All Articles Tagged "hip hop"

The Phat Startup To Host Hip-Hop & Entrepreneurship Conference, Tech808

November 6th, 2014 - By Janel Martinez
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phat startupTechnology entrepreneurship offers an extensive amount of opportunities. But flip through most magazines and websites that delve into the space and, at times, it seems as though the content isn’t speaking to you, more so at you…and in another language. It’s a concern that The Phat Startup (TPS) team—Anthony Frasier, James Lopez, Jesal Trivedi and Jahde—recognized and aimed to disrupt.

Influenced by Lean Startup methodology and hip-hop culture, The Phat Startup is an integrated media company that develops premium content for new to serial entrepreneurs. Known for their well-attended NYC events, where they’ve brought tech heavyweights such as Reddit founder and serial investor Alexis Ohanian, VaynerMedia founder and social media expert Gary Vaynerchuk, and Ben Horowitz (a.k.a Nas’ bestie), co-founder and general partner of the venture capital fund, Andreessen Horowitz, the Phat Startup is entering a new chapter, hosting their inaugural Tech808 conference on November 21 at New York University. The conference, which is in partnership with the Clive Davis Institute, will explore the world of entrepreneurship through the view of those who are grinding and hustling to make power moves.

MadameNoire caught up with The Phat Startup co-founders to discuss tech entrepreneurship, starting your own venture and why Tech808 is a must-attend conference.

alleywatchThe Phat Startup merges Eric Ries’ Lean Startup methodology and hip-hop principles. What inspired you to create The Phat Startup?

Lopez: I was inspired to start TPS because I noticed that the similarities between hip-hop and lean were a perfect way to educate aspiring entrepreneurs that resonated with the hip-hop culture. Buzzwords are cool, but if you don’t understand them you cant learn from them, or apply those lessons.

Frasier: What played a big part of me jumping into The Phat Startup is being constantly asked questions about becoming an entrepreneur. When I got together with James, and we began to see we could use the culture as a way to get entrepreneurs interested and informed, it was magic.

How did The Phat Startup go from an idea to a platform to a movement, which entails events and now your conference, Tech808?

Frasier: The blog was the first step. The content was the second. The content played a huge part in our journey. When we wrote resource guides and conducted interviews, we weren’t talking to a white kid at Stanford. Sure, anyone could relate and benefit from our content, but we had a certain demographic in mind. We wanted to ask questions a single mother in Newark, NJ could relate to. I wanted to create a guide that a college dropout in Oakland would vibe with.

As a result, it helped us gain a following. The largest reason people follow us is because we present the same resourceful, quality information you would get anywhere else, but with a cooler voice. It’s less intimidating, and people love that. We love hip-hop, so when we wave our flags we do it like any hip-hop movement would. We wear our T-shirts; we make sure the logo is visible on our products. It makes people want to join the squad and be part of something. Hip-hop taught us that.

What can attendees expect from your inaugural conference?

Lopez: For Tech808, we decided that having people talk about the come up wasn’t as valuable as them telling you how to create your own come up or movement. We wanted to get off the usual background information and have all speakers leave the community with executable advice that they can start implementing the day of in a TEDx style conversation.

We want to educate our community, so Tech808 is pure executable advice, no self-promotion.

Talk to me about the inspiration behind the name Tech808

Frasier: The Tech808 name came from our founding members: Jesal Trivedi and Jahde. The 808 is the most famous bass sound in hip-hop. It has a boom to it that is unmatched. Bringing tech together with that represents the convergence of the two cultures. It also means we not playing games out here!

How will Tech 808 be different from a lot of the other technology conferences happening in other tech hubs such as San Francisco, Austin, Atlanta and New York?

Lopez: Tech808 is different because we wanted to focus on the lessons learned from founders in the trenches right now. People like Mark Zuckerburg are super special, but the tactics they use now can’t be used by a company that is just launching. All of our speakers are building their empires from an early stage and their tactics are the ones our community needs to implement now.

Frasier: I agree with James. What also makes us different are the same reasons we were able to attract our audience. It’s the culture. It’s the comfort level [of] people asking questions and not feeling dumb, or left out. We are for the people. You don’t get that vibe when attending a larger, more popular conference.

For those aspiring to be tech entrepreneurs, what advice would you give them about starting a business in the tech space?

