Hip-Hop Heroes: Humble Beginnings

My name is Alex Castillo. In future weeks, I’ll be reviewing some of my favorite classic hip hop tunes. This week, I’ll be introducing my love for hip hop and how it all started back in my hometown: New York City.

Sitting on lawn chairs by a fire hydrant. Neighborhood kids dancing away the problems they don’t know they have yet. And a boom box. Blasting sounds and lyrics that seem to narrate your life.

“Intake light tokes, tote iron/Was told in shootouts, stay low and keep firin’.”

The words grab you and don’t let you go. They play with your mind, flirt with your soul.

Sitting in front of stoops on hot New York City summer days, the boom bap entered my brain and left in a haze. That feeling made me fall in love with hip hop. This form of music narrated the lives of the people around me and, sometimes, my own.

“I’m taking one for the team, like Martin Luther King, taking one for a dream.”

While the climate of my neighborhood was unstable, hip hop was a refuge.

Hearing an MC rapping over chopped-up sounds from “white people music” felt the same as when Picasso saw his first Cezanne.

It made sense.

“Bear witness as I exercise my exorcism/

The evil that lurks within the sin, the terrorism.” It was raw and uncensored, just like the place where I lived. Hip hop was gritty, unadulterated art.