Fatherhood: My favorite hip-hop tales
IDSC November Exclusive: Why black fatherhood stories are much-needed in hip-hop culture
Mahogany. Follow the Leader. Paid in Full. Juice. I Ain’t No Joke. When I cracked open the 2019 book “Sweat the Technique” by hip-hop legend Rakim, I expected to hear about these songs and his rise to stardom.
What I did not expect to do was listen to a Frank Sinatra song with a different ear*, and then skip around through pages to get to all of the entertaining tales about his father. A young Rakim repeatedly kept trying his dad’s patience. Notoriously private, I was fascinated to learn this info. For me, these father-son tales are the highlight of the entire book.
Although I still cannot picture Rakim running a hot dog stand, this was indeed an idea he got from his dad. The ultimatum about Job Corps? Yup, that one I could see. Just as he does in his lyrics, I can visualize the scene in which he described how his father caught him cutting class, and it sounded like something straight out of a TV script. And then there were less-funny moments — his father found a gun under Rakim’s pillow. (I was shocked by the hard lesson Rakim learned from that one but laughed at his father’s response.)
These may be the overlooked tales in “Sweat the Technique,” but are so necessary to read in hip-hop culture. Rakim — who is notoriously private — could’ve easily just talked about his rap career and left family out altogether, but he clearly felt one was as important as the other. Generation Y and Z, plus my fellow Millennials, need to be able to hear tales of fathers who stuck around, not just the ones who disappeared. And books like these give them the opportunity to do so.