Hanging with some old friends at the Massachusetts Hip-Hop Archive opening at the BPL | Photo by Jaypix Belmer

Thoughts on love and hate and ‘Hip-Hop Evolution’

Long before I gave up beat reporting and became an editor, I was a hip-hop critic, show reviewer, the works. As an underground aficionado who at one point in my life hit five or more concerts a week, Boston’s scene was one of the few nationwide that could quell my appetite, and in 2004 I moved here from New York and immediately found a range of artists and crews to build with. In the decade that followed, I literally wrote thousands of articles, for this paper and a crush of other publications, about the magic happening before my eyes and ears.

More important than the ink I spilled, however, was the family I became a part of. There are far too many Hub rap heads who I consider long-lost brothers and sisters and cousins to begin naming names, but from crushing beers and blunts during marathon studio sessions to actually living with and close to certain cats, my experiences in this realm all in some way or another gave me the support that I’d imagine anyone would need to succeed on new turf.

In turn I supported people back, and there you have it: community. A loose amalgamation of passionate and talented friends who span multiple generations, nationalities, backgrounds, and artistic styles. Imagine the television show Friends, but on a massive scale in much smaller apartments full of people who aren’t corny and smoke hella weed.

As white nationalist movements flourish and long-festering bigotry rears its hideous head in the mainstream via our president-elect, I have been thinking more and more about the impact of hip-hop on my life. And about the unbelievable relationships I’ve seen the culture forge between individuals and factions who, outside of the four elements (look it up), started off at odds or even at war. Clearly we need far more forces of this caliber.

Thankfully, I am far from alone in believing in the collective power of hip-hop, from the old school to the most ignorant trap garbage imaginable. In these last few weeks I’ve felt especially blessed, first by a weekend celebrating the Lecco’s Lemma recordings, an unparalleled smorgasbord of works by Boston’s first generation rappers, entering the Boston Public Library collection, and second by the Hip-Hop Evolution documentary series on Netflix. Even for a curmudgeon like me, who wouldn’t watch an N.W.A. biopic with an Uzi to my head and couldn’t endure more than two minutes of the offensive series The Get Down, this gorgeous trip back to the root and heart of this art may be the most powerful video time capsule yet, and believe me, there have been many. It’s a critical reminder of how important it is to build across lines toward a common good, and the evolution couldn’t have come at a more appropriate moment.