Hiphophomage

March 12, 2017

The year I graduated from school I went on a road trip with some of my friends to California. It was the summer I was introduced to Tupac Shakur, a notable Hip Hop artist who passed away a handful of years before my introduction to him. What I remember most about that adventure was learning how to dance to “California Love” while buckled in—and driving a car way too fast—as we flew along the expansive highway to adolescent freedom.

Upon my return to my tiny town of 2,000 people in the rural mountains of Colorado, I looked into Tupac’s life. I learned that he was, not only a Hip Hop artist, but he spent a brief time in prison, was a political revolutionary, and a writer of phenomenal poetry. He was devoted to poetry like Trump is devoted to his hair.

This (Tupac’s poetry not Trump’s hair) led me to another well-known New York Hip Hop group, A Tribe Called Quest. Specifically their song “Phony Rappers”, in which Phife Dawg rhymes about being confronted on a subway by a wannabe rapper,

“He said a rhyme about his .45 and his nickel bags of weed
That’s when I proceeded to give him what he needed
Talking ‘bout I need a Phillie right before I get loose
Poor excuse, money please, I get loose off of orange juice
Preferably Minute Maid cuz that’s exactly what it takes
To write a rhyme, huh, to school your nickels and your dimes
Because an MC like me be on TV
Don’t mean I can’t hold my shit down in NYC”

Playing those lines on repeat my freshman year of college, I thought, this is poetry.

Before sitting down with Elijah Pryor (AKA Kid Love), of the Hip Hop collective Tribe NYC, my idea of Hip Hop was: it is beautifully weird and utterly unique poetry juxtaposed with childlike idealism (i.e. getting loose off of orange juice in lieu of drugs) and real revolutionary issues (e.g. police brutality).

After discussing his own poetry and jokingly calling himself, “Mr. Oatmeal and Bananas” while pointing at his breakfast, before continuing to share what his drive is, “That I can wear my personality. I don’t have to hide—that’s what Hip Hop taught me,” reminded me my minimal knowledge of Hip Hop was closer to the truth than I had originally thought.
Pryor and his self-professed “tribe” identify with those early Hip Hop artists from the 80’s and 90’s (Kid ‘n Play, Big Daddy Kane, Bell Biv Devoe, 2pac, and A Tribe Called Quest) who made individuality, bright colors, fresh moves, political poetry, and idiosyncratic positivity (in an ever-darkening world) cool again.

“Tribe started as a group in 2012, but the movement as a whole—like bringing 80’s Hip Hop back was in 2008.” The group represents each New York borough from the Bronx to Brooklyn to Queens to (New Jersey even) Manhattan to Staten Island where Pryor moved from a few years back. Tribe is assembled of a few key members, Paulie, Teddy, Manolo, Mike, Chill, and Prynce Divoe, but was at one point composed of more than sixty people.

“Tribe started as a group in 2012, but the movement as a whole—like bringing 80’s Hip Hop back was in 2008.” The group represents each New York borough from the Bronx to Brooklyn to Queens to (New Jersey even) Manhattan to Staten Island where Pryor moved from a few years back. Tribe is assembled of a few key members, Paulie, Teddy, Manolo, Mike, Chill, and Prynce Divoe, but was at one point composed of more than sixty people.

Slowly they realized the entire subculture of emulating the 80’s and 90’s Hip Hop movement did not just dwell in their music or their attitudes, but what they were wearing as well, their retro fashion. For instance, acid wash jeans, a flattop, Reebok tennis shoes, and a windbreaker—which Pryor rocked at our interview—culminated to represent that tried and true Hip Hop idealism. Their outward appearance was drawing people in, getting people to ask questions, stopping Q-tip himself (who was sitting outside of a diner when he heard “Bonita Applebum” blasting from the BoomBox Pryor was toting), getting them out of a scrape with a police officer who advised them to, “keeping doing what y’all are doing,” and like the girl who walked passed us while I was interviewing Pryor, getting people to say, “I like your hair!”

For this rag-tag group of New Yorkers wearing the Hip Hop culture wrapped them in this anachronistic bubble of safety and hope. And it afforded them some amazing opportunities, “In 2012 we had a dream of doing music—making this bigger—but we faced a lot of hardship. Making music, finding studios to record in […] And then there were all these free concerts in New York City, you know like Slick Rick, Naughty By Nature, etc. And we were at a Salt-N-Pepa concert once dancing on some chairs and they called us up on stage with them, and it inspired us to keep on going. It reminded us we are here for a reason.” The reason? To build a community, a place for people to feel alive and to “vibrate positivity.”

But it was not their love of retro fashion, or the music, which really solidified their bond, says Pryor, “We have a lot of people [in Tribe NYC] who grew-up with no one, while some of us grew-up in big households, but still felt alone. And most of us share the same story: we were all in high school and we were out casts because of the way that we dressed.” And this marginalization affected them academically as well, “Everyone had problems with taking tests, and it’s weird, but that’s another one of those connections that we share.” Yet it was their love of Hip Hop’s culture, and its wonderfully unadulterated way of making people feel good about their differences that gave them this apex on which they were able to jump off of—a mountain of Hip Hop homage.

Once again Pryor reminded me of that strange ability Hip Hop has to incorporate diverging themes, “Hip Hop culture can recycle itself but remain fresh. But it has never been an escape for me because I have not been running from anything. It was just like living in the hood and […] seeing these people die at a young age […] graduating the 6th grade and watching one of your friends get killed and then graduating from 8th grade and another one of your friends gets killed and you’re like the only thing I can relate to is on the radio—you know you can listen to R&B, but you don’t want to be sad—it was Hip Hop that vibrated positivity.” And although Pryor and I grew-up worlds apart I too remember feeling that vibration.

When asked where Hip Hop was heading to next, Pryor informed me through laughter, “Nefertiti had a flattop,” And then he digressed about how Plato wrote The Republic in 380 BC and how people still practice its philosophies today (aside from the poet, of course), but “Hip Hop is still young—its been around for what? Less than 40 years? That’s not a lot. […] Hip Hop is still a baby. It just got its feet down.” If that’s true, then Pryor and his tribe are going to be there for Hip Hop’s first steps, and they will probably be recording it with a retro camcorder instead of an iPhone [insert # here].

Find Pryor’s music here: https://soundcloud.com/kingkidlove

Or https://soundcloud.com/tribenyc

And follow @kingkidlove on Instagram to hear his poetry

Written by: Laura Zirkle (@Laura_Zirkle)

Read more stories like this by purchasing Issue 17







Previous Post

Telephone Podcast's 'Bedroom Stories' Starring Carolina Gutierrez

Next Post

BLEUDEPANAME SS/17





You might also like




You Might Also Like:

Telephone Podcast's 'Bedroom Stories' Starring Carolina Gutierrez


February 23, 2017