I was standing in line at a Filipino fast-food restaurant. In front of me was a young couple, perhaps slightly younger than I. She was Filipina and he was black. Okay, so far, I could relate.
She was asking him what he wanted from the menu. To show that he was familiar with the food (more so to everyone else), he asked a clarifying question if the entrée was fried or boiled. Because, clearly, he knew the difference and he had a preference.
I don’t know what it is about men when it’s time to order food. They seem to think it’s their cue to put on a show. It doesn’t matter if it’s the drive-thru or a restaurant. It’s like the little hamster took out his testosterone bullhorn and, in military shout, set off the performance genes, saying, “Go! Go! Go!”
Mr. Familiar starts pointing at things in the restaurant, as if to physically assert that he knew what that was and what this was. Okay, dude, we get it. You had it before. Look, WE don’t even know what’s in it, all right? We just eat the shit coz we grew up on it. Now it’s a staple.
I think the most impressive moment was when he start throwin’ phrases in Tagalog, turning to his girlfriend, revealing, “Aww, pstkk, hindi naman krispee.” At that point, yea, I was impressed. I wanted to pat dude on the back and say, “You even speak it! Biggups on blending.”
I stared a little longer at her blonde highlights and shoulder tattoo and lace-back tank top. And I realized, I turned out to be the same type of girls I talked about in high school. I didn’t understand why they got green contacts, dyed their hair and drove loud cars. I used to think they were fake, pretentious and unsure of their identity.
Like I had to wave a reminder at them, “Hellooo! We’re BROWN!”
I realized it isn’t uncertainty of identity. Those girls were comfortable. If you’ve been here long enough, you start to feel okay to change. A little color here. A little skin there. Piercing. Tattoo. You start to feel at home. You start experimenting with things and situations that you wouldn’t normally have back home. Or it’s because we’re NOT home that we take advantage of these personal freedoms.
But I can’t help but take inventory of my highlighted hair, my Islander daughter, my full legal name on my resident card, my credit score, my Starbucks coffee and ask, “Is this really who I am?”
Then I see my Bible, my notebooks, my blueprints for business, my poetry, my sandals and small rice cooker. Yes.
Yes, it is.
Because it’s a living picture of artists taking the risk and using what they know is their gift from God. Rap, in essence, is storytelling and the honor code of rap is that you can only rap about something that you know about. The Gospel can’t be faked (well, shouldn’t be).
Hip-hop, as a movement at the infancy of its mainstreaming, was(is) also about liberation and pulling back the veil with honesty.
As an artist who is still coming to terms with my own gifts, it’s been a helpful phenomenon to witness. These guys are mutants in their own element, tasked with bringing the Truth in a genre engorged with ruthless materialism. Psalm 2:1
Hip-hop and it’s instructions fed my womanhood with lies and misconceptions about relationships. It sent a message about my value and identity as a woman of color living in the city.
But let’s call it what it is: sin.
I don’t shirk my responsibility for my choices in my teenage years and young adulthood, but I believe that I am not alone in seeing how the repetitive messages from saddened and vain rap lyrics made a deeper impression on my soul than I realized. Proverbs 23:1-4
Now, I feel blessed that the Lord has given me a new love to enjoy and explore from music that bumps the blessin’s that I know to be true and real, just as the pavement and work week that I face. I don’t need to compartmentalize a portion of my musical identity from the precious, vibrant life that I have in Christ. Colossians 1:17
Thank you to the artists, sound and music engineers and crews that are behind the redemptive movement of our sound culture. I put my earbuds on and now I can be relieved. Romans 12:1-2