Lopez: As Nike would say, just do it. There will never be a perfect time to start. Start now and learn how to overcome the obstacles that you’ll face. There isn’t a blueprint to follow, but you can learn from how others over came adversity. Do that and grind!

Frasier: My biggest piece of advice for aspiring tech entrepreneurs is to learn and build as much as you can. Learn how to code. Don’t have the time to learn how to code? Learn how to prototype! Learn how to build wire frames. Learn how to communicate your vision to a technical person. But, as much time as you spend learning, you have to start building and making mistakes. Making mistakes is how we get better and, trust me, you will learn to love making mistakes in the tech world. Making mistakes is actually better than reading articles and books.

Based in New York City, Janel Martinez is a multimedia journalist who covers technology and entrepreneurship. She is the founder of “Ain’t I Latina?” an online destination geared toward Afro-Latinas. You can follow her up-to-the-minute musings on Twitter @janelmwrites.

Bobby Shmurda And Why We Need More Dancing In Hip Hop

October 31st, 2014 - By Charing Ball
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There’s a video floating around the Internet of Bobby Shmurda performing in front of a bunch of White executives and not too many people are happy about it.

If you haven’t seen it, you can check it out here. Reportedly, this video was shot the day that Shmurda was signed to the record label. But the gist of people’s angst centers around a lone Shmurda, lip syncing and dancing to “Hot N*gga” as well as some other tunes, both on and off tables, in the Epic Records boardroom while the audience of predominately White folks – as well as L.A. Reid, who is CEO of Epic Records – smiles and cheers him on. The description under the video, says that it was the day that Shmurda was signed to a record deal.

As some folks in my network have noted, this particular video, and I guess Schmurda in general, are prime examples of what’s wrong with the music industry today. Especially White executives being at – or near – the helm of selecting what represents HipHop, and by default Black culture. And as a result, we get a kid, whose lyrics border on a real world version of Idiocracy.

Although, most if not all signed artists have to perform their albums or demos in front of the record company executives, I can somewhat understand the sentiment here. Much of what we hear in popular Hip Hop is garbage. And yes, I know: it’s popular Hip Hop. But it was also popular Hip Hop back in the day with lots more diversity.

There was M.C. Hammer and NWA; KRS-One and PM Dawn; Arrested Development and the GraveDiggaz; b-boys like LL Cool J and urban cowboys like Whodini too. Back in the day, you could turn on the radio and find a rapper spitting his own unique and creative brand of the budding art form. There were even lady rappers – plural. But every since the genre of music has become institutionalized, all we get on the radio are a bunch of dudes – and Minaj in the same white or black t-shirt doing that weird auto tune thing.

More specifically, I’m kind of blasé about the song “Hot Nigga.” While I can’t take a step outside a few feet without hearing it blaring from a car stereo or somebody’s “personal” music player, the song has yet to catch me. And it doesn’t have anything to do with the lyrics (even though they are pretty elementary and the subject matter stale and as always misogynistic). My generation had The Chronic and most of us as adults have respectable jobs and families. So the younger generation can have Shmurda. But rather, I just don’t think there is anything special about the song. Hell, it doesn’t really stand out from the rest of the trap house or other rap songs on the radio right now. So the mere fact that the song has taken the world by storm, really does perplex me.

However while the song is mysterious, the dance is not. Oh, I totally get the Shmoney dance. What’s not to love about a two-step? Anybody can do a two-step. Plus you always look cool doing it. But more importantly, the Shmoney dance is bringing something back to Hip Hop, that has long been forgotten: and that’s how to have fun.

I don’t know when it started but for some reason, it totally became uncool for a male rapper to dance. And in fact, there was a time not that long ago when you would be hard pressed to find a rapper, busting a move or two. Of course there was MC Hammer and his entire Oakland clique. But we also had Kwame, Kool Moe Dee, Heavy D, Digital Underground (I bet as soon as some of y’all read “Digital Underground,” y’all started doing the Humpty Dance), and a host of emcees who were not scared to blame it on the boogie. Even some of the more serious rappers including Big Daddy Kane and EMPD broke it down a couple of times. Seriously, name a rapper from the heydays of the genre, who did not dance, and I’ll show you a rapper, who likely did not chart.

