Why I Travel (Part 2): Hip Hop, “White Lightning,” and the Disposable Camera

Photo de mi pana Reeve of the Boston way. Photo de mi pana Reeve of the Boston way.
The cronies rallied in the back of The cronies rallied in the back of "White Lightning" on our way to see Dead Prez perform in Detroit, 2002
Last night in Brooklyn before leaving to South America. Roommate bought a tattoo gun on Ebay. The Wu-Tat ain't nuttin ta fuck wit!!! Last night in Brooklyn before leaving to South America. Roommate bought a tattoo gun on Ebay. The Wu-Tat ain't nuttin ta fuck wit!!!
Photo taken of myself and Chali 2na of Jurassic 5 when I was 16 years old... Photo taken of myself and Chali 2na of Jurassic 5 when I was 16 years old...
The Blastmaster KRS-One never, I repeat, never breaks rhyme in his shows. Legend. The Blastmaster KRS-One never, I repeat, never breaks rhyme in his shows. Legend.
The M-E-T-H-O-D Maaaaaan sparks the lah on stage at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor, Michigan The M-E-T-H-O-D Maaaaaan sparks the lah on stage at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor, Michigan
Redman cold rocks the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor, Michigan Redman cold rocks the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor, Michigan
Ticket stubs that represent 10 years worth of gritty, grimy, hip hop show dedication Ticket stubs that represent 10 years worth of gritty, grimy, hip hop show dedication
More Method. More Street. More Steez. Ticaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal More Method. More Street. More Steez. Ticaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal
Daddy Fat Sacks a.k.a Big Boi of Outkast brings the southernplayalisticcadillacfunky sounds of the ATL to the BK in 2010 Daddy Fat Sacks a.k.a Big Boi of Outkast brings the southernplayalisticcadillacfunky sounds of the ATL to the BK in 2010
Gotcha: portrait of RJD2 of Philly straight murderin' las tornamesas (turntables) Gotcha: portrait of RJD2 of Philly straight murderin' las tornamesas (turntables)
Close up of Common caught at Saint Andrews in Detroit Michigan, 2002 Close up of Common caught at Saint Andrews in Detroit Michigan, 2002
The iron flag flies high at the closing of fat beats in NYC 2010 The iron flag flies high at the closing of fat beats in NYC 2010

 

This is part 2 of my "Why I Travel" series in which I trace the origins of my wanderlust and try to pinpoint exactly where and why I travel on TellittomeWalking.com

Ticket stubs that represent 10 years worth of gritty, grimy, hip hop show dedication

“I speak with criminal slang, that’s just the way that I talk yo, vocabulary spills, I’m ill…” – From “Ebonics” by Big L

When I first discovered Hip-Hop I was in the 6th Grade. The year was 1997 and I was eleven years old. It came to me one fine morning in the form of a music video on MTV (back when MTV actually played music videos, dig.) picked up on the beloved family Zenith.

It was being transmitted from the island of Manhattan in New York City over 600 miles away. The song was called “Triumph” composed by a little known group of MC’s from the outer boroughs of NYC called the Wu-Tang Clan.

This was their second record. This was my first dose of REAL Hip-hop.

It was like nothing I had ever heard before.

Well, before, you know, I was into Criss-Cross, (yes I rocked my pants backwards in their honor) and Coolio (now who didn’t love “Gangsta’s Paradise!?” Better yet, who didn’t love Weird Al Yankovic’s cover of Gangsta’s Paradise “Amish Paradise!?”) And let’s not forget about the Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff.

But the Wu-Tang Clan was different. It was gritty, dirty, raw, from the underground, and cold, cold as the coldest winter in Michigan, and it hit you in the face – ¡BAM! – like a spiked bat.

This is part 2 of my "Why I Travel" series in which I trace the origins of my wanderlust and try to pinpoint exactly where and why I travel on TellittomeWalking.com

More Method. More Street. More Steez. Ticaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal

And it had so many members too, each with multiple identities and wild styles, telling stories of the their lives, of the urban New York City reality in which they were raised, one far different from my own, and in their own lexicon, their own linguistic and emotional grammar.

It was like a new language to me, an original brand of hip-hop, an original sound concocted with elements from Islamic philosophy, chess, mafia lore, Kung Fu flicks, and comic books.

I couldn’t even understand at first (kind of like Spanish). I could barely understand anything they were saying or rapping or singing, but I was drawn to it, the cryptic vocabulary, the rhythms and rhymes, the crunchiness of the beats that made my eyes blink every time the snare hit, the grittiness, and the energy.

