Does Hip Hop Belong
To Me? The Philosophy
of Race and Culture
PAUL C. TAYLOR
The film Brown Sugar begins with a bit of explanation from a fictional hip-hop journalist named Sidney.1 She tells us that she starts every interview with the same question: “when did you fall in love with hip hop?” The film then shows a parade of hip-hop stars—real ones, not film characters—answering Sidney's question, fondly recalling their first encounter with some iconic figure, event, or performance. Watching this scene jogs my memory as well. I think back to my first encounter with hip hop, and find that I can still hear “Rapper's Delight” blaring from the puny tape recorder, still see my middle school friends huddling around the single tiny speaker, still feel the exhilaration and excitement of that new sound, those nimble words. But none of those memories come to me as they do to Sidney's interview subjects, as an answer to her opening question. I can't remember falling in love with hip hop because, frankly, I never did.
It's not what you're thinking. I haven't fallen out of love. My once-warm feelings have not simply grown cool, perhaps under the sobering influence of advancing years. And my years aren't so advanced that hip hop never had a chance with me at all. For what it's worth, Jay-Z and Dr. Dre are about my age, and Russell Simmons is older than I am. I like hip hop about as much as I ever did. And I really did, and do, like some of it. It's just that
1Brown Sugar, directed by Rick Famuyiwa (Twentieth Century Fox, 2002).