Okay that’s not entirely true: I do sort of remember when rap turned into a rhyming-on wax version of “Footloose.” It was the sometime in the mid-90s. Puffy, later to be known as Diddy (but forever in my heart as Puffy), was the last of the foot-shuffling, two-stepping Mohicans. He was also the originator of the shiny suit. And during the Bad Boy era, there was not a Puffy-associated artists, who was not required to dance around in a shiny suit.

The suits and the two-step were both fun for a while. But then it became too much. Puffy and his two step and shiny suits were poppin’ up in everybody’s videos. But then male rappers and their audiences alike started to denounce Puffy, his overt materialism and the shiny suit culture as byproducts of what commercialization was doing on the genre. And the genre of music started to get more hyper-masculine. No more suits, no more singing, no smiling and of course, no more fancy with the footwork. Now, it was all about low-sagging jeans, mean-mugging and thug-lovin’. And the most we got in the way of a dance out of these rappers was leaning back and doing Rockaway.

I’m not really down with Shmurda. And quite honestly, as a budding old head I don’t think that I’m his target demographic either. I’m perfectly fine with that. But as a young-old head, I do appreciate both the songs and dance ability to lighten Hip-Hop up again – somewhat. I’m not sure if we’ll ever get back to the era where rappers will start incorporating more limber movements into their routines like the “Steve Martin” or “The Typewriter” or the “Ed Lover” or even the classic, “The Wop.” But at least the rappers are starting to relax a bit. And not be so hard all the time.

And this is particularly important considering we had almost a generation of young men who was reared under this distorted era of masculinity, which sought to label everything as emasculating (i.e. for girls and gays). For instance, I have a one friend, who recently bought a Philadelphia Sixers throwback-ish beanie and cut the red, white and blue fabric ball off the top because “real n*ggas don’t wear ballies.” That is a true quote. He also thinks the Shmoney dance is gay because, “why aren’t there any women dancing with him in the video?”

It’s hilarious and quite stupid, I know. But for a myriad of reasons, American men are very protective of their identities. Perhaps the Shmurda dance will inspire more rappers to adopt a signature movement – as well as other things that were previous not-gay but somehow gay now. Perhaps a rapper will come along and challenge men to not give a damn about who or what is gay or not. And maybe in a few years, my friend can feel comfortable two-stepping in his beanie with the ballie on top and still feel like a man.

Exclusive MN Chat With Luke Christopher: Singer Talks Groupies And Creating West Coast Music

July 25th, 2014 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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Hailing from California, Luke Christopher and his infectious smile captivated us while we interviewed him about his budding music career. Growing up in a biracial household, Luke Christopher mixed various genres together to create his own sound. As a self taught musician, Luke Christopher’s claim to fame has been to blur the lines in music. Therefore, his personal edge has been covered through working with artists such as Wiz Khalifa, Common and Usher to name a few. In this  intimate interview with the L.A. crooner/rapper he details how he entered the music industry, deals with groupies and is changing the West Coast sound.

How did you get you start in the music industry?
I started writing song on GarageBand back in the day, when I was 12 years old. My brother and cousin would create music with me on the program but to be honest, we were just messing around. We would take nursery rhymes and turn them into raps. Then at some point, they started to do their own thing but I stuck with creating tracks on it. I started rapping when I was 13 and I started singing when I was 15 and producing. I didn’t have anyone to sing on my hooks, so I began to just do it all and it worked out to being a blessing.

Who would you like to work with currently, or in the future?
I definitely would like to work with Andre 3000, James Blake, Regina Spector, Mos Def and Kanye. I really like what Pharrell is doing right now; to be honest I am really drawn to artists who are extremely creative.

Every Tuesday, you promised to release a song. Have you lived up to that goal?
My team and I have released 15 weeks worth of Tuesday “singles” of original songs and some of them are samples.

Creatively, how does that affect you as a writer?
By releasing a new song every Tuesday, it has been a cool exercise. Every single week, you have to create something different. None of the songs sound the same and I notice my fans realize that. They will tell me “oh snap, that new track is different and dope.”

You call your fans the TMRGang; Are they just as crazy as the BeyHive, Beliebers or other stans?
Yeah the TMRGang stands up even though they are not as big as the other fan bases but they are crazy [laughs]. But on a serious note, they love good music and that is what it is all about.

