You Used to Love H.E.R., I never stopped. What’s your Culture?
December 28th, 2010  |  by choorocca


So I recently reconnected with an old friend, a guy I grew up with, who I was fortunate enough to have shared a lot of unforgettable, formative experiences with through my teenage years. His name is Phil Doucette (PD). There were a crew of us and most of the crew kept in touch over the years, but PD was taking his presentations and speaking engagements all over the place and eventually moved out of town and you know how life can be as adulthood and “responsibilities” take hold of Time.

Anyway, PD found his calling at a young age. You could say he was “born to be” and I admire that. (I admire all my close friends). This isn’t to say that PD hasn’t worked his ass off to get to where he is today, but at an early age, he understood what it meant “to be Me“, our whole crew did, which was rare. And the beautiful thing was…PD wasn’t afraid to say it either. And, the even more amazing thing is…he’s made a career out of sharing and spreading his positive message – and positivity in general – to youth all across the country. Yes, I respect that because I as clichĂ© as it sounds, children are the future.

So we’ve been politickin on Facebook, via email and on Twitter more and more of late. And, it’s funny how much things change, but even funnier how some things never change. Living and loving Hip-Hop culture is one thing that has remained constant between myself, Phil and most of our colourful crew, the BJ Massive. Yeah, Hip-Hop is modern urban (popular) culture and yeah, Hip-Hop is our culture.

So what defines Culture anyway? Race? Religion? Geographic location? Your style of dress? The Media you consume? Your morals, ethics, ideals? Well, probably a little of all of that. And, in our modern day and age, Hip-Hop has evolved into something that incorporates all of that. More importantly I think, Hip-Hop doesn’t set any fixed parameters for what those cultural elements should be – you define all of that for yourself.

So yes, I am Canadian. I am also hyphenated Canadian – Canuck dash Singaporean, Chinese immigrant. I love Canada with all my heart and although I would agree that I’m “Canadianized” to a large degree; that I have adopted many of the “traditional” Canadian cultural loves, likes, dislikes, colloquial slang, cuisine, sports, entertainment and so forth as my own, I still hold my ethnic roots and heritage closely and I also feel strongly about the fact that we live in a new (and vastly different) global time and space. So yes, I am Canadian, also hyphenated-Canadian, Torontonian, I dress a certain way and I love the media that I love – whatever…but all said and done, Hip-Hop is my culture. Yes, Hip-Hop, cultural messiah of this age; hybrid sociological experiment and gift to our tiny planet; born in the bronx, NY, to African American parents Creativity and Innovation Improvised from the tribe, Ingenuity; since, fashioned, moulded, ridiculed, persevered, evolved, matured and always more loved than hated by the world all over, making it into what it is today – global cultural phenomenon.

Next November 2011, PD has asked me to participate in the Ontario Youth Leadership Conference with him. He wants us to put together a workshop on Hip-Hop and Leadership as part of the series of programs and workshops the conference will offer. You know I’m in there like swimwear, right? Yeahhh, which is what got me writing this post. So the next little piece is a result of some brainstorming I did on the throne this morning and is my first stab at writing some material for this conference next year. In all likelihood, this will just be one component that will make up our Hip-Hop and Leadership workshop. And in all likelihood, this will be the first iteration of much more evolved and refined end result. Still, I figure…why not post it on the blog too, right? Send me a comments, tell me what you think; a big part of Hip-Hop involves discourse, sharing and collaboration. Word.

Break. Get your Kampala Hustle on….from the upcoming record by Jason “Classicbeatz” Minnis ~ Ntale’s Groove. This tune is straight filthygoodness.

So how do Hip-Hop and Leadership tie together? How can we learn more about Leadership through a deeper understanding of Hip-Hop music, Hip-Hop culture? Well, I think those are loaded questions with many positive answers. I’m a big proponent of Hip-Hop as a culture of empowerment; a culture that for the most part, promotes positivity. Yes party people, ballers and scholars…I don’t think you have to look far. And yes, I understand that there are also questionable aspects to Hip-Hop music/culture but this post isn’t about fragments of the sparse few that put out negative material and/or represent illicit lifestyles. This is about Hip-Hop as a whole and how it relates to leadership and empowerment for young people today.

