One of the things that makes hip-hop so special is the knowledge imparted to us in rhymes and lyrics, with most of the teachings of the musical genre in the hands of the listener. In “Facts Not Fiction,” rapper E-40 briefed us on black achievements in science and business. On “Brenda’s Got A Baby,” Tupac Shakur opened up about the plight of teenage mothers. And, in “Ten Crack Commandments,” Notorious BIG gave people the drug trafficking blueprint, proving that not all the lessons taught are positive.
One of the most interesting themes in rap is its take on fatherhood. In 1991, Ed OG and Da Bulldogs of Boston released “Be A Father to Your Child”, a jazz-tinged ditty promoting responsible parenthood – with its accompanying video receiving high rotation. In 1994, hoop star-turned-rapper Shaquille O’Neal released “Biological Didn’t Bother,” a powerful piece highlighting the profound impact her stepfather had in her life.
Author Juan Vidal Rap dad covered the ways rappers are influenced by absent father figures. In it, Vidal believed that the counterculture had taken the place of a father he could no longer touch. “As things like school and church could not reach me, I was trained outside organized institutions,” he wrote. “What attracted me were these movements that seemed to me not only redeeming, but also liberating. They were almost all I needed.
In the tome Be the father of your child: real talks from black men about family, love and fatherhood, edited by April R. Silver — an anthology of black fathers who were inspired by hip-hop, including such notables as the cultural writer Jelani cobb, activist and thought leader Kevin Powell, and conscious rapper Talib Kweli — Kweli noted that hip-hop music provided his generation with a code that allowed them to correct some of the mistakes of their predecessors. “My personal experience tells me that the statistics lie about how black fathers participate in the lives of their children,” the rapper said. “One of my best friends told me he didn’t know his dad, so his morals and values were learned from hip-hop records. It was direct first person testimony and it is very true. Hip-hop is male dominated and teaches you how to appear like a man.”
Given the social and political pressures in today’s world of broken systems, the struggle to “appear” as a man is constant. At the same time how we define manhood itself exchange. Sometimes in the struggle to be the men we want to be, we avoid aspects of ourselves for fear of judgment. Since most are young men from broken homes themselves, it can be difficult to escape the world after reaching a certain level of fame. Kanye West, Will Smith and Drake are prime examples of how difficult it is to deal with this.
The world learned of the existence of Drake’s son, Adonis, along with former French pornstar Sophie Brussaux, through a personal battle between Canadian rap icon and his rival Pusha T. if @champagnepapi was ashamed of his illegitimate heir. In his “Emotionless” rebuttal, the Boy in love certified the artist explained, “I wasn’t hiding my child from the world / I was hiding the world from my child / To empty souls that wake up and watch them debate / Until you look at your seed you can never understandAfter the media flurry subsided, we were able to snap photos of the Toronto melodist and his young offspring floating through the social media landscape. With paparazzi hungry for images that could go viral, it’s legitimate that so many famous black men are keeping their offspring as far out of the limelight as possible.
Rapper J Cole, who is the father of two boys with his wife and college sweetheart Melissa Heholt, has been much better at keeping his family life out of the public eye. Off-season The artist shared that as a father, he “learned the delicate art of balancing parenthood and career.” On “She’s Mine Pt. 2”, a violin and piano playing as a baby softly cries in the background as he sinks, “Remember when you came out of the womb / Tears of joy filled the room / I think you are the reason I fight / I have never done anything so well in my life / Got me thinking. “
Kendrick Lamar, like J Cole, is also good at keeping his kids away from the paparazzi lens. Asked about the conflicting ideas between fatherhood and his art, the hip-hop phenomenon told the New York Times, “One day, I might have a little girl… And she’ll say things or do things that you might not agree with, but it’s reality… Learn to accept it, and not do it. run away, that’s how I want this album to feel.
So perhaps the best lesson we can all learn from these enlightened MCs is to have the best time possible with our children. And, may the beauty of these moments lead our joy.
Adisa Banjoko is an author, curator and journalist based between The Bay Area and London. He also hosts the @BishopChronicles podcast.