Since your status is changing due to you becoming more popular, do you feel the people around you have changed? Also, have you had any experiences with groupies?
The people around me have not changed. The homies are still the homies, because we are a team. But the groupies are coming. But to be honest it has all been all flattering, so it’s all good. Nothing too crazy [laughs].

What style of music influences you when you are in the process of creating a song?
Writing wise, it would be Stevie Wonder. Also, The Beatles, Micheal Jackson; if I am writing a rap song, I look to Pac, Mos Def or Common. I like to input wisdom in rap. I definitely go back to early Kanye too; he has been a great influence on my music.

West Coast rap has changed; do you think it should revert back to its 1980s style or do you like how it is transitioning now?
The nature of music is to change and grow, so sonically it will never sound the same again. But I like the current sound and I think it’s dope. There are a lot of artists coming out of the region now, so it is a perfect to be out there. The sound is ill and it’s like we are coming back now to take over the industry.

Check out Luke Christopher’s latest Tuesday song, “Sunny Days!”

#ChilePlease: Tommy Hilfiger Says Hip Hop Took His Brand Away From Its Roots

April 29th, 2014 - By Madame Noire
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Tommy Hilfiger

Tommy Hilfiger


From The Grio 

Before Russell Simmons, Diddy and other rappers became fashion conscious and began making their own clothes, hip-hop style in the 90′s was distinctly designer label friendly.Iconic fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger saw the potential buying power of hip-hop culture early and recruited the era’s top acts to wear his signature line Hilfigerincluding Usher, Snoop Dogg and the late Aaliyah.

Recently, the 61-year-old reflected on hip-hop’s long term impact on his lifestyle brand.


In his Bloomberg News interview, Hilfiger said rap’s influence was necessary for his business to expand, but ultimately he was following  a trend.“Look, it fueled a lot of growth, but it took us away from our roots,” said Hilfiger. “When people ask me advice, I say stick to who you are. Stick to your guns. There is an image and attitude to most brands, and that’s really important. I like to stick to my heritage and not chase trends, and at that point we were chasing trends. Chasing trends was easy, but it was dangerous. It’s more important to me now to be consistent.”

Read more about Tommy Hilfiger’s brand and hip hop at


Does Hip Hop Have a Mental Illness Problem?

April 22nd, 2014 - By Charing Ball
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Writer Tom Barnes has penned an interesting piece for Policy Mic, entitled What We Should Really Be Saying About the Rapper Who Cut Off His Penis. It’s about the unfortunate suicide attempt of Andre Johnson, AKA Andre Roxx aka Christ Bearer, who may or may not have been associated with the Wu-Tang Clan.

While his affiliation with the legendary rap crew is dubious, the internet jokes about the man, who severed his own penis before jumping from the balcony, have been plentiful. Naturally, Barnes finds the mockery objectionable. But he also takes issues with the framing of the story within the media, particularly focusing on the more sensationalized penis chopping aspect of the story instead of talking about the possibility of mental health. And not just with Johnson but with Hip Hop as a whole.

In particular Barnes writes:

Hip-hop artists have a long and complicated relationship with mental health. Many rappers have suffered debilitating mental illnesses, but have swept their problems under the rug or hid their symptoms under the guise of drug addiction. Eminem, Kanye West and Childish Gambino have battled suffered through serious bouts of depression. Scarface tried to slice his wrists when he was 13 and was housed at a mental facility where he was heavily medicated. DMX recently admitted he suffered from bipolar disorder, as did rapper Baatin from the group Slum Village. Wu-Tang member ODB reportedly had a long struggle with mental illness, though any erratic behavior he exhibited was often dismissed as a result of his heavy drug use.

Activist and journalist William Upski Wimsatt points out, the slang re-appropriation of words like “mad” and “ill,” actually “[celebrate] mental illness.” In that way, illness becomes part of the entertainment value of the music. But most rappers coming from the poverty-stricken areas where hip-hop was born had inadequate access to mental health treatment growing up, even though they were surrounded by constant trauma. Rappers — especially young black ones — are an at-risk population we don’t talk about.

