It’s a damn good thing that Dusty Melo and Marmalade’s Ma’s and Pa’s didn’t buy into Tipper Gore’s 1985 explicit lyrics “protectionist” syndication. Instead, they decided to let their young boys bounce around the living room to Gangsta rap.
That image, although under the microscope probably a little different, could very well be a description of my own memories growing up with rap and hip-hop, and surely countless other kids of Canadian middle class families who blare what prof. Tricia Rose has called “Black Noise” : “Doggystyle was a favorite/ even though Mom and Dad probably just hated me for playin’ it/ sayin’ shit like/G’s Up Hoes down/ and beeotch/we would watch Rap City so Loud.”
Even though Ma and Pa probably hated them for it, for whatever reasons, they decided to let their beat drunk kids decide for themselves.
Before you go questioning their parenting skills (though if you’re reading this, you probably already know they are on the mark), check out the second release from Pigeon Hole‘s 2010 album Age Like Astronauts, “Looptape,” which hints the “classic” rappers they idolize(d) had a few more lessons to teach these young apprentices than just swear words and sex positions. As they “grew up on the classics/the Chronics/Stillmatics” and read The Source beneath the Biggie Smalls and Pharoahe Monch posters on their wall, PH absorbed a thing or two about the raw stories that lay at the heart of hip-hop; the stories that lay below the riled out theatrics and oft misunderstood violent imagery of legends like Wu-Tang.
And Wu -Tang clearly played a seminal role in their rap education, as PH, Moka Only and Itchy Ron (Sweatshop Union) seamlessly work in well known references like “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” and “Can It Be All So Simple;” the latter in which Raekwon and Ghostface warn listeners not to get it twisted: rap is a way to overcome hardships of New York City, not to glorify them. It’s taken nearly twenty years, but rap music has done just that for many clever hip-hop entrepreneurs –Jay-Z most notably, who adorns the cover of Forbes this month–who have blown up from the pocket change of young kids like Colin McCue and Lee Napthine.
Now that they’re all grown up and spinning their own take on hip-hop–clever and pun-laden rhymes over lax sample-based breaks and hooks– they have anything but forgotten the greats that gave them this music in the first place: “when Nas wrote ‘The World is Yours,’ it was/still is/I just see ya more.”
“Can It Be So Simple?” PH ask, as they reflect on how beats, rhymes, and records have brought two seemingly different cultures together. If we all listened openly, then yes, it might be so simple. If this “room-for-everyone” mentality isn’t a proudly Canadian one, I don’t know what is.