So, with that said, here’s my take on Leadership and Hip-Hop. The format: a series of Words or Phrases to serve as a point of reference; a jump off…”foundation words”, with supporting text that I think can help build a strong discourse for Leadership and Hip-Hop. I’m going to break up the posts into parts so I can release each segment incrementally (and more frequently) as I write as opposed to waiting until the entire piece is “complete”. I actually don’t think this is a piece that can ever be finished because we’re still writing the young history of Hip-Hop as we go. Keep in mind that this isn’t a thesis on Hip-Hop itself, so despite the negative aspects of Hip-Hop as a culture, the following will focus primarily on the many positive aspects of the culture in relation to Leadership. Get it? Got it? Good. Here we go!


[Keep it real].

(And you thought that was just some cold, hardcore thugged-out shit rappers say? Well it is, ha! But in relation to Leadership it also means a lot more.)

So, how exactly does “keeping it real” apply to leadership? Well, Hip-Hop has always been about professing “the real”. From the graphic social depictions of ghetto life to more politically driven verses, Hip-Hop has never been afraid to make it’s voice heard. That’s part and parcel of the art form and the culture. You could say that “staying real” or “keepin it real” (“realer than real-deal Holyfield”) is a founding and central element in Hip-Hop culture. “Real” words manifest real experiences, or, are manifested by real experiences; real emotions; real philosophy, and it goes even deeper than that if you understand the culture (read up on modern poets and writers who pen real shit about Words, Word, how Word is Bond). “Realness” is such an intrinsic part of the core and essence of Hip-Hop, that it really should be a vocal mantra to be hummed and hymned – like religious worship – around ciphers across the world (OM).

“Keeping it Real” keeps us close to what really matters, the Truth, and I don’t think I need to get into why that’s important do I? Yes, the Truth is something we all have no choice but to relate to (often unwillingly), no matter how hard you try and turn or hide your head. If you can give people the Truth, the may or may not love you, but they will respect you and they will believe…and as such, chances are they will follow your lead. Yes, leaders at any level, need to be able to deliver the Truth. And to do that, Leaders also need to have an intimate understanding about what’s really going or how to “keep it real”. Yes, Leaders need to recognize real in order to relate. One of the beautiful things about Hip-Hop music/culture is that has been able to relate to people from all over the world, testament to it’s ubiquitous cultural influence on many levels.

I think the ability to relate is one of the most underrated qualities of leadership. Think about it this way…if leadership is about the guidance of a group of people of any size and in any context to a better place – physically or metaphysically – then gaining the trust and respect of that group of people is paramount. Change isn’t an easy thing to initiate, nor is it an easy thing for people to deal with. So, in order for real change to come about, a good leader needs to have the trust and respect of his or her people. In large part, trust and respect is not easily earned. Being able to relate to people – to empathize and understand where they are coming from – is a great way to establish a relationship and foster virtues like trust, honesty and respect. That said, leaders need to be able to “keep it real”; and not just ‘act like they know’, but actually know. Don’t (ever) shoot the breeze about it, when you can be about it.

So as a young up and comer, how do you “keep it real”?. How do you get a grip on what’s what? Outside of growing up in the projects and hustling the streets, I think young leaders, young people, need to do all they can to stay focused. Especially, with so much distraction and noise around us on a daily basis. And, to do that, you have to unplug. (wha?!) More on that in my next post.

*Stay tuned for part 2 of this post where I break down what I mean by “unplug”. In the meantime, if you think I’m way off, or that I’ve missed any other possible salient points, please write me. Word up.

In the meantime, here’s a slightly old, but still VERY DOPE mix posted by Laid Back with special guest, upcoming artist Cris Prolific. Check out their mixcloud page or hit em up on soundcloud for quality doses of soulful, jazzy Hip-Hop.