Looking for the perfect beat

By Dilson Hernandez


I grew up the fuckin screw up

                Got introduced to the game

                Got a once and fuckin blew up

They never gave a shit about me. At least that’s what I tell myself at times. When you’re in a household where all you feel is the authoritative aura of strict parents cornering your expressiveness into an oblivion, you can’t blame me for thinking that. Not to mention my sister. Geez, where do I even begin with her. If princess never had her way, the whole house would be in flames. And that’s excluding the rubble from the fights me and her spawned. I hear the door slamming. Mami, of course, doesn’t take that shit; she’ll be damned if she doesn’t get the last word. She yells at the top of her angelic voice “Abrema la maldita puerta!” while pounding my sister’s fragile door with a closed fist. I’m at the corner of my bed shaking my head wondering when it’ll stop. My thoughts are jumbled. My brain can’t handle it. Honestly, I don’t want to deal with any more questions cause we all know they won’t be answered in this damned house regardless. But… I must ask… “Where does one find solace?”

I remember the first time I listened to “Gimmie the loot” by Biggie. We just finished playing football. Yet, the atmosphere still reeked of testosterone, all of us stuffed in the car like a pack of toy soldiers. My older cousin Frances was right on time, cutting everyone’s ass when his friend Tuma decided to be DJ… while driving. As soon as the bass dropped, the older heads looked at each other smiling while us four yougin’s teenage ears had no clue as to what was happening. I was bobbing my head, vibin’ to the 90’s New York grove until I heard “Nigga, you don’t have to explaaain shit... I been robbin mothafucks since the slaaave ships…” My cousin Jean and I looked at each other and said “Diiiiiiiaaaaablooo”. You woulda needed a shovel to get my mouth up off the car seat. I never heard anything like it. I remember feeling uncomfortable. Thinking “how?” And “why?” but… I loved it. I went back home later that night and listened to the whole thing. I was pin-drop silent, hearing the anger and emotion radiating out of my headphones.

Nowadays after walking away in fury from the arguments and too angry to play the 6- string, I put on my headphones and jam. Something about the aggression against an oppressive system and fucked up life situations really speaks to me. These old school hip hop artists came from shitty backgrounds and really put their heart and soul into the music. Nothing is more satisfying than shielding my ear from the bullshit of my home with a lil bit of Wu Tang. Nothing is more therapeutic than coming back from a shitty day of school or baseball practice and paying homage to the west coast by playing the gritty “Straight Outta Compton”. I don’t know what it is about music, honestly. I just feel it.

            Well I do pop pills, I keep my tube socks filled

And pop the same shit that got 2Pac killed

Spit game to these hoes, Like a soap opera episode

And punch a bitch in the nose til her whole face explodes

There's three things I hate. Girls, women, and bitches

I'm that vicious to walk up and drop-kick midgets

They call me Boogie Night. The stalker that walks awkward.

Stick figure...with a dick bigger than Mark Wahlberg.

 

Nothing compares to the first time that I REALLY listened to Eminem. Like… the real slim shady; Mr. I just don’t give a fuck himself. The shit that came out of this man’s mouth was appalling. Coming from his horrible background though it’s no wonder why the sarcasm and violence in his music was essential. Lord knows it was good but what really stuck out was the technicality. The man was a wizard. The man IS a wizard. A wordsmith at his finest. The alliteration, the punchlines, the style/delivery, the rhyme scheme, the everything. It was out of this world. “You just triggered a prick who just makes liquor. Who itching to leave you disfigured and stiffer than Crist-opher…Reeves.

Nowadays I’m tryna do it myself. I kid you not, every sixth period in Mr. Tottoram’s class I have freestyle battles with the homies hoping that some of these slim shady inspired lines would make them go “ooohh! He flamed you!” Who needs chemistry anyways? I think he’s technically the first person who really made me want to rap.  A couple weeks ago my friend Joseph tried to architect the ghettoest studio in my closet...yes I said closet. He attached his 70$ USB mic into the closet pole and blankets over the doors trying to get the clearest crisp sound. “While im blasting, my everlasting lacking for fasting has me hungry to do some back slapping”. I was straight spittin’ heat over Em’s “Hellbound”. As much as I love being original, I can’t escape the fact that I sound like him though. I can’t seem to get a flow too. Something about rhythmically keeping the beat while uttering an abundance of words seems impossible. But whatever, it’s something I’ll grow out off as long as I practice. Nothing feels as awesome as slamming your door after pa screams at you and spittin’ some 16’s. Nothing feels as great as expressing my girl-problems in writing. Nothing feels better than writing.  I don’t know what it is about writing honestly. I just feel it.

