I Used To Love Her: The Search For The Next Lauryn

September 11, 2012  |  

I hated shopping. At the age of seven, I was convinced that my mother found pleasure in witnessing me plead and beg to leave the store. Pots, pans, and jugs would litter the shelves; nothing that probed my adolescent interest.

One day, while aimlessly helping to push the cart, we came across shelves stacked with hardcovers. The books were each embedded with a different floral pattern and didn’t seem like the ones I bought on our Barnes & Noble trips. When my mother’s attention was on something else, I snatched a book from off of the shelf and cracked it open. It was filled with empty lines beckoning a scribe—a notebook of sorts. After much inquiry and a frowning face my mother finally gave in and bought me the “journal,” she’d told me its true name, when we’d finally reached the register.

I fidgeted with it for a few days, unsure if I should pen the stories that I’d been creating on my father’s legal printer paper. I pondered if I should create the small stick figures that adorned the edges of my chapter novels bereft of depicted scenes.

Slowly I started to write:

“I can be a car and go very far

I can be a plane and glide through the sky

I can be a book upon a shelf

But most of all, I want to be myself”

I looked down on the paper and smiled at the rhythmic words. It resembled the narrow pieces of literature my mother read to me as a child by way of Hughes, Giovanni, and Dove. I showed everyone my first poem, rushing from room to room with pride.

Before the age of eight the book was filled. I wrote about numerous topics, listening to the hip-hop that slurred into my room from my father’s study and my mother’s radio, unconsciously matching syllables and eyeing pentameter.

I performed for one of my cousins—an older troublemaker and black sheep also known as the coolest family member ever. He sat and stared at me suspiciously—I was twelve now, all bright and wide-eyed.

“Oh! So you think you’re a rapper now?”

I’d never even thought about that title. I feared calling myself a poet, because I was nowhere near to the perfection of the scribes I read. I was just practicing writing. However, they did rhyme, I spoke quickly, and they were eerily melodic.

I was a rapper.

I spent hours in my basement behind a faulty microphone and Cool Edit Pro recording my verses and perfecting unit. Lunch hours were spent among ciphers, proving to the boys that I could go bar for bar. I even did a few miniscule shows and formed a rap trifecta comprised of females.

I was in love with this art.

My ear was keen for a feminine voice riding the airwaves in verse. I longed for a female emcee that ascended the charts and riled up my young heart.

Lauryn was my first love. I listened to her croon between the intervals of my father’s typing—The Fugees first and her Miseducation next. There was something about the strength in her refrain and stanza that kept me afloat. I’d been a fan of many:

Latifah.

Lyte.

YoYo .

Jean Grae.

Left Eye.

Da Brat.

Missy.

Digga.

Eve.

Pen.

& many more…

But there was something about Kweli’s Ms. Hill.

“Trying to get up that Hill, Lauryn tell them how you feel// Only female in the game with real celeb to your name// Could leave you choked up, so she ghost up—threw her coat up–now y’all call her smoked up// Hold up, Post up//”

I rapped about her, for her.

I defended her crumble, used Toure’s “Never Drank The Kool-Aid” essays on her pre-diminishing as proof. Brought to tears in debates amongst people, who called her a fool and worthless, I started to keep her to myself. I tucked her safely where no one could find her—somewhere in the crevices of my heart.

“Don’t you think I haven’t been through the same predicament?”

Every time a new female emcee’s name found me through gossip or article, I rushed to the nearest computer.

Babs.

Rapsody.

Lady Luck.

Iggy.

Audra.

Angel.

Nitty.

Nicki.

I was looking for Lauryn.

Sometimes I beamed with pride and other times I winced in disgust, but none of them ever really stuck. And the few that did stick emerged into women I could barely recognize. I couldn’t decide if it was because they were lacking something or their potency wasn’t loud enough to surpass the masses.

“Everything you did, has already been done.”

There is a trend of metamorphosis. Change is inevitable in any major transition in life, but digression isn’t the transformation I was looking for. Tomboys were groomed into sex that sold and legs seemed to open wider and faster. Raw lyricism about their hoods was trumped by detailed sexual experiences. I believe in equilibrium, but there’s a difference between generality and explicit wording, so overt that you were embarrassed to listen in public.

I put down my iPod headphones when I started to lose faith. I’m no innocent, but Azealia rapping about her lesbianism versus imagery of her blowing a condom are eons apart. Her summertime tee and Angel Haze’s tomboy persona once seemed so genuine and effortless.

A blatant and beautiful simplicity.

As a tomboy myself, I can see a familiar lack of comfort in Haze’s new gear. Bars for days, but forced to tuck her idiosyncrasies below the public eye.

The point is; I’ve been waiting for balance. I’m waiting on a poise of femininity and flavor. I’ve been dreaming of a new generation Lauryn who can rock a prom dress and some kicks on any given day with pride. Perhaps she’s still dominating lunchroom ciphers.  Perhaps she’s part of the boombox family waiting for the mainstream to notice the underground. Perhaps she’s impatiently waiting on her mother to finish her shopping, gazing at a plethora of unfilled journals.

A femcee that will unify despite the hype and politics of the record industry. Where are the girls who can sway a mean ponytail and spit straight sixteens? Where are the girls that exhibit every aspect of our struggle? No overt girly-ism, no crazy hardcore aggression, just an average Jane who loves Hip-Hop like air.

I used to love her….

“RivaFlowz” is a teacher and professional writer living in New York City. You can follow her on Twitter: @rivaflowz.

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