“Uncle Ricky: can you tell me a bedtime story pleeease!!!”
3:34 am.My head is currently nodding in affirmation as I stare at my speakers. The lyrics were like sketch flip books: the animations ran through my imigaintion and I was engulfed…
Recently, I picked up the book ” The Story Factor” by Annette Simmons. I perused the first 10 pages of the book, and took note on Simmons’ method of influence. The author say, lectures, and long winded speeches do nothing for most people, while a good story will pull most listeners to find the answers themselves, thus engaging and captivating the audience:
“We spend too much time talking to a person’s rational brain and we neglect their emotional brain…”.
It wasn’t the concept that blew my barn doors open and got me to thinking; it was the real life application.
For instance, If I tell you, ”don’t go down a dark street- it’s not safe.”, you might listen to me- but you will not be moved. But if I tell you, “about three weeks ago a kid that looks just like you was abducted on that dark street…”. I have tapped into your emotions, and now you have not only listened, but you have been moved. Even more so, I have not advised you to do anything, instead, I have given you enough information to make your own life decisions.
This is a relatively simple concept. We see it all the time in society. But the one place this concept is most readily seen in my life-isn’t seen at all:It’s heard.
Hip-hop has expanded my vocabulary, has given me rhythmic inclination ( I can dance… on beat), and now I realize, Hip-hop has given me some of the greatest examples of telling stories. Stories that influence, stories that move, stories that cause you to stare at the speaker and nod in affirmation as if the emcee was speaking to you… and these are just a few:
First off, if you know nothing about storytelling in hip-hop ,you need not go further than a man by the name of Slick Rick “the Ruler”. His long list of classic albums include hits like “Mona Lisa” and “Young World”, but the story that reigns supreme in hip-hop, is a track by the famed eye-patch sporting-British Emcee called, ”Children’s story“.
On the heels of Slick Rick’s first mention, it is only right to chase that drink with a second helping of Slick Rick. This time, it’s via a collaboration with the ATLien duo, known as Outkast on the track ”The art of Story Telling“. Outkast f. Slick Rick.
Two of the top rappers in the game, Nas and Jay- Z also have a couple of stories that standout to me as lyrical illustrations of real life situations.
Jay-Z’s ” Meet the Parents” is something like a hip-hop Shakespearian Drama:
while Nas’ “Rewind” is like watching a VHS backwards- right before you take it back to Blockbuster…
On the West coast…there are two or three tracks that are stories that I hold near and dear…
first is the track”Northern California” by San Quinn, which is a story about how the Bay Area came to its current position within the Rap game.
…and then there is a story by East Oakland’s own Yukmouth (1/2 of the Luniz- who made the song “I got 5 on it”), the track is titled ” City of Dope” and gives an explicit account of the history of the streets of East Oakland as seen through a young man’s eyes, while coming of age in the crack-cocaine era.
Speaking of coming of age, the song “Southside” by Scarface, was one of my favorite tracks growing up. In my teen years, you couldn’t imagine how often I used the line: “spent my day right off of (28th) broke and disgusted/ not a dollar to buy food/ but i’m smoking…so fuck it.”… ( I’d change the block Scarface references to the block we hung out on.)
Speaking of smoking, and hanging out with the boys, and a classic lines in story rhymes… I give you Christopher Wallace’s contribution: ”Call my niggas on the cell/ bring some weed, I’ve got a story to tell”.
Notorius BIG ” I gotta Story to Tell“
I noticed… many of my the story songs take a dark tone; they speak about death and portrayal, they speak of crime and sin. And I couldn’t end on that note…So, before this train of thought pulls into the station, I’d like to play one uplifting story: “Today was a Good Day”- Ice Cube.
alright, that’s the end of the story hour for now…yall go make like Ice Cube and have a good day… oh, and keep this in mind:
…Let us lead a life so that we have a story to tell at the end, a story that moves people. a story that influences people. and not just another story that people listen to…