There are numerous people I have listened to thought the years that have moved me in some aspect or another, hip hop and outside of that musical realm. Although the task seems daunting, I will attempt to list my influences and attempt to recall why...HONESTLY. They are in the order that I recall them, not necessarily chronological or anything of the sort, but I'll try. If I get a little distorted time-wise, just chalk it up to age and reefer smoke from my 20's.
1) Wu Tang Clan - My uncle Leon, and ultimately me, have always been fans of old school kung fu movies. 36 Chambers of Shaolin, The Mystery of Chessboxing, The 5 Deadly Venoms, etc etc. I had to be like not quite a teen yet (like 12ish? 11ish?) when I was at downtown Newark, NJ when this guy selling bootleg VHS tapes and mixtapes had this video of a kungfu movie dubed over with tracks from Wu-Tang. I was so fascinated, because my Mom wasn't big on rap music (it was always CD101.9 in the car). I had to know more about them. I NEEDED to see what this was about. Method, and later on in my late teens Ghostface were like legends to me. I've memorized almost all of 93' Freestyle, and am one of those oddballs that thought Supreme Clientele was better than Iron man only because of the track Nutmeg.
2) Busta Rhymes - His energy was straight polarizing..."ONE MO TIME I COME, KNUCKLEHEAD FLOW THAT MAKE YOU ACT RRREEAAALLL DUMB!" hahahahah. I loved hearing him rap; Gimmie Some More, Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See...shit, mostly all of Extinction Level Event...his music videos...like I thought he was fire for real and will always have my respect.
3) Missy Elliot - LITERALLY the first woman I heard rap and was blown away. Her videos were crazy af (I can never forget her in that black bubble suit and the other vid she had where she was mimicking megaman), she was technically competent, she made jams, and I just really loved her as an artist. Her single Hot Boys was the very first CD I purchased with my own money!
4) Eminem - Man when I first heard Hi My Name is, I was like wtf is going on here? But as I listened to the lyrics I would laugh because they were so whimsical...albeit violent, hilarious. When I got sent to Jamaica to live for awhile, all I had with me were the Silm Shady and Marshal Mathers CDs...everything I felt going through elementary to middle school was reflected in the anger of this white man's bars hahah...I used to get picked on so bad bruh omfg hahahah. But listening to him made me feel so much better, not because I wanted to inflict violence on people; I was the opposite, I never wanted to hurt anyone, and tried (a bit too hard) to get along with people and it always backfired. My friends were few and I moved every two years through NJ and Jamaica. Emimen literally embodied the negativity I felt, so hearing the lyrics were jarring. I wanted to cheer him on. I wanted him to win so badly because I identified with his position as a white rapper in a black industry and compared it to myself being a black boy but constantly being distanced by BOTH white and black peers. I was an awkward, but good kid who just got ate up and having those CDs around helped when I was isolated in Jamaica; I was mostly alone because I was poor af, shitting in out houses and fetching river water and whatnot. Em became the only connection to America I had during that dark period, so I can never forget that. My fellow underdog won and I honored him for it.
5) 50 Cent - Get Rich or Die Tryin was the hardest CD when I came back to America. This nigga blew up and everyone was blasting Wanksta when I was in 11th-12th grade. Although I couldn't relate at the time to the notion of a gangsta, there was something about his lyrics and perspective I could vibe to, and I respected him for coming up in the world from where he had initially started, It made me feel like if I tried hard enough, I could attain some kind of satisfaction in my own life and potential accomplishments.
6) Radiohead - This is where the pendulum shifts, as my music tastes started to vary; I was first, like everyone else, exposed to them by Channel 22 (back then), The BOX ( Music television YOU control lolololol). I felt like the lyrics of Creep related to me, but never explored their music until I came Back from Jamaica...and wow. Pablo Honey, Hail to the Thief, In Rainbows, etc were amazing. The vast array of emotions demonstrated to me that I could feel music OUTSIDE of hip-hop.
7) Varied Bands - This is a mishmash because it spans time; Thrice, Yellowcard, Klaxtons, The Arctic Monkeys, Green Day, Blink 182, Muse, Coldplay, Tool, Alice in Chains, My Chemical Romance, Slayer, Opeth, Metalica, The Buzzcocks, Audioslave, Slipknot, System of a Down, Linkin Park, The Foo Fighters, Daft Punk, Justice, Kavinsky, Giraffage...the list goes on. While I cannot list albums, I remember moments that these people's music were a part of, good and bad, and cannot forget them.
