Music My Mom Played: Rappers Recall Household Favorites For Mother's Day
Exclusive: We gathered emcees like Ab-Soul, Saigon, Ill Bill, Crooked I and Big Boi and others to speak about the music their moms played while they were growing up and how it's helped shape them.
As we approach Mothers Day, HipHopDX decided to dedicate special time to mothers who have helped shape us. We have gathered several artists from a few different regions, eras and styles of Hip Hop to discuss the music that their mothers played, sharing insight about how that music has influenced and inspired them. Like Tupac noted when he wrote "Dear Mama," many childhood memories are full of all the sweet things moms have provided and these emcees and writers were happy to share how sweet sounds were also a part of their upbringing.
Murs: My mom played Soul music or R&B. The first record that I wanted to claim as my own was [Frankie Smith's] “Double Dutch Bus.” She made me love Take 6's second album So Much 2 Say, Anita Baker's Rapture and Phoebe Snow's Greatest Hits. She loved Sade, but she would only play [her music] when things were real heavy around the house and to this day I can't really listen to her music, although I recognize her as an amazing talent. Her voice is beautiful but has so much pain in it.
Saigon: My mother passed away in '09, and I was recently doing an interview and the song "No One In The World" [by Anita Baker] came on, and I couldn't stop crying. The interviewer thought I was crazy. [It was one of her favorite songs].
Ab-Soul: I grew up in a family owned record shop, Magic Disc Music, that my mother managed for her parents. Accordingly, we had to listen to popular music all day (Hip Hop, R&B, Gospel, Jazz, Blues, Reggae, etc.). My mom usually worked full 10-12 hour days, half of which i would have to spend after school, so by the time she got off it would be complete silence. I guess you can say my mom played everything while I was growing up, in a way. Now that I think about it, we rarely played Rap music due to the profanity. I used to sneak some Hip Hop in whenever she wasn't there and I even got caught a few times. I think I can say I was highly influenced or intrigued by the taboo of the culture, I couldn't figure out what the big deal was about a few curse words. But like I said, I had to listen to everything working there so you may hear a little bit of everything in my music; from Jay-Z to John Coltrane.
Reef The Lost Cauze: She used to play Kool Moe Dee's "I Go To Work" all the time. That was her anthem. My mom was young and hip so I never had the "Rap is bad" talk. Being able to listen to Hip Hop freely and being allowed to express my self artistically shaped who I am today. I love her for that.
Sean Born: My mom used to play a lot of Michael Jackson's Off The Wall album, Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye... I definitely learned what good music was as a youth.
J. Period: My Mom was, and is, a huge music fan and there was always music playing in the house when I was a kid. She used to brag about how she danced on American Bandstand once and, as a teenager, would sneak up to The Apollo to see Little Richard play. Her tastes ran the gamut, from Folk to Rock to Classical, but The Rolling Stones were always her favorite. I remember "Wild Horses" playing as a kid, and especially "You Can't Always Get What You Want" -- which, incidentally, was also her favorite song to sing me if I had my heart set on something... And wasn't getting it! Happy Mother's Day!
Jake Paine (HipHopDX, Editor-In-Chief): Instead of going on vacations, my mom and I would go to the movies once a week. Sometimes, instead of the movies, sometimes we'd go to Sam Goody and each buy a cassette tape. We'd play rock-paper-scissors as to who got to play their tape in the car on the way home. I always remember my mom buying Sam Cooke's yellow Best Of album. She always played "Everybody Loves To Cha Cha Cha." I hated it as a kid and always wanted to play my tapes, but after all her listens, 20-some years later, Sam Cooke is one of my favorite artists of all time, and my anti-Greatest Hits self always plays that album. My mom gave me (and gives me) so much game.
Aesop Rock: Here is a list of every album my mother ever played in my presence: Paul Simon - Graceland, Les Miserables - soundtrack, Fine Young Cannibals - The Raw and The Cooked, The Big Chill - Soundtrack. The end. Unfortunately, the FYC's "She Drives Me Crazy" didn't seen to have as heavy an impact on me as it did my mom. I still put on Graceland sometimes as it immediately teleports me to my youth. For the most part, however, I'd imagine my interest in music is directly related to my parents not really having much of an interest in it. It was something to find and explore on my own while [Les Miserables'] Jean Valjean was stealing bread and doing hard time.
I Self Devine: [She played] Funk, Soul, Jazz, Gospel, Hip Hop [and] Rock & Roll. [She had] 100% influence [on me]. My mom and I used to go record shopping and go to concerts.
Grand Daddy I.U.: My moms used to play "Misty Blue" by Dorothy Moore. I wasn't into slow jams, 'cause I was mad young, but now I realize... she was missing my pops.
