The 7th Chamber: The Beautiful Struggle

blame it on JES7 January 6, 2012

Heltah Skeltah – Operation Lockdown (off Nocturnal, which is in my top 5 favorite albums)

So here’s the thing: I’ve always been a writer at heart, and have been working on bringing back editorials to the site. Fortunately, having a duo at the dopehouse that also love to write makes things much easier. So, as part of 2DBz’ 2012 campaign to run the ‘Nets we are now introducing weekly editorials on the site. Expect a new drop every Friday afternoon from either myself, Miss Peas or Justice, who drops our first entry… – M

Physics explains that nearly everything in the material world has a magnetic attraction and repellence, although some of these magnetic properties in objects are entirely too small to physically measure. Your basic magnet is comprised of atoms that are set up in such a perfectly ordered state, nearly all pointing in the same direction, that it manifests magnetic properties. Two alike magnets (that is two positively charged or two negatively charged magnets) will repel each other, while two unalike magnets (one positive and one negative) will attract each other. In a figurative sense, this can be applied to many things in life. In my instance, Hip-Hop culture’s positive effect seemed to carry a huge magnetic pull on my physical, a marriage that’s bonded so intimately that complete separation is impossible.

I’d like to think that as a child, I grew up in a reasonably stable home. Despite coming from a family who’s past included my great-grandparents being locked up in a Japanese Internment camp during WWII, both of my parents are still together, and arguments between the two of them were few and far between. To this day, my father still holds down the same job he’s had for nearly 20 years now. There may have been times when I’d witness his struggle trying to support my two sisters and myself, all the while with a smile on his face. Despite all of these positive attributes, I rebelled relentlessly. Looking back in retrospect, I still have no idea why I did. Perhaps it was the company I kept while in middle school, but whatever the real reason, I continuously found myself in heaps of misfortunes. It started off small: from petty shoplifting, running away from the crib, to much more serious misconduct such as being an accessory in a couple of home invasions on a military base. Needless to say, between the ages of 13 – 15, I spent most of my teenage life in juvenile detention, at times spending upwards of a month. Til this day, I can draw, from memory, the exact layout of the juvenile detention center. When the juvenile courts decided they had enough of my disorder, I was sent to a boy’s home, and eventually landed in foster care for almost two years.

The middle school I was closest to geographically, did not accept me, so in turn, I was forced to attend an alternative learning center. It was during these formative years of my life that I was introduced to Hip-Hop. I can recall our little hang out spot at a Dairy Queen across from our school where we’d all huddle in a little cipher, rocking my Sony Walkman with those flimsy headphones tucked beneath my beanie. You know, the one’s that would inflict pain on your ears if you kept them on too long. This was 1996: The Infamous, Doe or Die, Liquid Swords, OB4CL, etc. had already dropped. At this hang out spot, we’d build on our latest tape purchases, the newest Source magazine and trade custom mixtapes. 1996 was the first year I remember hearing AZ’s Uncut Raw for the first time, and the first verse struck a chord with me: “Life is a struggle, that’s why n!ggas I know stay on the juggle // Some hustle to double, others hug you to mug you // Poverty-stricken, they even turn a church kid into stickin // It seems sickenin, but what? Whatever makes the pockets thicken.” “Struggle.” It was a concept that I could grasp and hold onto. Sure, I wasn’t running the streets like my brotha’s in QB or Brownsville may have been, but I could definitely relate. At the time, I felt the whole World was out for my head. My own parents could not save me from the depressing state I put myself in. Street rap was my saving grace.

Nearly every Tuesday, my friends and I would hit the local Tower Records and peep the latest Source mag’s Fat Tapes. This, to me, was my “buying” guide. We’d then walk around and look for these Fat Tape selections in the physical. Now mind you, living in Hawai’i, the chances of finding that month’s Fat Tapes were very slim-to-none. We usually got an album two to three months after it’s initial release. Still, we managed to find what we liked and slipped them into our pockets. Heltah Skeltah’s Nocturnal got steady burn in my Walkman. There was just something about any grimey, raw-and-uncut Rap album with street tales permeating throughout that allowed my young, naive mind which felt like it was imprisoned to escape.

At the time, I was too immature to understand the culture of Hip-Hop, or what and who it represented. Having grown into the man I am today, seeking Knowledge of Self, I definitely have a clear understanding of what it represents, and why I fell in love with it in the first place. Add to the fact that I’ve taken the time out to immerse myself in Jazz, Blues, R&B and Soul music, and it’s history, my comprehension of the direct correlation between all forms of the aforementioned music genres, and the struggle that minorities and youth in the inner city deal with on a daily basis is crystal clear. It’s protest music for the oppressed, the exemplary image of the disadvantaged and a confidence building tool for the diffident.

Now, for the dopeboyz and girlz, what is your story on the deep effect Hip-Hop has had on your being?