I found love. There was no doubt about it. Not to mention I just thought it all sounded so cool…dope, true, fresh-2-def, fly, sick, sly, live, righteous, ill.

This is part 2 of my "Why I Travel" series in which I trace the origins of my wanderlust and try to pinpoint exactly where and why I travel on TellittomeWalking.com

The iron flag flies high at the closing of fat beats in NYC 2010

And little did I know then, but writing about it now — this discovery would go on to change my life in 3 very important ways:

First, I became what I like to call a “hip hop head.” And then I became a hip-hop head with a camera in one hand and the keys to a white 1991 plymouth voyager minivan in the other.

This is part 2 of my "Why I Travel" series in which I trace the origins of my wanderlust and try to pinpoint exactly where and why I travel on TellittomeWalking.com

Photo taken of myself and Chali 2na of Jurassic 5 when I was 16 years old…

What I mean is that what started with the Wu-Clan sent me on a trajectory all over the world, sonically speaking, in search of new and different varieties of this music called hip-hop, starting in the boroughs of NYC.

I discovered artists like Nas, Biggie Smalls, Mos Def and Talib Kweli, Tribe Called Quest, Eric B and Rakim and the Blastmaster KRS-One, to name only just a few.

One coast would lead me to the next.

There I discovered the Oakland California sound, the gangsta-gangsta sound, the g-funk era sound, they hyphy sound– records of artists like 2 pac, Dr. Dre, N.W.A, Snoop and Nate Dogg, Warren G, E-40, to name just a few more.

But this wasn’t before I went down to Georgia to find the southernplayalisticcadillacfunkyflow of Mr. Andre3000 and Big Boi of Outkast, and the high pitched soulful harmonies and hooks from Cee-Lo Green, or poems flowed over beats by Big Rube, among just a few more of the greats.

This is part 2 of my "Why I Travel" series in which I trace the origins of my wanderlust and try to pinpoint exactly why I travel on TellittomeWalking.com

Daddy Fat Sacks a.k.a Big Boi of Outkast brings the southernplayalisticcadillacfunky sounds of the ATL to the BK in 2010

I went from this emcee to that emcee, from this deejay to that one, from one wild style to another.

And over the years, I consumed it all.

I developed an acute ear for this mysterious street code rhymed over beats and breaks, and I absorbed and incorporated each and every new word I could find of this ever changing and highly fluid dialect of hip hop music into my very own lexicon, my own speech patterns, my own forms of verbal expression.

Aside from the language, what I found most compelling in hip hop music was the energy. It was a counter-culture in which I found an immense energy — a life force of emcee’s, graffiti writers, deejays, dancers and artists expressing themselves in new ways and in new words and new sounds.

It was all so fascinating. And I wanted to be apart of it. And soon, I quickly became addicted to trying to capture that energy on film at live shows.

This compulsion not only kickstarted a need within me to take photographs, but also gave me the drive to… well… drive!

As in road trip, hit the pavement, kick dust and go, to take off to the far reaches of the Michigan mitten  in White Lightning (a most worthy title for my beloved ’91 voyager) in search of live hip hop shows with all of my best cohorts, cronies, homies, panas, bruvas, friends, and amigos.

This is part 2 of my "Why I Travel" series in which I trace the origins of my wanderlust and try to pinpoint exactly where and why I travel on TellittomeWalking.com

The cronies rallied in the back of “White Lightning” on our way to see Dead Prez perform in Detroit, 2002

You see, with a photograph I found that I could isolate the pulse of my favorite rhythm, my favorite lyric or chorus, a dance move – freeze it – and take it home with me to hang on my wall above my record collection.

A photograph helped me to remember the excitement, that electric feeling running up and down my spine, the sweet pain in my neck from rocking my head too hard to the beat, that unified bounce of the crowd, my shirt full of sweat, a fist in the air – the soul sonic force of 2 turntables and a microphone — with lots, I say, lots of decibel amplification.

And so that’s what we did. We road tripped for hip hop shows and I shot photos.

And before I knew it, I started to shoot street art and graffiti. I started to shoot my friends. I shot them at parties. I shot them skateboarding. I shot them on road trips. I shot my family. I shot my city. I shot mama-nature, I shot myself, I shot, was shooting, a whole lot of photos.

And in this process, photography, the art of making photos, became my own form of expression, a creative way to document my own journey through life, the people I meet, and the things I love.

