arts & culture

How Emcee And Producer Dads Share Hip-Hop With Their Kids

Six indie hip-hop artists discuss mixing fatherhood with their music

For hip-hop artists who are fathers, their music and their children will always be intertwined.

Connecticut-based emcee Illus explains, “My son has been a hip-hop kid since birth. It’s always surrounded him and been a part of his life. It’s probably as natural to him as hearing birds sing.”

CookBook, of LA Symphony fame, also sees a direct connection between hip-hop and parenthood, saying that he and his five-year-old son “make up rhymes together on a daily basis.”

Ciphurphace—whose son and daughter have both appeared on tracks with him—adds that as children get older, they get more and more involved with the music.

“Sometime last year, I remember calling my son to say good night to him; it was a school night. His phone kept ringing, and there was no answer. Approximately 15 minutes later, I received a text message from him saying, ‘Sorry dad. I’m writing my bars.’ Needless to say, it was one of the best text messages I have ever received!”

UGHH caught up with these, and other, hip-hop dads to find out how they’re sharing their love of hip-hop with their kids. What all of these stories show us is that hip-hop dads share beats, share rhymes, and share life, and connecting with your kids through the culture you love is a beautiful thing.

Substantial

Back in January, I released my fourth album The Past Is Always Present In The Future which features my daughter, Serenity, on the cover—in the style of my first release, To This Union A Son Was Born, as a symbol of my life coming full circle.

A week after its release, Chuck D plays my single “Made in Maryland” on his show. After sharing the good news with my wife (who was out of town) she tells me that he’s speaking near where we live, and that I should go see him. So I buy tickets for my daughter and I, and begin to school her on who Chuck D and Public Enemy are. After watching ‘Fight The Power’ she was excited.

The next day, while at the event, a lady in the crowd asked Chuck who he listens to. To our surprise—while mentioning his radio show—he mentions me and asked if I was there. He shouts me out, and I feel a little elbow nudging me. I look down and see my daughter smiling up at me.

Before we walked into that event, I wanted my daughter to know we were going to see someone worthy of respect. Someone who has contributed greatly to the music we love, the culture we share, and to our people. Receiving the respect and kind words—in return with my daughter there to witness it—was surreal.

When we were younger, we wanted our dads to be men we were proud of. That day, I saw in my daughter’s eyes, not a look of surprise, but of pride; like Chuck was confirming what she already knew.

CookBook

When my wife and I were still dating, I took her and my now stepdaughter to an LA Symphony show. It was one of those bigger shows where we killed it and had the crowd going nuts. When the show was over, this little six-year-old girl looked at her mom and exclaimed, “We’re gonna be RICH!!!”

Since my son was born, I’ve always played him hip-hop.

I started him on my music, because I knew what it said, and didn’t have to worry too much that my one-year-old was hearing anything too crazy.

I’d always play him my videos on our TV. One of my proudest moments…he was around two, and he wanted to see a video of me playing live that he really liked. As soon as the video came on, he ran to his bedroom. I was confused, because I thought he wanted to see this video. After all, he’s the one who asked me to put it on; and by the way, I’m the shit! You don’t run away from my bomb ass video! Ha!

Well, to my pleasant surprise, he came running out of his bedroom with his tiny little toy drum set, saying, “I wanna play music with papa!” He started drumming along with my video, and I never felt so proud!

Illus

I started writing my album Family First when my wife was pregnant, shortly after we discovered we would be having a son. My life changed forever (and for the better) when he was born, and ever since then I’ve been making music dedicated to him, his mother, and now his brother.

My son is part Hawaiian; his name means “Gift.” And he has been a true gift and inspiration for me. Every song I record I make knowing that he will listen to the song. He is a part of the entire process. Even when he was just a baby, he was at Chuck D’s house hanging out while I recorded Family First in Chuck’s studio with DJ Johnny Juice.

I was still writing the album Family First when he was born, and I was actually able to record video/audio of him immediately after he was born—right when the doctor placed him on my wife. So for the song “The Gift,” I had DJ Johnny Juice sample those moments and incorporate them into the actual song. I even incorporated some of those visuals into the video. I was really lucky to get friends like Blueprint, Ill Bill, and Johnny Juice to participate in that intro.

My son has been in six of my music videos, his voice has been scratched and sampled by the legendary DJ Johnny Juice from Public Enemy, and he was also the model for my illustration of the Public Enemy album cover for The Evil Empire of Everything. That’s an exact illustration of him being held up by the evils of the world on that cover. He’s also contributed his art to my own album covers and interiors.

Now that my son is older, he even helps me pick out the beats I rock to.

Dirt E. Dutch

For starters, I started my record label in 2008, and it is actually named after my son, Little Ax. He was two years old at the time, a little guy, and his name is Aiden Xavier. His birth was a motivating factor for my career in music. He also set the stage for the first release on the label.

In the intro on the Troublemakers album with Breez Evahflowin, he is the voice that introduces us. He says “Dirt E. Dutch…Breez Evahflowin…That’s trouble!”

I’ve also worked with my daughter, teaching her how to use digital audio workstations—starting with Propellerhead’s iPad app—and using MIDI controllers. She has crazy rhythm.

BIG STAT

Before my daughter Adriana was born, I started writing down all the emotions and thoughts that were racing through my head. After she was born, I continued to jot down every milestone in real time.

All these notes turned into “Adriana’s Song.”

The best part about creating this song is that I held Adriana in the booth while I recorded it!

Ciphurphace

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In September of 2016, I took my son to the Cypher Circuit #MurderTheBeat “One Year Anniversary Cypher” at the Marsten House in Philly.

I hit up one of the co-owners of Cypher Circuit, Moe, and was like, “Yo Moe! Is it cool if I bring my 12-year-old son to the Cypher?” Moe said, “Sure!” When I shared this wonderful news with my son Naiim aka Sunsere F., he was super excited. We went on a road trip to Philly all for the love of hip-hop.

When we first arrived in the neighborhood where the Marsten House is located, we spotted some dope graffiti walls. We took some pics in front of the fresh graff murals before heading to the studio. After arriving at the actual Marsten House, we met Moe/412Kev/Coast (Cypher Circuit), Steve Sxaks (Marsten House), numerous Cypher Circuit members, and countless other members/contributors of the hip-hop community. The big surprise bonus was when hip-hop legend CL Smooth came through! The entire day was one of the most memorable experiences of our lives.

Fast-forward to several weeks ago; the “Murder The Beat” instrumental on Cypher Circuit was ODB’s “Brooklyn Zoo.” For some reason, I just felt this was the one for both of us to rock on. I said “Son, let’s rock this Murder The Beat together!” He said, “Cool!” This was the first time we ever truly collabed on a track. The outcome: Father & Son Murdered The Beat!

It didn’t hit me until afterwards that doing the father/son thing over this particular instrumental was so fitting and perfect, considering ODB’s famous quote, “Wu-Tang is for the children.”

When it comes to working with my daughter, the second single off my In Phaced God We Trust EP was “I’ll Always Love H.E.R.,” and in the video, my daughter Sela Eunae stars as “H.E.R.” (Hip-Hop in its Essence and Realness). When this video was shot, she was seven years old. She, as a little girl, is representing the embodiment of hip-hop in its purest form: representing intelligence, exemplifying creativity, having fun, and being free-spirited, and inspirational.