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Sooner or later, we’ll all see who the prophet is…”
-Nas, Nas Is Like (Album: I Am…)
The first time I heard Nasir olu dara Jones’s voice? I can’t even explain it. I remember I smiled on the inside. My household wasn’t terribly conservative, but my parents monitored the music choices of myself and siblings. And being born in the era where hip-hop was in its infancy, kept their ears to my Sony Walkman and my radio when it was on Majic 108 (yes, I’m old enough to remember listening to that station here in St. Louis).
I remember how my father really didn’t pay attention as closely to what I listened to like my mother did. My taste and love for music came from him. He listened to Muddy Waters, Clapton, Pop, Doo-Wop, Soul and Digital Underground. Yes, THAT Digital UNDERGROUND.
In the sea of hip-hop, of all the people I was listening to, I came back to Nas. I kept coming back to his lyrics, his voice, his–musical presence in my world. As I moved through middle school aged girlhood, I was shaped by these male voices in my world. Even with the discord which comes with being a teenager, my Dad was one still one of the loudest voices inhabiting my social world. It was my father that told me, “Why do you want to go to school to write? You can’t eat with an English degree?”
I know, right? That cracked my heart–I didn’t think he believed in me. But I kept at it.
This, I believe, is the reason why I loved (and still love) hip-hop so much: the words, the freedom, the creativity–I saw this music genre as an art form.
For the first twelve years of my life, I wanted to be a physician. A healer. A wielder of heart and head, of logic and art. I wanted to be a doctor because my Dad was one and I, too, wanted to heal. But when I discovered this mastery of these letters? When I found another way to heal? I told my father, I no longer wanted to be a doctor.
Our relationship deteriorated soon after.
In that space, that influencer power of my father quieted. In that space, I crawled inside music and words and Nas in my junior year of high school. I would hear his voice and that lie that rooted in a mind and heart would shut up. It would shut up.
In a pen, I found peace.
In the pen I found healing, and I found that what he told me, was only true for him. It was only applicable to him, and what he wanted for me, he superimposed on me, rather than accepting me for who I was. I was not broken because I didn’t fulfill someone’s expectations.
I remember I began to preserve this gift the only way I knew how–blocking out the world, including him. I honed the craft, listened to my English teachers that told me what I could do. I I re-read their edits, asked questions about how they graded and what I could do better. I listened to my favorite emcees, memorized lyrics and at the release of I Am, confirmed what I wanted to do.
From that day to this one, I have made it mission to uproot that lie. In doing so, I can be confident every time I publish a blog, freewrite,or edit a book, I burn a hole in each letter of that childhood false hood, and grin at their ashes around my feet.
I’m a linguistic acrobat. A wordsmith. A delicate, intricate raconteur.
I does these words.