My connection to Hip-Hop has always been a tragic one. The genre that I profess my love and loyalty to was unintentionally introduced to me by my late father. With no will left in place, I inherited an invaluable heirloom from the man who was killed days after my second birthday — the gift of music. Stacks of dusty records and cassette tapes vacated the closet in our crowded apartment building. I combed through the plastic crates brandished with his name to gain a better sense of a man I barely remembered. I found letters addressed to my mother enclosed with old photographs that revealed his fascination for gold chains and Kangol hats. Through music, I discovered pieces of my father that I would grow to protect and nurture. I imagined him scratching and mixing the records in a harmonious fashion as he schooled me on the significance of every record he purchased. 

Admiring his collection, I anxiously blew the dust off the pile labeled Friday Night Hip-Hop. Placing the needle on the vinyl, I jumped at the sound of the frequency and vibrations. The sweet yet gritty sounds of A Tribe Called QuestBig Daddy KaneCPO and the artists that followed the rap alphabet lit a fire in me that refuses to go out. Enamoured by Biz's boom and the effortless cool Slick Rick exudes, I was always equipped with pen and paper in hand. Lyrics were furiously written down in an effort to memorize every bar, every hook and every word.

My curriculum extended past school hours in an effort to mimic the distinctive, ostentatious flows and match the pain and fury heard on wax. I eventually graduated to the Boombox and was comforted by the sounds of my father's voice on old mixes that highlighted his evenings as a DJ. Endless feelings of loss and heartache were alleviated whenever I listened to his playlists. The companionship that I so desperately desired from my father was perfectly encapsulated in each antique he left behind. 

From vinyl records to compact discs, my love for the art form grew without fail. Days and nights spent getting acquainted with Tony’s Friday collection blossomed into my own compilation. Years later I added Lil' Kim, Missy Elliot and countless others to the repertoire in a quest to maximize my knowledge and understanding of self. As a result I uncovered the various ways in which these women crafted their own narratives in a male dominated genre. 

I clamoured to their lyrics, which celebrate womanhood unapologetically and boasted about the wonders of my femininity. Disrupting the status quo and notions of patriarchy and misogyny, these women reimagined the numerous ways individuals look at sexuality and respectability, which only heightened my intrigue. Although my introduction operated strictly through a masculine lens, I appreciated my newfound understanding on all the facets that comprise of the culture I love. The outspoken voice I carry today wouldn't be here if the Queen's, MC's and Shanté's hadn't laid the foundation down for me. 

Despite my exploration into the genre beginning with the unsettling feelings surrounding my father's death, Hip-Hop continues to pay homage to his memory in more ways than an obituary ever could. With every play I unintentionally celebrate his legacy. Thanks to Hip-Hop, I forged an undying, everlasting connection with my father that speaks to me from the depths of his grave.