“She Get It From Her Mama”: Why I’m So Hip-Hop


Even thugs have respect for mothers.

Motherhood is the most important job in the universe; without mothers, there would be no us. No matter if yours is good or not-so-good, here or dearly departed, a Mom is the one thing we’ve all had in common.

My own Mom – boy, didn’t she raise a doozy! I can remember the late ’80s and early ’90s – the beginnings of my Black Militant era – when she would find cassette tapes of Public Enemy, N.W.A., KRS-One, Just Ice, and plenty of other stuff that was pretty intense for my tenderoni age, left in the tape deck. She was afraid for me.

Although I got excellent grades, had never been in any  major trouble, also jammed out to greatness like Earth, Wind & Fire, and pretty much stayed in church on Sundays, she was scared to death of the lyrical content I was ingesting when she wasn’t around. When she confiscated it, I would replace it the next day. It was a battle royale, but looking back at some of those songs, I guess she had a point at times. Here’s one that particularly riled her:

It was as if motherhood had erased her memory. Somehow, time had made my Mom forget her Black Power days at the historically Black Delaware State College, where she sported a red-dyed Afro, participated in sit-ins and ciphers (yes, that kind), marched to the beat of controversial brothers like Stokely Carmichel, and rocked out to James Brown, and later, Kool & The Gang and others.

What she didn’t realize some years later was that I had been watching her – working two jobs and raising two girls on her own when my dad wasn’t around anymore, holding it down independently without a man’s help, looking fly all the time, and being a good and conscious person. She also knew music – plays the piano even! – and had unwittingly set me on a course toward the music I loved from day one.

I distinctly remember hearing the familiar James Brown my Mom played being sampled in the break beats of the Rap I was hypnotized by as a kid. And, the Hip-Hop music I snuck to listen to as a teenager gave me strength and edge rather than rebellion, and coupled with her example, I’ve never needed for much of anything that I can’t get on my own. Fight the Power!

My Mom has always been an outspoken, hustler chick. She got that from the Civil Rights Era and the angst of the rioting she witnessed as a college student after Dr. King was assassinated. She got it from a hard work ethic, and a plethora of influences from the great Protest and Soul music of her time. It doesn’t get much more (pre)Hip-Hop than that.

As for the job she and billions of other women have? Well, I’m not a mother yet, but most of my friends are, and I can tell you one thing. It’s mostly a thankless job. There are some real superwomen out here – juggling 9-to-5 jobs with keeping house, buying groceries, picking up toys off the floor, cooking balanced meals, doing everybody’s laundry, worrying endlessly, going to little league games, ironing school clothes, doing hair, helping with homework, patching up boo-boos, subconsciously influencing their kids with music…you get the drift. That’s gangster, and that’s not even the half of it.

Somehow after all of that, the ones I know manage to come out still looking good, attending church, going to the gym, participating in sorority and community events, and partying like rock stars.

To your daily feats of bravery, I say, BRAVO, ladies. And Happy Mother’s Day.

(FOOTNOTE: My Mom still doesn’t really understand what I do for a living. She knows about Rap music, the big names like Jay-Z, and that it has stuck with me since those days back when she worried so much about me. It’s OK that she doesn’t get it, ’cause she’s still the one who put it in me. And I think I turned out OK – “F*ck The Police” and all. Thanks, Mom!)

Seandra Sims is a hopeful, future mother and AllHipHop.com’s Editor-At-Large. Follow her on Twitter (@SeandraSims).