The Origin Story: Part Three
After our event on February 27th, I was elated and exhausted. The community of Lynchburg came out to support this collaborative event (with the James River Council for the Arts and Humanities and Grassroots Local Market) in overwhelming numbers, and we were exposed to the many talents that were a part of this city. It always was, and will continue to be the hope of The Listening that someone who was present at each session will realize their own origin story, their own reawakening, whether it be a deeper understanding of theirselves and where they culturally/ethnically come from, or the beginning of their creative journey. I promise you, I went to bed that night, fully deserving of that rest.
When I woke up, I realized that I hadn't completely given the full 'origin story' of The Listening. There was my story, and there was the spark that got things moving, but I don't know that the tale was told. The purpose was there, and the history was there, but had I communicated the passion wholly? And where the heck did the name come from?
Allow me the chance to do that now.
Raise your hands if you're a hip-hop head. And by definition, according to multiple forum boards...
To be honest, I'm not sure if I'm a hip-hop head. I'm definitely a fan and a participant at the least, and a purist (read: snob) at my worst. However, I wasn't always like that.
I didn't really get into hip-hop until late middle school, so I missed out on a lot of good stuff. It was always around me, but when I got to college, all bets were off. I was curious and I wanted to find something that felt real and true to me. I wanted something that sounded soulful without being corny, lyrics that felt honest without telling me all about the fruits of being five percent.
I feel like I found out about Little Brother by accident. I was looking for more music from Mos Def and Talib Kweli, and I found that they had a song called Let It Go. I found it, checked it out, liked it, and kept digging. Turns out, I stumbled upon Hip Hop Gold.
These dudes were dope.
I began spending a lot of time with Phonte, Big Pooh and Ninth Wonder in my ears, starting with their recent release, "GetBack". Dope album. I even dug further back to their first studio album, entitled The Listening.
One of my favorite albums. Ever. Do you hear me? Ever. As a matter of fact, here's an endorsement. Go buy this album. Seriously. Stop reading, go over to iTunes or Amazon and purchase this. Don't stream it, because you will inevitably be in a place where you don't have a signal, and won't be able to listen to this album. So go. I'll even give you a link.
Got it? Okay, continue reading.
The title song, which does not come until the end of the album, was dope when I heard it. After popping it in the CD player of my Nissan Maxima (Rest in Peace, Maxine) many years after the fact, the wheels in my head began spinning.
Isn't that the point? To give people something worth listening to?
At the time that this album came out, the radio was filled with what I'll refer to as Dark Times.
Hip-hop was struggling.
This album, and this song, represented a light in the middle of the darkness for me. It suggested that there was more to be required, if not demanded, from the music we consumed. I'm not here to demonize crunk music or ratchetry - after a day of work, I need some in my life. Little Brother was that balance for me, between the trapstars and the hoteps.
So I took that message, and ran with it in Lynchburg.
I wanted to provoke people to have something to say, something with purpose, something worth listening to. Forget trying to sell your EP or get people to vote your way or come to your church service. The thought was, if they don't feel you and don't hear a heartbeat behind all that you're saying, they won't care and they won't come.
I still listen to this album, frequently. Sometimes, I skip to the end of the album, just to hear this track and remember what Pooh and Tay were talking about. In essence, it's what The Listening (this initiative, not the album) is all about. And it's not limited to hip-hop, not by a long shot. Stop being satisfied with the bare minimum. When you pick up that guitar to play, or when you pick up that pen to write, what is it that you want people to really hear? When you dance, are simply mimicking moves you've seen, or are you really connected to each motion? What is it that needs to be heard or seen?
If you had a room full of people, willing to listen to you...what would you say?