8) Most Def and Talib Kwali (Blackstar)- RETURN TO HIPHOP! My God how I was blown away by these two. I haven't heard thought provoking lyrics in years, and by the time I picked these guys up I was already in my 20's, listening with almost fresh ears, as I had a different outlook on life. I think this was when I really started to question how I lived, how I was treated by people, and for what reasons various issues occurred. Maybe my first awareness of the notion that an invisible hand shapes aspects of my life. W.E.B. DuBois' veil was real after-all.
8) MF DOOM - Yoooooooooooooooo. Bruh, where do I begin? When I first heard this guy, it was by accident, I ran into the Album Madvillian, then MMM...FOOD, Monster Island Czars, etc. I WILL ALWAYS BE A MF DOOM FAN. His bars were unorthodox af and his special herbs instrumentals were dope too. His features were crazy, the shit he did with Ghostface is among some of my favorite, And M.I.C. were a dope collective of rappers. I think listening to him was the first time I had a notion of like, wow, being a rapper would be cool. This nigga personified cool to me for some odd reason. This nigga was like my hero.
9) Outkast - When I was younger I heard the single Ms. Jackson as everyone else did...and LOVED it. They were dope to listen to, but in honesty I never comprehended as a youth what was being said frfr until I was in my mid twenties when I picked up ATLiens and Aquemeni...and these bars...Jesus. As a nigga that was paying child support, with a child on the way, living at the time in Upper Hill District in Pittsburgh struggling to pay bills, Big Boy was like Shaft to me, but Andre 3000 was like fuckin' Nostradamus. The odd combination over the varied cuts really made me feel like I wasn't such a social outcast as I thought, as problems I faced I realized affected not only me, but the black community as a whole. Andre's perspective on the world was like my inner thoughts being sorted, organized, and artistically fed back to me in a way that changed the way I moved as a person. To this day I honor those two albums. Yes the duo made others, but none that affected me as much as these two.
10) B.I.G. - I was late af to Big, even though as a kid we all knew and heard Notorious Thugs, Juicy, Been Around the World, etc., it wasn't until I heard them later and even The What ft. Method Man that I was fascinated...like this nigga was just freestylin'? Nah fam you lyin', hahahah! Def deserved the acclaim he had.
11) Lil Wayne - Bruh, this is fuckin up the timeline sorta, but I gotta flashback to when I saw this nigga in a vid of him in New Orleans right before Tha Carter? He resurfaced with dreads and this nigga's flow was insane...like wtf? Everything he was spittin was beast to me because he wasn't trynna be super lyrical, but off the head his shit was fire to listen to. Bran New is still on of those songs I like going dumb to, Carter 2 and 3 are classics, and he flamed the internet with all them crazy ass mixtapes he came out with. He HAS to be mentioned because that was the first time I identified a rapper with style; the exuberant lifestyle, the women, the cars...like woah. I'm not gonna front, I kinda wanted that life too, Wayne made that shit look fire to me.
12) Mob Deep - This is also late, but haunting af. I had Shook Ones pt. 2 memorized, the chords shook me. To this day that beat with those bars are tough af. Up North Trip was another song I really liked, beat and bar scheme wise, because it presented a reality aside from my own...until I ended up in the projects again, lol. I have a deep respect for these niggas man.
13) Whiz Kalifah - Yo, shut-up for a second, cause ya mind is screaming and I sense the shit cuz. This nigga is the VERY REASON I STARTED RAPPING. This is long btw. When I heard Never Been I was like WHOLUP...did this nigga sample Chrono Trigger? Got Dayum' that's fire. His vibe just synced up with mine; like I memorized this vid of him when he was in a studio rappin from a phone like, "Life's good, so I'm feelin' straight, call me out o' town shawty every week a different state" bruh that shit was swag to me hahahahah.
I was at an awkward crossroads; on one hand, I got a scholarship to UPitt via the Army, but I blew out my knee and my future was uncertain. The BC at the time caught wind of me getting a D in a class that I had right after my morning pt and ROTC class ( I was sore and all busted up going into an Art class with hippy like people in ACUs...setup for failure), and basically told me that I would have to pick between being an Army officer or an Architect ( I was going to school for Architectural Studies with hopes of going to grad school). He said, while there with a Major (My ROTC instructor that I really looked up to), AND I QUOTE, "I don't care what you choose to do in life. You seem like a piece of driftwood, you just kind of float without thinking about set goals. I don't care what you wanna do in your life, hell, you could even be a rapper for all I care, as long as you are happy". This shit hurt tf outta me, because I was really tryin; I lost 60 lbs, could do over 50 consecutive pullups, had a 276 pt score, but I was busting my ass doing all nighters to get work done, I was torn between the information officers tried to feed me vs. what actual soldiers in my reserve unit would tell me...just conflicted, fucked up physically all the time, and hurt that this nigga would even say some borderline bigoted shit like that to me, and the guy I thought I would end up like said nothing in his presence to defend my effort. For Christ's sake, I came to Pittsburgh homeless at the time and had to scrap to even graduate Community College and get into Pitt...just to loose it all.