Bambu: My moms was funny with her music selection... She's from the old country, so she played a lot of music from the Philippines and sandwiched shit like Madonna in there. There were no particular artists or albums, but I do remember a lot of songs about heartbreak -- Moms was always going through shit with Pops, so... Most of the music played by my Moms was sad, so the memories I have are of the same mood. Some people say my shit can get Emo [laughing]. I did learn that music can carry and magnify an emotion. Also, I learned that music can really help in the healing and/or motivating of a person to move forward. So, I really took that task on in my own personal music - I use music to raise the awareness of folks around issues that affect our community, while pushing folks to take matters into their own hands to achieve that change we need.
Andres Vasquez, HipHopDX contributer: My mother has always been a music lover. I woke up to the sound of music on many Saturday mornings, opening my eyes and ears to songs that would eventually shape my own love of lyrics and instrumentation. She’d sing along to every track while she worked around the house and had an appreciation for a diverse selection of music from all around Latin America. I would hear different genres and different eras, from Cumbia to Cueca to Rock and it all evoked different emotions. The melancholy melodies of Jose Luis Perales and Julio Iglesias were played before Toni Braxton or The Beatles' hits and the more lively sounds of Caporales would soon follow. All of this created a respect for different genres and a deep connection with the power of words and emotions expressed through music, something that I've definitely carried with me.
Phonte: One album I can recall my mom always playing was Natalie Cole's Thankful album. The album's hit single was "Our Love" and me and mom would sing that one together while cleaning up on Saturday mornings. But my favorite song was a cool, bossa-style joint called "La Costa." I used to play it over and over and over again. Looking back, I think that song might have been my gateway into Latin music. Years later when I discovered Antonio Carlos Jobim I was like, "Wow.....'La Costa' has an entire genre! [Laughs]
Tonedeff: Growing up in a Cuban/Colombian household, I was exposed to a fuckload of Spanish music. My mom's favs were Jose Jose and La Lupe - who was the queen of Latin Soul. She was like a Cuban Mary J. Blige - so my moms had a real connection with her. She'd blast these joints all night off the tape-deck, belting along with them at the top of her lungs at 2 a.m. on a weeknight. I'm sure our neighbors loved that. I was drowned in this stuff, so it was only natural that I ended up with a predilection for big dramatic melancholy strings over head-nodding ass beats. Thanks mom - Love ya.
Thurz: My Mom played a lot of Soca and Reggae music in the house. It affected me by diversifying my ear and musical taste in what I bump in my car today and my approach to certain records.
Mistah FAB: My mom played all Johnny Taylor and Bobby Womack [records]. They just made you appreciate good ol' Soul music. It helped me today in understanding the value of substance an content and music.
Slaine: I grew up in the '80s and my mother used to play the Michael Jackson Thriller record all the time as loud as it would go. Whenever I hear any song on that album it takes me back to my living room in Dorchester as a little kid.
88-Keys: I didn't really grow up with music being played by my parents in my household much and, when it did happen, it was my father who'd set it off. My mother liked the music as well as its from our country (Cameroon) but, outside of social gatherings amongst their Cameroonian Friends, I was pretty much listening to music my sister would play which were Top 40 hits on the radio back in the '80s. My parents listened To Makossa which (about three decades later) affected me as I'm sampling some African songs I find on vinyl nowadays - actually, for the past few years. It's just that the public have yet to hear any of those beats but they will in the very near future I suppose. I may release some.
Ill Bill: When I was a kid my moms stayed listening to 92 KTU, which used to bump joints like Shannon "Let The Music Play," Noel "Silent Morning" and "Spring Love" by Stevie B. It made me a fan of Freestyle [and] Dance music which was really big in New York City during the '80s.
El Da Sensei: "Around this time of year with nice weather and all I remember Shalamar's "Take That To The Bank" playin' while she cleaning up. [I can smell the] food cooking. To this day I still have those visions in my head and listen to all that same music too!
Diamond D: My mother played "You Stepped Into My Life" by Melba Moore. It takes me back to my childhood memories. Just a lot of good times around friends and family. It was produced by The Bee Gees who were on fire in the late '70s producing for everyone.
MC Ren: Man, my mama would play the hell outta Al Green on 8-track tapes while we cleaned the house. That shit still bump today.
Torae: I don't think as a kid I realized how amazing the music was my mom played in the house. From Marvin Gaye to Teddy P to Keith Sweat and Millie Jackson my mom played it all. My only concern at the time was listening to Big Baddy Kane or N.W.A., but as I grew older and started to expand my listening past just Hip Hop music I came back across all these gems from my childhood. I know growing up in a music loving family influenced my love of music immensely. I probably play more classic Coul, Funk and Jazz now than my mom did back then. Not too many things can beat full tank of gas, a great weather day and a fully stocked iPod, 32 gigs of the dope! Moms riding shotgun enjoying the grooves just makes it all the more better.
