Exclusive: For Father's Day, we tracked down emcees like Snoop Dogg, Bow Wow, Crooked I and Slug to talk about the music that they play for their children and how music has been vital to their growth.
Fatherhood has certainly influenced Hip Hop. Most recently, this was evident in “Daughters,” Nas’ dedication to Destiny. However, fatherhood has also inspired many others. At times, it has inspired emcees to talk about a connection that is heart warming, as evidenced by Brother Ali’s “Faheem,” a touching ode to his son. Still, the complexity has also been showcased when fathers have been absent, as heard on many a Jay-Z rhyme including his emotional “Where Have You Been” verse. The prospects of becoming a father have even influenced rhymes, from Blu’s “Show Me The Good Life” to Common’s “A Retrospect for Life.” While some may view Hip Hop’s relationship with fatherhood as complex, it has still been an important source of inspiration for many artists.
With Father’s Day approaching, HipHopDX decided to dedicate some time to fathers in Hip Hop. We reached out to various emcees, asking them what type of music they play for their children. Each emcee shared insight as to why they play certain music and why they also let their children decide what is to be played. Some emcees shared that they want to expand their kids’ minds by opening their ears to different styles. Others said their children opened their minds by letting them hear new music. From fathers of toddlers to fathers of adults, each of these emcees shared how music is influencing their children.
Happy Father’s Day, from HipHopDX.
Snoop Dogg: My kids always heard my music from day one so they've been exposed to everything. They've been exposed to the truth because the truth don't have no prejudice. I've always expressed nothing but reality to my kids so that they understand when they leave outside of my house that it's a real world out there and it's not gon' be catered to you with maids, butlers and tutors. You're gonna have to go out there and survive and make it happen on your own. So, the reality of it is that they're gonna have to live their lives. My life is my life but they have to create their own lives.
E-40: The kind of music I play for my kids is the same music my daddy played for me. That’s old school R&B Soul records such as Earth Wind & Fire, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, Commodores, Rodger Troutman & Zapp, Cameo, Johnny Taylor, The O’Jays, Johnny Guitar Watson, Lakeside, old school mob music Rap and the list goes on! My kids will play the same for their kids. History repeats itself.
Slug: I play a mixture of everything and probably too much Prince and Fela Kuti. As for why? I don't really know why. I guess my kids get to hear and deal with what dad wants to hear and deal with.
Bow Wow: Right now, she's on everything Nickelodeon. Anything that comes on Nick. That's it. Anything that comes on Nick, she knows. It's really all up to her, you know? But of course, I'm Hip Hop so I already know what she's gonna listen to in the future.
Mistah F.A.B.: Every night, my daughter goes to sleep to Classical music because I heard it stimulates brainwaves positively, and although I hate it, she's addicted to the radio. She also knows every Nicki Minaj song. That’s her favorite rapper. Outside of Rap, she loves The Ting-Tings, Fela, and Bob Marley. When she gets older, I want to encourage her to explore all forms of music to expand her appreciation for music.
Pigeon John: The first song I played for Johnny was “Black Bird” by The Beatles on the way home from the hospital. Then I moved her into The Beach Boys to sleep to when she got older. She now leans towards the Beach Boys rather than The Beatles. She calls them "Daddy's music" with disdain. While we roll through L.A. I play her J. Dilla strictly. Her face holds a wonder I can't describe when she listens to it. She doesn't dance to it. She just ponders out of the window to it. I think she's going to kill the game entirely. The youth, ya know.
I play her all the music I think is master craft. Meaning, the source where all music comes from so she can get the idea in her head. It's like eating fresh raw fruit versus radio/popular McDonald's. From The Band, [Bob] Dylan, Slum Village, golden era [Hip Hop], [Frank] Sinatra, The Beatles to the wildly spooky Beach Boys. I smiled to myself when she chose for herself what music she wanted to sleep to recently. I tried to play “Black Bird” and she wound in her bed and said, with a three-year-old girl whine, "I don't want The Beatles, I want Beach Boys!" She’s going to be alright.
Music, when I was a kid was as wide as a drive-in movie. It was viciously magical. And mom played me her tunes which I still hear wooden and dusty in my mind. It's the hidden reason why I do music at all. Have you ever heard The Beatles' “Norwegian Wood,” for the first time, played by a 24-year-old beautiful white girl on a stand up wood piano on wood floors in Seward, Nebraska when you were three? I have and so will she.