I was doing landmark security for a Steelers/Jets game because even though I lost my scholarship I was still in ROTC, and we were loosin' when in the 4th quarter Black and Yellow came on. We still lost, but the energy in the stadium INSTANTLY changed. I had no fuckin' clue music had this kind of power over people, and was in awe as the crowd went wild...I was like wtf am I experiencing? I went home after my duties were performed, perplexed af...was rap for something more than coolin an vibing to? As I rolled up this mutumbo finger sized blunt of reg I had (ugh) copped cuz, fuck life, this thought started to haunt me...could anyone attain this kind of ability? Is rap that hard? Is being a rapper such a taboo thing? And as I was rollin, I had MF Doom's Hoe Cakes beat playing in the background...I remember lighting the blunt, and although disgusting, was effective, because I was like man fuck it, Imma try. I had this headset I jimmy-rigged into a mic on some mcgyver shit and put my two speakers against it and recorded my first rap that way using windows recorder...LOLOLOLOL yoo when I heard it back I was amazed because I was like yo I expected this to come out way more trash than it did...I wish I kept it. It was some elementary bars, nothing exaggerated or made up, but when I had people I knew listen to it, they were like Yo...you don't even sound trash! That's all I needed to hear...I wanted to become a rapper. I made a whole mixtape like that; I thought I was on the road to fame and fortune, and I was geeked af thinking that this would be perfect revenge for loosing my scholarship...I'd become the very thing he said in spiteful jest and overshadow his life and take a dump on his ole muscle head, no neck havin' spoiled West Point grad yet never deployed ass.
14) Gucci Mane - When I got my first whip in the burgh, Jewlery Selection was all I played because it was in the car all the time...I heard him since black tee remix, but couldn't put two and two together till I heard this. I was thuggin every-time I rode through Hill District blastin this shit back and forth through the city, particularly to North Side. Electricity to this day is my shit hahahah!
15) Newer artists - Big Kritt (My Sub, I Got This Here), Yelawolf (Trunk Muzik, Box Chevy 1 & 2), Curren$y (Fin, This Ain't No Mixtape, Pilot Talk I & II, Covert Coupe), Meek Mill (Flamerz I & II), Mic Jenkins (The Waters), Freddie Gibbs (Fuck the World, ESGN), Danny Brown(THE HYBRID, Black & Brown, XXX), Kendrick Lamar (Overly Dedicated, Section 80, GKMC, TPAB), Schoolboy Q(Oxymoron, Habits & Contradictions), Odd Future (The OF Tape 2, Wolf, RUSTY, Dorris), A$AP Rocky (Long Live A$AP), Joey Badass (Big Dusty), Rapsody (Lonely Thoughts, Reflection verse) Action Bronson (Saab Stories, The Symbol, FKDD show, Mr. Wonderful), Flatbush Zombies (Thug Waffle), Childish Gambino (Camp, Sweatpants, couple episodes of Atlanta before I lost the internet...fk.), Chance the Rapper (Acid Rap) - man, music is an amazing thing. These artists gave me cuts that felt refreshing and thought there's no way hip hop is dead. These niggas could do commercial cuts and still chop it up lyrically...shit I heard Kendrick and damn near wanted to just quit like shit he got it lolololol...but I am grateful to these guys, because their music was the soundtrack to my life at it's lowest point...these past couple years have been hard. Frfr, I'm still in the projects...but better off than how I was before; I'm married, I have a job I don't get disrespected at, am raising two out of three of my handsome sons while paying child support on time again for my oldest, and I have my sanity intact again. But these niggas were the backdrop for allot of things in my life when things were darker...when I was exposed to not so savory situations and loosing my sanity (literally)...and when I reflect, it was like I was living a movie fr.
I haven't heard anything new in awhile other than these guys, but I kinda wanna freeze for a min while I work on music again. I heard that if you listen to new stuff, you'll be too influenced by what you last heard to be of any stand out notion, so it's nothin' personal. I hear clips of Future, Lil Uzi Vert, Drake, etc. all through Northview from time to time, particularly summer. It's all fire to me. I have a deep respect for artists and the effects they have on people.
Aaaaaannnddd...this mind vomit just turned into a novel, hahah. My bad. I'm finna' stop now. Ain't nobody readin' this shit anyway cuz hahahah.