired, we will have a disconnect in communication at times. However, I enjoy the process of my little person evolve into her own. Sometimes it overwhelm me with emotion; while she has a large support system and women in her life who play the role, she has to do all of this without and no memories of her mother.
I believe one of my most important jobs as a father is to build and instill confidence in Cydney. Most of her days of childhood innocence are behind us. She will have to learn through her own experiences how hard and cold the real world is. People will judge her because she is a woman; and as a black woman, the road she must endure is one I can’t and will never understand. What I can do is show and tell her she possesses the ability to do any and everything she puts her mind to, simply because of who she is. No matter what the world throws at her-even in the moments when she feels vulnerable and the most insecure- dig deep into the parts of her she feels great about, project it, and make a way out of no way: I know this through hip hop.
I observe Cydney’s interests and attempt to meet her halfway. One evening, while we played cards, I played Missy Elliott videos on YouTube as our musical accompaniment. She was glued to the songs and unbelievable production. I could see her the wheels in the back of her mind spin as she connected with a stimuli. I did this on purpose because I knew she liked music videos and the right kind of hip hop that would captivate her imagination; and Missy was a great entry point.
“Daddy, I want to make music videos” Cydney said to me. I told her “I know. You’ve directed music videos already. This is one of the reasons I had you holding the camera and shoot me making beats.” I showed her some of the final versions of the videos I edited from her work and she smiled.
I let Cydney stay up a little later than normal that night. We watched the first episode of The Evolution of Hip Hop on Netflix; and I answered any question she had and gave context. She knew hip hop and has observed me put together a documentary, so this as well was a reachable entry point for my nine-year-old.
The next week, Hamilton premiered on Disney+. It has become her life. When I walk into her room, the soundtrack is on a continual loop because she wants to memorize the raps. She loves musical theatre and has taken a liking to rap, so Hamilton became something she’s shown interest, and she created her own entry point to develop what has captured her imagination.
A few days ago, I went to pick Cydney up after she spent the night at my sister’s place. She gathered her things and proceeded to throw them down the stairs; you know, kid shit. As I picked up the things she tossed, I noticed one of them was a white composition notebook. I picked it up and saw the writing on its over: it said “Cydney’s Rap Book.”