This is part 2 of my "Why I Travel" series in which I trace the origins of my wanderlust and try to pinpoint exactly where and why I travel on TellittomeWalking.com

Last night in Brooklyn before leaving to South America. Roommate bought a tattoo gun on Ebay. The Wu-Tat ain’t nuttin’ ta f*ck wit!!!

It became a way to discover new places and new things, to look for beauty in the ordinary, to tell stories, and ultimately to remember — to remember those ever fleeting moments and emotions, to try to preserve and make the most of them, to make the most of the very finite time on this earth that day by day seems quicker to pass me by.

Through Hip Hop, I first fell in love with language, the creation and destruction of the ever changing meaning of words.

Through Hip Hop, I got my first taste of traveling, the first taste of freedom that a 16 year old kid has when the keys to a vehicle are in his hands, and one that can fit his whole squadron of friends, with music on blast and the open road before him.

Through Hip Hop I became a photographer and the camera (a.k.a the soul taker) has been by my side ever since…

This is part 2 of my "Why I Travel" series in which I trace the origins of my wanderlust and try to pinpoint exactly where and why I travel on TellittomeWalking.com

Photo by mi pana Reeve of the Boston way taken in Quilatoa, Ecuador 2012

What initially compelled you to travel? To take photos? To pursue your art? Can you place the source?

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Responses to “Why I Travel (Part 2): Hip Hop, “White Lightning,” and the Disposable Camera” Subscribe

  1. Joey Brandell November 7, 2012 at 9:03 am #

    Damn, taking me on a trip down memory lane… so many good times. I miss those days!!

    My man James, still doing you. Great article, keep em coming.

    1/2 of One Para, Joey “Bananas”

    • admin November 7, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

      jajaja, así es, my mellow! Good looks on checking out the article. Straight up memory lane on blast. Mad good times. The illest of times. Glad you enjoyed it, pana. Thanks for the read. DJME, the other half of One Para. And you know this, maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Hip Hop for Spanish Language Learners EXPLAINED: Calle, Cuerpo y Patrimonio en Bogotá, Colombia | TellittomeWalking.com: Learn Spanish⎮Travel⎮ Explore New Worlds - December 4, 2012

    […] 2, 2012 Why I Travel (Part 2): Hip Hop, White Lightning, and The Soul Taker inspiration 2 […]

Dímelo Caminando 005: Exploring the Roots of Colombia’s National Sport: ¡El TEJO!

Turmequé Indigenous Roots Colombia's National Sport - El Tejo - Dímelo Caminando Spanish Language Learning Podcast

Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadWelcome back mis queridos oyentes new and old to Dímelo Caminando! I’m your host, […]

Dímelo Caminando 004: VIAJAR ES REGRESAR – TO TRAVEL IS TO RETURN

Learn Colombia Spanish Slang Audio podcast Culture Latin America Travel Dímelo Caminando

Podcast: Play in new window | Download VIAJAR ES REGRESAR By Gabriel García Márquez (translated by me, Jamie Killen) Music […]

TITMW.com Presents…The Sounds and Rhythms of Colombia Mixtape Vol. III

Dímelo Caminando - TellittomeWalking.com - Learn Spanish - Travel Latin America - Explore New Worlds

Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadHere you have yet another installment of our mixtape series dedicated to the sounds […]

Dímelo Caminando Podcast Update: Todavía Vamos Por Buen Camino – Just A Little Slower Than Expected – Y Un Favorcito…

Tarjeta Postal Learn Latin America Spanish Podcast Dímelo Caminando

  Queridos amigos y amigas de El Dímelo Caminando Podcast, ¡¿Cómo me les va?! Espero todo chévere. Les vuelvo a […]

Foto del Día: En Contra de El Cristóbal Colón – Perspectives from Ecuadorian Street Art

Latin America Travel Photography by Jamie Killen: Anti-Christopher Columbus Graffiti Quito Ecuador

  My first introduction to the great Italian Sea Captain, Christopher Columbus (a.k.a Cristóbal Colón), began with the following poem, […]

Foto del Día: Behold the Massive “Calavera” of the Great “Ballena Jorobada!!!” (Isla de Gorgona)

Latin America Travel Photography by Jamie Killen: Humback Whale Skull Isla de Gorgona

  Humpback whale facts (Ballena Jorobada) en español!!! Alimentación: Peces pequeños y principalmente Krill Peso: 40 Toneladas Longitud:  Hasta 18 […]

Web Statistics