Marc Cabrera has nothing better to do than watch a lot of movies and television, and listen to a lot of music. Luckily, he has a job that pays him to blog about local and national arts, entertainment and pop culture. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hip-hop culture, as far as I can tell, is all about representation - where you're from, what you know, even what you wear and how you act.
Therefore, the moment someone opens their mouth and says that they are representing for hip-hop, they are immediately leaving themselves wide open to an unending line of scrutiny: How can you say this about so and so when you claim to rep such and such? What are your credentials?
The result can be as innocent as a misunderstanding between homeboys on the corner, or as devastating as an East Coast vs. West Coast hip-hop war with real-life casualties.
Even as I type these words, the pundits are firing back with warning shots: Who are you to define what the culture is all about? What gives you the right to claim this culture as your own? What do you know about anything regarding hip-hop?
There are no simple answers, and I certainly won't engage in a debate over standards and qualifications, my own or otherwise. I'm simply a kid from east Salinas who recognized early on the power of this music and cultural movement, and decided that, at least for myself, it was a calling, not a fad.
Along the way, I've been able to meet people who share some of the same beliefs and understandings, and therefore have validated my allegiance. In turn, I've developed my own opinions and beliefs that have been shaped not so much by the music and the artists, but by the interpretations I have transmitted from the messages that lie within the music.
To that end, I have qualified myself as a hip-hop nerd, one prone to overanalysis of the subject, but who does so with the truest of intentions.
The fact that I have continually referenced myself in this manner is not an attempt at elitism, but rather a chance to present myself as someone who is well-aware of the hip-hop culture and it's evolution. So much so that I am eager to intellectualize a subject that is not normally given such consideration.
And thus, a hip-hop nerd is reppin' for East Salas, one whose socio-political consciousness was molded by the militant viewpoints and street-wise lyrics of early-90s rap music.
Public Enemy's social commentary helped me see the parallel between the African-American civil rights movement and the Chicano movimiento. NWA's music mirrored the cries against police brutality and boasts of bad-ass street thugs in Compton that were prevalent in the Norteno-Sureno gang infested barrios in my small farm town. That was my foundation.
As I've grown older, I've developed a critical eye and a strong voice informed by my understanding of the music and culture. I've listened to everything I can get my hands on, and then pressed rewind to listen again, just to make sure I got it right.
I've studied. I've written columns. I've taught my interpretation to the next generation.
All of this has helped me become what I am today: a keen observer of the culture who is now in a position to present it to wide range of people, and infuse that presentation with an intellectual slant that mainstream media (of which I am also an active participant) normally fails to get right.
Am I perfect? Far from it. In fact, it's my imperfection that makes me perfect for this job. I want to be proven wrong, just for the sake of making sure I get it right the next time.
Am I willing to admit my mistakes? You bet. When the time comes, I'll be first in line to acknowledge my bad.
Am I going to piss people off? Probably, simply because, as I stated before, the fact that I'm representing this hip-hop nerd status will set off a lot of red flags.
Ultimately, this statement is just to let folks know that from here on out, I'm reppin' for this hip-hop as hard as I possibly can. Folks can applaud, haters can hate, but remember this: If I said it, I meant it, and I came to represent it.