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The Immersion: Hip-Hop Saved & Destroyed My LifePosted by Dharmic X on 11/16/12 | Filed under Opinion, The Immersion
The occasion for writing this piece comes from the fact that this week marks the one-year anniversary of me officially joining the WNYU radio station, effectively beginning my “career” in the hip-hop industry. Needless to say, a lot has changed.
I don’t want to go into the details of the various artists and tastemakers that I’ve met, or the crazy escapades that being involved with hip-hop this directly has led to... The time for sharing those stories will come (and likely will come on RefinedHype itself). I also don’t want to spoil any elements of the actual story within The Immersion itself, because each song and each story is powerful and deserves its full attention in a separate post. But in looking back through this last year of my life and in looking back at my early adolescence through The Immersion, there appears to be a revealing pattern.
Hip-hop has simultaneously saved and destroyed my life.
As the months have progressed and have seen me become more and more entrenched in the New York City scene, it has also become progressively more difficult to strike a balance between Dharmic X, the hip-hop enthusiast living a life beyond his wildest fantasies, and Sanchay Jain, the NYU student, the son of strict Indian-immigrant parents. There is a schism between the two universes, and trying to put one foot on each universe has become increasingly difficult, a fact exacerbated by my impulse to lean towards one side of my body.
My relationship with my parents is beyond repair. It had been fraying for years as a result of the unwieldy expectations they placed upon me (and my constant need to resist them at every turn), but my affinity for hip-hop has been a major catalyst for its destruction.
They couldn’t understand the music.
To my parents, hip-hop is a dirty culture, filled with profanity, violence, and bad characters. No, they didn’t know about the stupidity I surrounded myself with. To this day they don’t know about the crimes I committed in high school, and I hope they never find out. They based their opinions of hip-hop on the media coverage that has always dogged the mainstream, steeped in negativity, or on the shudders and snide comments made by the friends and colleagues they had, mainly suburbanites who had received the same preconceived garbage from the same outlets.
In the summer of 2010, right before entering NYU, I saw tickets available for the Jay-Z and Eminem concert at Yankees Stadium. They were being offered through NYU for a discounted price, and so I bought them instantly before they sold out. When my dad mentioned my purchase to a colleague who had come to visit our house, his reaction was a wrinkled face and the claim that neither person was a “savory character.” Nine years and hundreds of millions of dollars later, and it appeared that Jay and Em were still “Renegades” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjXqiwu30FQ) to a portion of Middle America (and mind you, this is the educated and “liberal” state of Massachusetts).
So you can imagine my parents’ dismay when they found out their son had started to host his own underground hip-hop show on college radio, something they found out through a friend of mine who happened to see them last December before I had returned home for winter break. And of course, the more time I began to invest into the show and into the networking involved to make the show a success, the more that dismay transformed into outrage. Every trip back to Boston became an uncomfortable confrontation.
By summer time, they threatened to stop helping me pay for NYU’s staggering fees (I did come to the school on a scholarship, but still). They wanted me to leave the Big Apple and it’s cancerous environment and frenetic pace. They started pestering me on deadlines for even the most mundane tasks.
In the summer, I told my parents that I would stop being a part of WNYU. I lied blatantly. And I didn’t care.
Have my parents been wrong in their fears? I wish I could scream “yes” with the same defiant spirit that I’ve trudged ahead with on this hip-hop grind. I wish I could balance the need to interview Brother Ali or clean up the newest record from Action Bronson with the need to spend hours of studying on a consistent basis (or at least a few hours before a midterm). I wish I didn’t skip class due to a fatigue that comes from spending hours every night for one week making connections at CMJ.
This past week, I reached the lowest point of my academic life. For months I have been foolishly reassuring myself that I’m in control of what is going on, that I have the ability to catch up with my pending work and remain in the position I need to be in to graduate decently. I no longer have that belief... It’s spiraled all out of control. Every secret that I’ve been keeping from my parents as a consequence of playing catch-up has also been revealed, leaving an awkward void at this point as I duck phone calls and e-mails on a consistent (ie. every day) basis.
It’s fitting that earlier this summer, I mentioned the power of Jay-Z’s "American Gangster". No song encapsulates my week better than “Fallin.”
But where hip-hop corrupted me and served as a negative influence drawing me to the brink of self-destruction, it has guided me in the right direction time and time again.
Because at the end of the day, blaming hip-hop as the cause of all of my problems the way my parents have would be to pretend that I wasn’t living life aimlessly before I joined the radio station. In the last year, I took a passion and created a brand and a network out of thin air. I developed focus and willpower, two traits I sorely lacked as I spent the previous year wallowing in self-pity. In writing articles and reaching out for interviews, I learned how to apply my mind to its fullest potential, to study a craft to its perfection and spend hours researching and subsequently taking that research and applying it.
Most importantly, through the people I’ve interacted with in this industry, I’ve learned so much about what it means to be a man. I’ve learned how to be integral in the face of dirty practices and intense politics through mentors such as Nathan, The Company Man, and countless others. I’ve learned the power of humility and moving shrewdly by watching the overconfidence of certain people lead to their inevitable downfall. I’ve developed genuine friends through shared experience (such as my man Rome Clientel, who I now manage).
No longer am I just confident about who I am as a person in regards to personality. Now I know how I want to come across when I interact with others. I want to be known as someone who is considerate, respectful, and passionate. Someone who knows a lot but doesn’t impress upon others his knowledge .Someone who can walk through the loftiest of accomplishments and the lowest of obstacles with a level-head.
Not only do I know this, but I know that I am slowly working towards fully embodying that person.
When I was ten years old, my parents bought me my first video game console, the Nintendo 64, and with it, Madden 2002. For months leading into years, I was obsessed with the game, playing while the DJ Premier-produced instrumental of Mos Def’s “Mathematics” thumped in the background: my first direct exposure to hip-hop. But while in Madden, I could choose the “Mulligan” feature and erase my mistakes, life does not allow me such choices. Besides, at this stage, to take back the decision to join WNYU would leave me with a void that could never be replaced. To have the knowledge that I now have, to have the ability to connect with certain people and enter a magical realm of secrets and power and simply extricate myself from it all, is impossible.
The line from “No Hook” still resonates with me the way it did as a sophomore in high school. “I’mma live and die by the decisions that I’mma make."
This is the painful truth of "The Immersion". And I am content with this reality.
(DJ Dharmic X is the host of This Culture Never Dies, 11PM-1AM Saturday on wnyu.org. Fans and haters, can follow him on Twitter and check him out on Facebook.)
See Also: The Immersion: The Rise of Statik Selektah & “Mr. Popularity”