I can remember reciting lyrics to “Nuthin but a ‘G’ thang” at an early age; much too young to have any idea what Snoop and Dre were rapping about. I can remember hearing “Juicy” being played at summertime barbecues in the mid-90s. I can remember walking into the Sam Goody store and buying Hard Knock Life Vol. 2. These, amongst a plethora of other like-situations, laid the foundation for my Hip-Hop experience, but it was the written words of a young writer from Detroit that truly bounded and Hip-Hop together forever.
I was too young to accurately understand the harsh realities of this world as eloquently told by the likes of Tupac and Biggie; however reading about their lives, all the little accents which set them apart from the rest of us, was awe-inspiring. I had tried to watch mainstream writers talk about Hip-Hop, but the voice in their writing always came off as distant and out-of-touch. Tossing a random lyric into a paragraph as a space filler always seemed to cliché, too easy.
Her name is dream hampton (who types her name in lower case paying homage to bell hooks, an early influence who also did the same) and to this day, I owe her for directly inspiring the voice in my own writing. The passion and honesty in her earlier works from album reviews of early Jay-Z to detailed descriptions of Snoop Dogg (I refuse to call him Snoop Lion) and his crew day-to-day activities have accentuated to me the importance of writing ones own rules, allowing ones own thoughts and words to dictate the landscape of a column. The voice in her writing seemed to trump everything else and gave her words not only personality, but valid reasons to be placed in publications abroad.
And by the way, this was all before she lent Jay-Z a hand in the completion of his book, Decoded.
The humility in her work has always been a point of reference as her emotions, and passion for the genre reign supreme, which is a tough job when writing about the braggadocio-esque nature of Hip-Hop. Never one to shy away from her truth, her opinion on the culture we all have come to love is one many look to in hopes of clarifying Hip-Hop’s often ambiguous nature.
For all her accolades, all her poignant columns, she is indeed a writer and as such she, as writers do, voiced an opinion on a controversial issue. A little over a week ago, she tweeted, “Nas’ “Nigger” album was largely written by Stic of dead prez and Jay Electronica @jusaire” – @dreamhampton
For about thirty seconds, I sat at my desk and tried to decipher what this meant, not only to understand it for myself, but for music as a whole. Such a claim (which would eventually be “backed up” in rather indistinct ways) would call me to question the career of one of Hip-Hop’s elite. I was stunned.
But as I snapped back to life, I realized “ghostwriting” has many forms, from actually sitting down and writing for someone else to simply being in the studio trading ideas. From Stevie Wonder lending a hand to Marvin Gaye to Jay-Z writing verses for Dr. Dre, ghostwriting has played a role in the music of some our our favorite artists.
I breathed a sigh of relief.
She was then attacked via social networks and by a variety of internet thugs for voicing a warranted opinion with evidence backed up by different sources. Was blowing up Nasir’s spot unwarranted? Perhaps, but that’s what writers do. We develop ideas, discover a way to utilize these aforementioned ideas and spread our thoughts, emotions and ideas with people.
A simple 140 character tweet by someone who has a valid opinion, in a blogosphere filled with so many simply out for fame and fortune, caused all this discussion. People are enraged about dream’s tweet, but don’t care about Todd Akin’s comments on “legitimate rape” or Chavis Carter “suicide” while in the back of a police car. It is safe to say writers, especially those so cut from similar cloths as artists, have the ability to warrant discussion and thought just as dope 16-bar verses do. The introspective nature of writing parallels Hip-Hop, giving fans a close and necessary look into the culture.