What did your parents listen to when you were young? Or maybe this will resonate with you a little more: what songs did your parents drive you insane with because they wouldn’t stop playing them? And what kinds of experiences did you have as a child with music because of your parents? Well, both of my parents can be mostly/collectively described as hip hop fans, no different than they were almost twenty years ago when I was born, or when I was growing up. I can count on them to play an expletive-filled song today as much as I could when I had no idea what the rappers were saying. My mom has always loved acts like Biggie, Nas, Cam’ron and Jay-Z, while my dad has always been more into music like KRS 1, Rakim, and reggae. My mom has J Dilla’s “Donuts” and laughs at country at any opportunity she gets (and the woman is stuck in Florida right now, poor thing). My dad loves to imitate “My Girls” by Animal Collective and “Walking on a Dream” by Empire of the Sun in a really strange voice, and he loves to change the lyrics of songs so they make no sense. Maybe this paints a bit of a picture of what they’re like?
My mom KILLED “Whoa” by Black Rob back in 2000. And she knew it. And she loved it. And she would blast it, over and over again. When I was a kid, I would get so annoyed by her playing the song over and over and she would just laugh at me because, till this day, she thinks I’m hilarious when I’m annoyed. I would end up laughing, though, because she’d always laugh at me in the best way — while dancing around or reciting the lyrics in a funny way. She still does this today.
I remember a period when my dad loved to play “Be Faithful (Put Ya Hands Up)” by Fatman Scoop around the same time. He would always pretend to be a DJ and start the track over several times, which would amuse me, but also lead to annoyance (but, like my mom, he was so silly about it, but in his own way, so I would conceal my laughter because I didn’t want him to know I thought it was funny at all). And he did this with lots of songs. And he still does this with songs.
I like both of these songs, and they definitely remind me of my parents. And so do so many other songs, of course. Play “Down and Out” by Cam’ron and Kanye West and I can hear my mom rapping it as she drove me to and from school in the 7th grade. Put on “Poison” by Bell Biv Devoe and I can see my dad and I doing old-school hip hop moves to it at my grandma’s house when I was 8.
As far as other musical experiences go, dancing was definitely encouraged by my family. I’m still not sure how I was able to bob my head to the beat of songs when I was about 2 years old, but my mom tells me it’s the truth. If genes can determine such a thing, I’d believe it — both of my parents definitely have a good, innate sense of rhythm. My dad was a back up dancer for Run DMC, Heavy D, and the like at some point in the late 80s, and my mom has always been a great dancer. She definitely has one of the best pop-and-lock techniques, and can wave unbelievably well. So naturally, dancing was encouraged, and once I started walking and got my coordination together, my mom, dad, and I would turn up the music and just dance around wherever we were living at the time. One time, my dad’s down-filled coat caught on fire thanks to a little candle and my mom and I nearly died of laughter, sadly, my sister was too young to realize what was happening and missed out. I can still picture him in his Nautica coat, as it burned, and the awful smell of it… Anyway, dancing has always been a big part of my life, both formally and informally, and I think the reason why I’ve always loved dancing is because my parents did it so often and had me do it with them.
Now here I am. From listening to Biggie in my carseat to playing M83’s “Dead Cities, Red Seas, and Lost Ghosts” when I get to drive. From dancing in my living room to “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)” by Nas with my parents to dancing to Gang Gang Dance in my room with my friends. It’s funny how that happens.