PackFM: My mother is so young at heart, you would never look at her and guess that she has two kids in their 30s. She always loved to dance around the house while cleaning up. She would play a lot of Whitney Houston and Madonna, artists who were her own age. She also played a lot of Diana Ross and young Mariah Carey. She would have her headphones on at night to keep the noise down, but I don't think she knew that we could still hear her singing mad loud. She had a huge stack of tapes that she listened to, occasionally she'd play old school music like The Temptations, but she was definitely more into contemporary Pop music. Even to this day she asks me to get her Ne-Yo CDs. I'm procrastinating on that one though [Laughing]. As far as influences go, it made me not afraid to like a song that's Pop. As much as I love hardcore Hip Hop, I'm not one of those dudes who will not like a song because it’s on the radio. If its on the radio and it sucks I don't like it, but if it's a dope song and is upbeat I'm not going to deny it simply because it’s popular. This generation more so than my own generation is starting to get the influence of the music my mom played, because she has such a young spirit. My generation was influenced by the Motown era heavily because that's what their parents bumped, but my mom wasn't trying to be an old head; she keeps up with what's current, always.
Nino Bless: My mother played a ton of Latin Jazz, Salsa, and '60s and '70s soulful music, everything from Hector Lavoe, Tito Puentes, Celia Cruz, Nina Simone, James Brown, to Ray Charles. These songs represent some of the best memories of my childhood cause its the last time I can recall my family being together. The music influenced me a great deal. Salsa got me obsessed with wanting to play an instrument so I learned the trumpet and piano right away. I always invested into the words of soulful music from the likes of James Brown, Nina Simone, and Ray Charles. It has definitely played a roll with the music I'm doing currently doing cause like my mother I'm very diverse with my music taste and open to anything. My next project is more alternative and experimental sounding and bringing in some things in Hip Hop that I haven't heard before. I'd attribute that a lot to my parents and their flexibility with music. All around my mother raised me tough and always taught me to be myself and be my own individual. I take after that cause I tend to do what I feel is right to me rather than follow trends or do what everyone else is doing and without a doubt I get that from her. She was a hard working woman and just very strong-minded. I always hear about those real sweet mothers who baby their kids. I had a tough Puerto Rican mother who worked hard for everything and worked for herself. It took a while for her to get it but she's extremely proud of what I do.
Kool Keith: My mom played a lot of Spiritual music around the house. Not the loud screaming kind of stuff but the soft spiritual kind like Al Green, Barry White. I remember her playing her music mostly in the mornings, which made for a relaxing start to the day.
Eligh: My mom played a lot of different genres of music, from Michael Jackson, to Bob Marley, to Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. If there’s one thing I take away from my childhood as far as her music playing goes, it’s that every child should grow up with music in the house, blasting every weekend, playing softer on weekdays. It expands a kid’s mind and invites creative thought. At least it did for me, as well as giving me a literal soundtrack to my childhood. For me, M.J's Thriller, Bruce Springsteens The River and a lot of Fleetwood Mac and Sam Cooke [stand out]. Why these artists and albums stood out? Because I was so young, they affected me strongly I guess? I have some serious nostalgia around these artists for sure. I know the Thriller tour was the first live show I went to. I was in kindergarten, and got free tickets last minute from another kid’s parents, so my mom took me and it blew my freakin’ mind off. Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A Tour was the second show I went to, and I remember it being the loudest shit I’d ever heard. [Laughs] These artists put a lot of emotion and thought and heart in the way they sing and write. It wasn’t bubble gum Pop with no real message, so it all influenced my opinions on what really good music should be.
Jahlil Beats: My mom was a big fan of Debarge and all she played was the All This Love album she had "I Like It" on repeat non-stop. [Laughs] That was a very musical album and it influenced me musically. I wish they could make a comeback i could definitely pass as a new member in the group. [Laughs]
Luckyiam: My moms would play Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Jackson 5, [Diana Ross & The] Supremes, Earth Wind & Fire, The Beatles and more! I think it gave me a sense of melody and great musical taste and the drive to create music that could stand the test of time. I love you mama and grammy! Thank You.
DJ Doo Wop: I definitely remember two joints mom use to play all the time, but especially Saturday mornings as we cleaned up the whole house. "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge and "Ain't No Stopping Us Now" by McFadden & Whitehead. Now whether she was trying to get a point across or not, these songs are still two of my favorites till this day. Very inspirational. Love you mom and I will see you Sunday.
Aesop: My mother listened to Gospel music. Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross and Lionel Richie were her favorites. She played music all day while she maintained the house while my father was away at work. These songs remind me of home when I hear them. Hearing Gospel music and Jazz in my household gave me a sense of righteousness that came from Black Music in the 70s and 80s when I grew up. That same self worth and positive belief has stayed with me in my song creation.
Additional Reporting by Jake Paine
Happy Mother's Day from HipHopDX