***If you would like to listen to this article and/or read along, I made an audio version on Soundcloud that you can listen to here.***

The year was 1994 when my Grandma Birdie opened my eyes to Hip-Hop. I was 12 years old and fully aware of the Hip-Hop genre, but it didn’t fully come alive for me until she pointed out Biggie’s “Big Poppa” video that was in a smooth rotation on MTV Jams at the time.

Being the immature-ass kid that I was, I was quickly about to write Biggie off as ugly and change the channel to Nickelodeon until my grandma said, “That boy ain’t half bad, right?” Respecting her taste in pretty much anything back then, I honed in on what Biggie was saying, the smooth-ass beat that sounded kinda familiar to my lightly-seasoned ears, and what was going on in the video.

That was the moment that I truly heard rap lyrics instead of just being aware of them. For the very first time, I listened to Hip-Hop instead of just being in a world where it existed.

I was officially tapped in.

That boy wasn’t half bad at all. In fact, that boy was good! My grandma and I watched the “Big Poppa” video until the end and then she turned to Family Feud because…yes. 

After that day, I made it a point to frequently watch MTV and BET to catch the continuation of the “Big Poppa” video which ended up being “Warning.” This was the infamous video where a riled-up Puff (P.Diddy for the younger readers) was spilling Moet champagne all in the jacuzzi that was previously filled with fly-ass 90’s video vixens in the “Big Poppa” video.

The whole theme of the intricate plot overheard at the gambling spot sucked me all the way in (pause). Shit felt deep, like it was more than music because it was. It was Hip-Hop, and I was now knee-deep in the shit. Head over heels in love with the shit.

Grandma Birdie may not have known it at the time, but she turned me onto a genre – a culture – that would have a stronghold on me for the next 20+ years. It would also inspire me to professionally and personally write about Hip-Hop culture, create a platform to highlight indie music artists, and provide a stage to some pretty amazing music artists right in my hometown of Flint, Michigan.

She also may not have known that she was the first person that made me really pay attention to Hip-Hop music in a sense where I understood and embraced it. 

In the past, I’ve written about my initial introduction to Hip-Hop from my teenage aunt and uncle who used to babysit me back in the early 80s. However, back then, I was around 3 or 4 years old and was aware of the rap music and videos being played around me, but wasn’t old enough to really understand.

That very moment in ’94 on my grandma’s couch was my awakening, and I’ll always be grateful for that experience. 

When she passed away in 2011, it hit me hard. She was supposed to live forever like Prince, Michael, Whitney, Biggie, Pac…Nip. Her death was one that hit hard because her light always shone bright no matter the situation.

Her light always made people feel good, and a presence like that is needed in a world like this. When it’s gone, you realize just how cold life can be, but you keep going, hoping you see that kind of light again. 

So, Hip-Hop hooray to my Grandma Birdie who introduced me to a culture that raised me crazy. I’ll always love Hip-Hop and I’ll always love h.e.r.

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