One of the best rappers I know always asks me: “Dude, why do YOU rap? You RAP! Why don’t you become a high-level businessman like your father, or a doctor or a lawyer, or at least go be an actor or a model man? I started rapping to get out of my bad situation man! I admire your approach tot the craft man but YOU ain't gotta RAP! This makes no sense man!”
He was right. I didn't have the pedigree of a typical rapper. I spent most of my life at private schools- my parents worked hard to provide a linear future for me- I finished school with my Master's in business- my first language is french and- most of my life my main pursuit has been martial arts. Rapping is the last thing anyone would have expected of me. Good thing I've never cared what people expected of me.
Why do I rap? It's simple. Rap is a part of me. Rap matters. It impacts lives; and I want to be a light in this arena built on lies and deadly fantasies.
The hilarious part of this is that I didn’t start liking rap until I was about 13 (growing up my father told me it was garbage and I changed the radio station every time rap music came on). I didn’t fall in love with rap until I heard the Slim Shady LP when I was about 15 years old. I’ve always loved words and rhyme. I stayed away from rap until I stopped letting other people’s perspective of who I was determine what I could or could not do.
1) I rap because I love rap.
I am a rap fan, and I respect the craft. My brain is a wordplay machine. I rap because my mind thrives off of figuring out impossible, creative rhyme patterns (I wake up in the middle of the night with new rhyme schemes and punch lines - my brain is insatiable when it comes to that). I rap because I am an innovative thinker at heart, and to me, that’s what rap is all about. I rap because I always had an innate connection with rhythm and rhyme. I probably rap because Creative Writing, Psychology, Language, Art and Philosophy are all classes that my University professors suggested I major in, and rap innately draws upon all of that.
2) I rap because I love martial arts. (“what”... yeah)
The reason I always loved martial arts is the same reason I love to rap. Technical rap (multisyllabic, metaphorical, wordplay filled rap) is a craft that demands discipline, creativity and a lifetime of hard work to master. I rap because the discipline of rap is, in it’s purest form, bold, poignantly assertive and at times a purposefully aggressive art form that manipulates rhythm and timing, often to satirically attack a person or thing to intellectually re-frame a subject matter, or to tell a story (when it’s not purely self exalting and materialistic). That sounds a lot like verbal martial arts to me. The audible affect of a complicated rhyme scheme that’s well timed and placed, gives me the exact same pleasure that the visual of a well performed martial arts fight scene or form does. I visualize martial fight scenes in slow motion in my mind to determine how I want to sound on an instrumental.
3) The raw material of rap is in my genes.
As you may know, the roots of rap were steeped in social activism and revolutionary thought (e.g Africa Bambaataa, Public Enemy, Tupac, Rakim, KRS One, Mos Def etc). Recently I realized that the ease with which I identify with the art form may be explained by who I am- by virtue of my heritage.
My mother’s family is full of artists, journalists and writers. My maternal grandfather was a political-revolutionary journalist who died in jail fighting against a corrupt government. My father’s side of the family is full of presidents and military generals, which probably explains my connection to martial arts and war. On top of that, it dawned on me that I was born in Haiti, a country known for its independence and revolutionary history. (Haiti was the first independent, ex –slave, black nation.) The hilarious part is that I was actually born on November 18th, which is the day of the “Battle of Vertiere,” the day the Haitian slaves won the war against the French colonialists rule and became the 1st independent black nation.
Writing, art, war and revolution are literally a part of my genetic line and a part of my history. No art form captures all those facets better than rap. It’s a verbal martial art. Rap is not about where you come from or what kind of lifestyle you are from, it’s about who you are and what you stand for. My desire is to leverage all that I do to honor my Heavenly Father and to impact all those around me for eternal purposes. Rap rap is a martial art.