one time for your mind
I never understood the power of words until I was 14.
It was '94, and as I'd do every Saturday night, I was getting my blank tape ready to record the World Famous Wake Up Show. I loved listening to that show. Growing up in a fairly convseravitave, South Central household that subscribed to church on Sundays, the Lakers, and Chaka Khan (my mother's favorite), hip hop music was only sampled in small parts, usually when my parents weren't home and I was running behind my older brother and his friends. Listening to the Wake Up Show-- bedroom door closed, lights off, headphones on--I rocked with the best of them.
As soon as the intro blared through my headphones, I was open, hoping to hear something new, something dope, and something that spoke to me, like Dre's G-funk just couldn't. I wanted to be taken out of LA and exposed to something other than drive-bys and jerri-curls. Then it happened.
Tune it up it's the corrupt novelist, Nas
Involved in this liveness radio waves
Slaves thrive inside of this
Wake Up Show flow, hip-hop's alarm clock, the bomb spot
Mellow with ganja, that makes my eyes turn yellow
What? WHAT was that? I couldn't wait for the show to be over so I could stop my tape and rewind. Now, this wasn't the first time I heard Nas. I heard the Main Source joint, I'd seen Zebrahead and heard "Halftime," but up until then, Nas only appeared in spaced out pieces. But hearing his voice--smoke-filled and grimey--on a weekly basis made me crave more.
Enter, "Ilmatic," the single most influential album/piece of art in my entire life.
Beginning high school was such a tumultuous time. My parents had just split for the last time, my mom scrapped up enough change to move us to an apartment in an upper-middle class neighborhood, and I was entering yet another private school where I'd feel out of place. My whole world seemed to change in an instant. After hearing Nas every week on the Wake Up Show, I knew I had to buy his album. I bought it, hid the cover deep in my drawer, and proceeded to listen to "Illmatic" constantly. My yellow, Sony brick walkman was always buzzin & glued to my ears. I found myself writing "The World Is Yours" on everything--lockers, notebooks, desks. Through this album I fell in love with language and the power of telling one's story. My story.
I found the courage to document my world and the thoughts that formed in my head. Soon writing rhymes turned into writing poems. And dreaming of becoming a pediatrician gave way to wanting to be a writer. "Illmatic" came into my life and switched my whole shit up.
Today as I sit to write another letter to my beloved, I am once again reminded of the magnificent power of words. I am aware that I must not only mean what I say, but I must be clear in what I write, because words remain. They live on and leave indelible etchings in our memory. Amazingly, these letters fill the gaps and the spaces between our fingers. They stand in place of a hug, a knowing look, and a well-placed kiss. Words sustain. They have the power to inspire or the power to destroy.
And for that I am so thankful
Related Tags: music, nas, hip hop, books, writing, poetry