Brother Ali: I try to create an environment around me with music so no matter what they hear and digest at other times, I know they're exposed to the music that means the most to me. I want them to associate that music with hanging out with Pops. James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Donny Hathaway, Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, KRS-One, Public Enemy, Bob Marley, Rakim, Ice Cube, [John] Coltrane, Bill Withers. The list is too long to mention it all. But their absolute favorite is Michael Jackson and I love that.
Saigon: I play the kids channel on Sirius [Satellite Radio] when I'm driving with my children in the car. Even on most daytime radio stations the music is inappropriate for children. It's a shame but it seems like popular Hip Hop music today is all about sex, drugs and alcohol, which is not suitable for young children. You would'nt show a kid a porno would you? Well its almost the same thing allowing them to listen to the poison that is populating the airwaves.
As my child grows I will not shelter them from the world, but the same way I monitor what they watch on television I will monitor the music they listen to. I believe there are a select few Hip Hop artists they could enjoy but hopefully being I have daughters, they don't ever have an interest in Hip Hop. Anything but Hip Hop, because the imagery of women in Hip Hop today is disgusting and embarrassing. I hope my daughters never get into Hip Hop. Please God. [Laughs]
Wordsworth: I play Nas, Jay-Z, Kanye [West] but then I let them choose after I get my two songs in. Then it's Adele, a lot of Nickelodeon, Justin Bieber, my stuff, LMFAO, and Nicki Minaj. That's what they hear on the radio, on TV, when we're driving. My parents let me listen to whatever I wanted, and I don't want to be all political about the music they enjoy. They're just kids and want to sing what's popular in school with their friends. I love hearing them sing the songs while we on the go. As they get older, I'll play a Curtis Mayfield record and some other Soul artist because there's a deeper feeling you get when you hear that music. It's soul shifting and riveting and I want them to understand the difference between putting out music to hear and music that touches you internally for eternity.
Crooked I: I've got two daughters and a son. I don't really talk about my kids like that, because I used to be on a label where kids got kidnapped. But anyway, I play radio versions. I don't let my kids listen to pops going the fuck off. I don't know. I just want hem to have a different life than I had. I used to listen to N.W.A. and all that shit when I was like nine or 10 years old. It kind of made me a monster. [Laughing] So, I don't let them listen to that shit. But you know what? The funny thing about my kids is that they don't even really like Rap. They think Rap is weak nowadays. They always hear me in the garage, my pre-production spot. They hear me making music and when they listen to TV rappers and people on the radio, they don't say this but I know they're thinking, "Man, that shit is weak." So, no. My kids listen to Rock. My kids listen to Rock & Roll. They don't even listen to Hip Hop. [Laughing] That's the truth.
Masta Ace: My daughter Milan is seven years old. I play my daughter a lot of music. Her knowledge of music is based on kids’ movies, TV shows and games. I play Michael Jackson the most as he is her favorite artist. Her knowledge of his catalogue is based on the video game The Michael Jackson Experience for Nintendo Wii. The game only has a limited selection of his hits. She went out of her way to hear every song he ever made so her knowledge of his music is extensive. I have also exposed her to Black Eyed Peas and other "safe" music. Eventually I expect to play more pure Hip Hop songs. But I will allow her to develop her own taste in music.
Punchline: The music I play for my child is R&B, Usher’s “OMG” and children’s songs. He is five years old and this is the music he responds to in the car when we drive. He likes upbeat music and listening to the characters he sees on television. As time passes, I hope to play Hip Hop around him once he is old enough to understand it. I want him to listen to the classics that are timeless the same way my parents put me up on the music they grew up on that I still play till this day. I would like to bond with my child over Hip Hop that I create.
The Grouch: We play a lot of Bob and Ziggy Marley for our daughter, Rio. She's six. Right now she loves the new Muppets soundtrack. In the past she's been into Beyonce and Shakira but we monitor how much of the more adult stuff she sees and hears. We play a lot of music from around the world and the Putumayo compilations are really good for that. At times she's loved songs by Santigold, Black Eyed Peas, Atmosphere, Jason Mraz, Michael Jackson, Erykah Badu, Jack Johnson and her daddy to name a few. There's some kids’ stations we let her listen to on Pandora. Raffi stands out. She gets to hear a wide variety of music being around her mother and I. To be honest though, I prefer her listening to and singing the traditional kids’ songs that she learns in her classroom. They have it figured out as to what's age appropriate and healthy for kids. I can't wait to hear the music she makes in the future!
Sick Jacken: When the kids are rolling around with me in the car, they're going to hear anything from '60s Rock and Soul music and sometimes '90s Hip Hop. When I'm at the house getting it together, they're going to hear nothing but old Soul. That's what I listen to. All my kids have their own taste in music. When they're around me though, I'm going to broaden their musical scope like my father did to me. I'm also doing my job in passing some great music down to their generation. The best thing about it is they don't mind it at all.