There is a romantic notion surrounding artists as tortured geniuses who relieve their anguish through creative expression. But when artists’ suffering shows its fullest extent and ends in tragedy, it’s not ok to be entertained. It’s time to face up to the facts about mental illness in hip-hop and treat it as the problem it really is.”

I found Barnes theory about mental illness and Hip Hop both compelling and a little off-putting. I agree with him that mental illness is still a topic, which seems, at times, to be taken lightly, especially when it comes to black men (but black male rappers more specifically). In general, I find that it is a lot easier to laugh at DMX – or admonish his weakness – than it is to accept the fact that he is dealing with some real issues mentally. Plus the industry as a whole (from the record companies down to the fans themselves) do seem to celebrate the rappers, who exhibit the most irrational and unpredictable behaviors.

And this goes beyond the eccentrics of rappers from the underground counter-culture. I’m talking about Gucci Mane triple scoop ice cream face. Or Charles Hamilton, the once-thought as rap phenom, who was dropped from Interscope for his “erractic behavior” and eventually checked himself into NYPresbyterian Mental Hospital after suffering a mental breakdown. Both of those instances, as well as others, garnered, among many onlookers and fans alike, more mockery than actual concern for their well-beings. And to that, I totally understand Barnes’ point.

With that said, is mental illness in Hip Hop really a problem?

The assumption Barnes seems to make here is that Hip Hop is somehow different in its approach to mental illness. Of that, I am not sure. People’s response to mental illness, particularly those creative people, who suffer from some sort of mental health issue, has always been twisted, if not self-serving. World renowned artist Vincent Van Gogh suffered severe mental illness throughout his life before finally killing himself. Nobel Prize winning statesman Sir Winston Churchill is said to have been bipolar. And grunge-metal martyr Kurt Cobain, who also suffered from mental health issues, (according to relatives), before taking his own life. In all those instances, (and many more), we are likely to talk up their talents and physical contributions to society far more than we are to delve seriously into their internalized pain and suffering. Certainly we can’t blame Hip Hop for that?

Not to mention that the whole rappers re-appropriation of words associated with negative feelings-angle Barnes raised in his piece seems like a stretch considering that “insane” and “crazy,” have been used by the general populous for years to signify other emotions outside of their original negative feelings and context. And by framing this as a “problem” within the culture, we kind of suggest that the genre itself is to blame.

Everyone who I know that has gone to therapy always talks about how journaling, or the writing down of the feelings and emotions inside, helps. So do other artistic endeavors. In fact, many mental health professionals have incorporated art into their therapy with great success. I know for my personal well being, writing is very cathartic. So I also imagine that a soundproof booth and a mic can help a troubled rapper work through or at the very least channel and express that inner angst.

Likewise, there doesn’t appear to be a shortage of rappers doing just that. Probably the most classic of examples is The Geto Boyz Mind Playing Tricks on Me, which delivered a powerful testimony about psychological breaks and paranoia. Lauryn Hill gave us erratic and imbalance realness on her MTV Unplugged Live album. And Biggie Smalls gives us the last moments of a tortured soul in Suicidal Thoughts. Most recently (like within the last month) Pharoahe Monch, another emotionally-honest rapper, released his fourth solo P.T.S.D. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), which is all about a man dealing with depression. I can name several more rap songs and lyrics, off the dome, which communicate very candidly a rapper’s personal bout with depression, bipolar disorder, paranoia, suicide among other mental health issues, but you get the gist.

If not then the point is, there are plenty of unfiltered narratives in Hip Hop culture, which take the discussion around mental illness – as well as their coping mechanisms to mental issues – quite seriously. The problem has always been if the consumers are really listening.



Peter Gunz Makes Unborn Daughter His #WCW

April 9th, 2014 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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Peter Gunz #WCW


Last season of Love And Hip Hop New York, left us with tons of drama we were glad we didn’t have in our personal lives. The main story line and love triangle of LHHNY’s season 4 revolved around  Peter Gunz,  Amina Buddafly and Tara Wallace and during the reunion show, Amina Buddafly announced she was pregnant with Gunz’ child after he told viewers his relationship with Buddafly was a mistake. Despite these circumstances and Gunz continuously denying their relationship the two have remained together and it actually looks like Gunz might have the potential to be a decent father based on his Instagram posts.

