by Kayla Pearson
I’ve always had an appreciation for detail. The more details, the better. That explains why in Kindergarten I would always be called on last during story time, because as my teacher told my mother: my “stories are always the longest.” And they were. If I couldn’t visualize and feel every word being spoken, you’d be hard pressed to keep my attention. Thus, it was only right for me to fall in love with Hip-Hop through a story.
The year was 2009. Christmas came and went, and I planned on spending the remainder of my break glued to one of the most life altering gifts I had ever received: a Philips MP3 Player. Thanks to my brother, Limewire and Bearshare, it was preloaded with more music than I could have asked for. With the press of a button the palm-sized device took my ears through the sounds of artists like Angela Bofill, Minnie Riperton, and Jeffrey Osborne, every single banger involving or produced by Pharrell, and songs by Floetry or my girl Jilly from Philly (Jill Scott). But it was one classic that would change my perspective on music forever.
I would start the song. Stop it. Rewind it. Then play it again, over and over. It was this sequence of actions that allowed my love for “Children’s Story” by Slick Rick to grow with every rhyme.
For winter break's remaining days, I spent hours in my room analyzing every detail of Slick Rick’s twist on a not-so-child-friendly narrative about two kids robbing people. I envisioned the entire story. The boys running around the city. The cops. The train station. The smelly crackhead. The pregnant hostage. It wasn’t until I got older that I really understood what was happening.
“Children’s Story” is a reflection of the hardships Black inner city youth have and continue to battle with, simply to exist. I see these boys in my family. I see these boys in my friends. I see these boys in every Black person trying to function within a system that was never set up for them to win. I see these Boys in every Black person lacking the fundamental necessities and guidance to live a life like their white peers. The lyrics positioned the harsh realities of being young, poor and black in the city over an upbeat tempo that shifts the feeling of the song into a frenzy and pleasure. The two contrasting emotions ultimately produced one legendary song.
With the absence of a hook, a bridge and an unwavering tone, “Children’s Story” remains my childhood nostalgia and the reason I became the Hip-Hop head I am today. In 2018 that song evokes the same exact feeling it did when I first heard it years ago. That alone proves that Hip-Hop is the one element of music that I will never outgrow, forget or disconnect from.