                    

Boricua, Morena

                    Boricua, Morena

                    Boricua, Morena.

Yes, indeed, Jenny was from the block. You can ask the whitest white collar soon-to-retire grampa,. where does Jennifer Lopez reside and he’ll damn near tell you “the block”. While J-Lo had everyone and their mothers singing that damned song, it’s crazy how some of that limelight was barely glittering over Big Punisher. I remember browsing on youtube, looking for songs by Pun. I noticed that he repped the Bronx more than any other mc at the time. Being from the Bronx, I listened to his music more and found myself fascinated by the relatability of it all. He put the hood on the map. Most importantly for me, he put us Latinos on the map. The Spanglish lyrics always find a way to carve a smile on my crooked face. “Puerto Rock Puro, not Menudo no I'm not the one I'm studyin Judo, ju don't know if I got a gun…” A Puerto Rican that can rap? I bet no one saw that coming. This basically tells every black person in the hood that we Latino’s don’t only make that “bodega music”, a phrase that they insist on calling our various genres.

My Spanish isn’t good. And lord know I get a lot of shit for it. I know my parents are disappointed in me. I can smell it every time the whole family gets together at buela’s house. “Dime mi hijo, como te va en la ecuela?” A couple stutters, pauses, awkward looks from everyone, a minute passing, and one sentence later, Tia Sunny finally receives her answer. I distinctly remember at a family party, a couple of the aunts and uncles pulled me out to dance. Of course the awkward movement generated by my feet and the stillness of my hips prove to my family that rhythm is definitely not born into Dominican blood. I walk back, with my head down, to my cousin Carlos. He tells me our cousin Johnathan was laughing and talking shit. He was pointing in my direction with that bastard smile of his saying, “Look at the white boy dance”.

Quite often I find myself locking the closed door in my room and sitting on the corner my bed, alone, listening to Pun. Nothing beats successfully not making conversation with the family by dodging eye contact. Nothing beats finally waving bye to your parent’s only-Spanish speaking friends and listening to “Brave in the Heart”. Nothing beats reciting Pun. I don’t know what it is about culture honestly. I just feel it.

 

They punish the people that's askin questions

And those that possess, steal from the ones without possessions

The message I stress: to make it stop study your lessons

Don't settle for less. Even a genius asks-es questions

Be grateful for blessings. Don't ever change, keep your essence

The power is in the people and politics we address.

Always do your best…

 

Pac is my favorite. Like… my absolute favorite. The original Mr. I just don’t give a fuck.  No one comes close in my opinion. The man was practically one of the few rappers, if not the only that could tap into many perspectives of himself, and other people, and display those thoughts on a record. He went from hood, to lovey dovey, to sexual, to political, to many more characters and did so very easily. His range of perception was amazing. Most importantly though he was my first introduction to conscious hip hop. The intelligence and the prophet-like aura that surrounds Pac always amazes me. After Tupac, I came across Common, KRS-One, Blackstar (which spawned the solo careers of the amazing combo of Mos Def and Talib Kweli), and others.

I found Pac around the same time when everyone and their mothers were finding Drake and Lil Wayne. I hated them with a passion. I still do dammit. I just don’t get why people like that shit? To me they, especially Wayne, lack meaning and appeal. And if you’re lacking meaning you better back it up with some bars. Tupac had all of that for me. While mainstream hip hop spews materialism, my ears are tainted with Pac’s message. And that’s something I feel like is lacking in this world …deep thinking. “So tell me, mi hijo, why you want to major in Music for?” my mom says. “Eso es raro, why not get something where you know will get you more money, something more secure. Something that’ll earn you chelitos and give some to us when we need it. You know we’re all not in the best of financial times”. “It’s something I love to do ma, nothing else really appeals to me. I could do sooo much things with it too, it’s not a dead field. It’s really not”. My dad tenses up his face in disappointment. The silence says it all. I cling my head down to my chest, fight the tears in my eyes, and walk slowly back to my room.

They don’t get it. I don’t blame them though. Coming from a third world country, stuff like this seems foreign to them. Honestly, people are scared to talk about something that society thinks is “out of the ordinary” or “weird”. But no biggie. I’ll be good. As long as that door is shut and these headphones work what else could I really ask for? The room is dim, the air is calm, while the background accompanies them with the sounds of “Me Against the World”. There’s nothing like a conscious spirit to spark the mind of the potential people needed to fix this world. I don’t know what it is about Pac honestly. I just feel it.