Today he posted a sonogram picture of his and Amina’s new bundle of joy, allowing fans to pour in their love and support. In the caption for the photo he simply wrote: “My wcw… its a girl!” which is breaking news for fans who were curious about the gender of the couple’s first child together. Though we still don’t have a due date, we can’t help but wonder if their might be a premiere date in the works for some sort of Peter + Amina + baby reality show. You know Mona and VH1 love a spin-off…Either way, congrats to the happy family!

“Holla If You Hear Me!” Cast Revealed For Upcoming Tupac Musical

April 9th, 2014 - By Madame Noire
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Source: WENN

Source: WENN

From BlackVoices 

The upcoming Broadway musical inspired by Tupac Shakur songs will star Saul Williams, the poet and singer best known for the film “Slam.”

Producers said this week the rest of the cast of “Holler If Ya Hear Me” will include Tonya Pinkins, Christopher Jackson, Saycon Sengbloh, Ben Thompson and John Earl Jelks.

The musical is not a biography of Shakur but uses his songs to explore the story of two friends who live in a low-income neighborhood in the Midwest. It will feature “California Love,” ”Keep Ya Head Up,” and “Me Against the World.”

Read more about Tupac’s Musical at 

Morning Inspiration: Songs To Motivate You On Your Way To Work

April 8th, 2014 - By Courtney Whitaker
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 Songs To Motivate You

Source: Shutterstock

It’s that time of morning again. You’ve suddenly plunged into overthinking and worrying about your next moves in life and you need something to pick up your mood and motivate you. Music is the perfect thing to do just that! Check out our mix of different songs that will both inspire and motivate you in the morning.  What’s already on your playlist?

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C.R.E.A.M.! Someone Bids $5M For Upcoming Wu Tang Album

April 4th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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Update: Some thought it was a crazy idea. Others called the Wu Tang’s move to make just one copy of their upcoming CD and sell it to the highest bidder a brilliant marketing move. The latter turned out to be true. According to the Wu’s The RZA the bids are up to $5 million for 31-track The Wu — Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.

“Offers came in at $2 million, somebody offered $5 million yesterday,” he told Billboard, during a break from promotion work on Brick Mansions, his upcoming film with the late Paul Walker, and Gang Related, his new Fox show. “I’ve been getting a lot of emails: some from people I know, some from people I don’t know, and they’re also emailing other members of my organization.

Some fans, however, are upset since the album will never be released publicly. How do you feel?

Published orginally on March 31, 2014

The Wu-Tang Clan have always been music innovators. Now the hip-hop group might just change the way artists market CDs. The Staten Island, NY group has come up with a unique way to sell their new album.

Wu Tang Clan has a 20th anniversary album set to be released in July called A Better Tomorrow. But another upcoming new record, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin done with Morocco-based producer Tarik “Cilvaringz” Azzougarh, isn’t going to get released at all.

“Instead of releasing Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, they’re going to make exactly one copy of the double album. It will be locked inside an engraved nickel and silver box created by British-Moroccan artist Yahya,” reports Death and Taxes magazine. The album with actually going on its own tour to museums, galleries and possibly music festivals where visitors will pay to listen to it on headphones.

The double album has been a secret over the last two years, notes The Verge. After the tour, the group is looking to sell the single copy for millions of dollars.

“We’re about to put out a piece of art like nobody else has done in the history of [modern] music,” says Wu-Tang Clan member Robert “RZA” Diggs told The Verge. “We’re making a single-sale collector’s item. This is like somebody having the scepter of an Egyptian king.”

He added, “The idea that music is art has been something we advocated for year.  And yet it doesn’t receive the same treatment as art in the sense of the value of what it is, especially nowadays when it’s been devalued and diminished to almost the point that it has to be given away for free.”

Since record sales have been dwindling over the years, this might just be a brilliant marketing move as well.

“You And I ‘Til the Day We Die:” The Best Hip-Hop Love Songs

March 28th, 2014 - By Meg Butler
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R&B isn’t the only soulful genre that can get you in the mood. There have actually been some pretty romantic and touching Hip-Hop love songs over the years, like these.

Jay-Z – Song Cry

“I can’t see ‘em coming down my eyes so I gotta make the song cry.”

This was the moment hip hop grew up and Hov let young heads everywhere know it was OK to catch feelings in public.