All I Really Need to Know I Learned From Hip-Hop

With the Cubs on a scheduled off day, I wanted to take a break from our normal fare to delve into another passion of mine. The idea came to me as I was making the round-trip drive from Indy to St. Louis and listening to XM channel 46, xL Backspin, which is nothing but old-school hip-hop.

I pride myself on having a pretty good memory, but it was amazing how quickly I found myself recalling lyrics to songs that I hadn’t heard in years. Well, except for some of the backwards lines in Shimmy, Shimmy Ya. So there I was, cruising down I-70 and dictating texts back to myself so I’d know what I wanted to write.

As a white kid growing up in rural Northwest Indiana, I didn’t exactly have a great deal of firsthand exposure to urban culture. I mean, other than driving through it on the way to Chicago, my only real childhood knowledge of Gary came from a song in The Music Man. That’s what you call some hardcore thug life, son.

But despite having zero connection to what the songs were saying, I absolutely fell in love with the “gangsta rap” craze that began in the early 90’s. Since I covered all of that in a bit more detail when I tied Cubs players to members of the Wu-Tang Clan a few months back, I won’t rehash it here.

I do, however, want to share a clip of the RZA’s appearance on a local sports talk radio show before I get further into my own work. Much of the conversation is a plug for The Man With the Iron Fists 2, which I’m considering reviewing for this site later, but they do get into the proliferation of rap music among the masses.

Remember that “Everything I really need to know I learned in kindergarten” poster? Along with the music, that was my loose template for this post. Keep in mind that it’s all a bit whimsical, as some of stuff below will seem a bit unsavory. In other words, there are some views espoused by the music that I don’t subscribe to; in those cases, I’m exposing the warts as well.

  • You can’t trust a big butt and a smile.
  • It’s like this and like that and like this and uh.
  • The rhythm is the bass and the bass is the treble.
  • An around the way girl needs to have at least two pairs of bamboo earrings.
  • Wearing Groucho Marx glasses with a big gold nose is an excellent disguise.
  • You might die on Death Row, but at least you’ll never have to worry about having your producer all up in the video.
  • If you want to make it as a white rapper, you either need tremendous lyrical skills or a tremendously bad hairdo.
  • It was actually Shock G who put the satin on your panties.
  • It’s best to carry cash on the 1st and 15th, since those are the primary days on which the dope man clocks much dollars.
  • Don’t shoot either dice or hoops with a guy who’s having a good day. You might want to avoid dominoes too.
  • Punks jump up to get beat down.
  • You can still grill that old good welfare cheeses even if you’ve got bills.
  • Substituting a number for one or more letters in either your given or stage name is acceptable, even encouraged.
  • Replacing words makes for a far better radio edit than simply muting them.
  • Rappers shouldn’t act and actors shouldn’t rap.
  • Whether it’s a clock on a chain or a stupid hat, if you rock it with enough confidence it will play.
  • When it’s time to rock a funky jam, I’m the man.
  • Young and Li’l are perfectly acceptable adjectives to use in conjunction with your name.
  • Sometimes it’s better to have a schtick than to have skill.
  • Record label execs are out to get you.
  • If your debut was highly acclaimed, your chances of having a decent follow-up decrease by approximately eleventy billion percent.
  • Dr. Dre taught you to smoke trees and also gave you a tape full of dope beats to bump when you stroll through in your hood.
  • Cash rules everything around me.
  • Rampant homophobia and misogyny are fine as long as they’re accompanied by a good beat.
  • Everything’s better with an old-school R&B sample looping in the background
  • Even the most critically acclaimed work needs a club banger for the masses.
  • It’s like that and like this and like that and uh.
  • Lots of bad things may happen, but that’s the breaks.
  • Selling drugs is like a highly-paid internship for future stardom.
  • Don’t believe her when she says he’s just a friend.
  • If someone’s been there for years, don’t call it a comeback.
  • Sometimes you just have to get the rage out on wax…or in print
  • It takes two, both to make a thing go right and to make it out of sight.
  • Showing emotion and giving thanks to those who got where you are is a good thing.
  • 911 is a joke in your town; in fact, you can trust it.
  • If your mind is playing tricks on you, you might want to avoid heading out on Halloween.
  • Don’t push a man who’s close to the edge.
  • Parents just don’t understand
  • Finding love is one thing, knowing what do from that point on is the hard part.
  • If your only success came from a one- or two-hit wonder, you might want to think twice about going solo.
  • It’s acceptable to publicly challenge someone to a game of horseshoes.
  • Every dark tunnel has a lighter hope, so don’t hang yourself with a celibate rope.
  • Nothin’ make a man feel better than a woman.
  • Never put funky cold medina in your dog’s water bowl.
  • If it doesn’t work one time (one time), try two times (two times).
  • When you’re heading out in precipitation, it’s best to wear a raincoat; you don’t want to go out like Willy Lump Lump.
  • It’s almost impossible to make a dollar out of 15 cents.
  • When the ship goes down, you better be ready.
  • I can’t live without my radio
  • Fight the power.

Inevitably, there are countless other lessons I’ve learned and forgotten along the way, or those that I practice without even knowing I picked them up from one or another of my musical influences. Many of the items above were quickly tossed aside as I grew and realized their deep flaws, but some are actually pretty solid.

How about you; anything you’d add to this list? The comments section is there for a reason, so please don’t hesitate to use it.


Back to top button