DJ Babu: Everything I listen to, my children listen to, and vice versa. I make sure to play them good music from every genre and era but obviously they hear a lot of Hip Hop, Soul, R&B, and Reggae. We're huge Michael Jackson and Prince fans. Niko, my oldest, actually puts me up on a lot of new stuff. He loves Odd Future, A$AP Rocky, Kanye, and is a huge J Dilla fan. He helps me understand what draws a younger generation to certain music and he reminds me of how I used to listen music as a 13-year-old kid. Micah, my youngest, loves everything. He loves the Jackson 5, New Edition and the Beatles. And of course, they are both huge Dilated Peoples fans but at the end of the day, I try to expose them to dope music regardless of genre or era, dope timeless music, new or old.
Six Reasons: My little girls are 10 and six, so they listen to everything age appropriate: Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, everything Disney and Nickelodeon. My oldest daughter has all of my most recent projects but they are still in the plastics. She’s not allowed to listen to them just yet. I have all sorts of music and memorabilia put away for them for when they can fully comprehend my genre of music. For now, they can just enjoy the cover artwork!
Luckyiam: I have my youngest daughter listening to New Edition and Stevie Wonder. Stevie is her favorite. My oldest is a huge Odd Future [and] Mac Miller fan but after having her out for Paid Dues and for rehearsals, she's bumping Eligh & Amp Live’s Therapy at 3! Happy Father’s Day to all the real Rap fathers. I'm sadly just a sperm donor. I'm tryin’ though. One day soon.
General Steele of Smif N Wessun: When my children were in the womb I made sure to play a lot of Classical music, Jazz and Reggae; mainly roots and culture, i.e. Bob Marley, Luciano, Sizzlah, Peter Tosh, Garnet Silk, etc. I also used to play a lot of Soul, Jazz, and Funk records - mainly stuff I got from my dad. I also began to produce beats at one point and played a little bit of piano so my kids were exposed to that as well. My belief was to instill the evolutionary properties of notes and tones. All music or sound comes from an instrument of sorts, so if you are in tune with the purest instrument, which I believe is the vibe, then you can make music or be music as our steps, moods and emotions are the pulse to the soundtrack of life, music. As my children grow, they are exposed to all facets of music, all genres. They are free to choose what they like and what they don’t like. I may see my 11 year old listening to some Blues, Reggae, Jazz or Pop or find my 14-year-old listening to Hip Hop, Soul or Rock & Roll. My oldest son, Genesis just started making beats and I often have my young son Massai engineer recording sessions with me. I can imagine rapping to one of my son’s beats in a session engineered by my other son, but more than that, I can make it a reality. What a blessing! 360° back home.
Sean Price: When my daughter was three-months-old, my wife and I took her to see Roy Ayers and I sang Boz Scaggs to her when she was little. I play her all kind of music, except Opera and that's next!
Buckshot: I play all types of music for them. Like we was at the crib jamming to Dr. Love and they were havin’ a good time. So we’ll be jamming to that, and I also play the new stuff too. The youngest one, she loves Rick Ross a lot. She’s two years old. She’s kind of like the musician of the family. She’s like the music lover. The other one is like a talent lover. She’s more of a dancer. I just want to keep them in tune with music. They come to the shows when I do shows, so I don’t gotta play them my music. It’s gonna keep progressing though. I guess the best Father’s Day gift I could get is my kids just lovin’ me. When it comes to me, I’m not very materialistic, never been a materialistic person. So when it comes to my kids, I’m definitely not materialistic. The best Father’s Day gift is just getting anything from my kids. Whether it be a paper, a card, a smile, anything. Just anything that signifies their love, along with the fact that they give me a hug and a kiss, and that’s the biggest Father’s Day gift I could get.
Ill Bill: My daughter listens to everything and just naturally has an open ear to all genres. She likes what she likes though and just because I might dig something, she might not and vise versa. She already has a strong sense of musical taste at five-years-old. She gets to hear all different kinds of music all the time ‘cause I'm pretty eclectic and so's her mom. She loves Hip Hop, especially the old school stuff like Whodini and Run-DMC, which is crazy to me. She's not into the heavier Metal stuff that I like, stuff like Metallica or Slayer but she really loves Dio, Ozzy [Osbourne] and Twisted Sister, which also blows my mind. Maybe she'll dig the heavier stuff when she gets a little older. Who knows though? Her favorite artist right now is Pink.