By Jequcory Davis
Where you come from shapes a lot of who you turn out to be.
Some people have different mannerisms, food preferences, vernacular, clothing choices because of where they were born and raised. They have a sense of hometown pride that shows a lot about them.
It’s a sense that often shows through in Hip-Hop artists.
Music goes hand in hand with hometown pride, especially Hip-Hop. The connection is made as artists grow up in the most moderate of conditions in some of the roughest places in America.
And making it big.
Music provides a certain type of inspiration to a young person who is from the same place and facing those difficult circumstances.
“Nelly made me proud to be from Missouri,” says Vibe Magazine writer Xavier Hamilton. “He literally made being country a cool thing, when initially it wasn’t. I got to speak slang and be accepted for it and not turned away because Nelly made it cool.”
Some artists rep for their cities so hard and do so many things to give back to where they grew up that you can’t help but associate them with certain cities. Every interview they shout out their hometown. They wear local brands of clothing. And they come back and build in their hometowns.
Look at the influence Drake has on Canada, or Big Sean has on Detroit. Artists who are successful from certain places tell a tale about them and that’s a beauty of Hip-Hop.
People who have never been to Detroit still ask about 8 Mile because of Eminem. Repping for your hometown and music goes hand in hand, and that’s why so many places have hometown music heroes.
In 2001, Nelly was one of the hottest rappers in the world. At that time no one had ever broke out from St. Louis as he did. His video for “Midwest Swing” was all about St. Louis. His success gave hope to young kids like Hamilton.
Hometown heroes instill trends, taking their culture to different parts of the world. They boost hometown clothing brands, stores and start fashion trends.
“I own my own clothing brand DMNT,” said New York native and business owner Rock Haynes. “I was able to get a package to rapper Fabolous, and he wore it and posted it on Instagram. I sold out of everything on the site that night.”
Most Detroit artists wear signature Cartier glasses when making appearances and don minks as people in Detroit do. A pair of Cartier glasses is something that young Detroit men strive to purchase. They sport them for years. Cartier glasses have been a Detroit staple since the early 90’s. It’s the same with minks. The culture of Detroit makes both articles of fashion something all Detroiters resonate with.
It worked for Detroit rap artist Supakaine
“The first time Sean went on 106 and Park (Hip-Hop show on BET) with the buffs (Cartier glasses) and mink on, it made me want to one day get there,” Suakaine said. “Dej Loaf did it too when she had her shot, and we all love to see our artists repping for the city any chance they get.”
Some artists take much more out of repping their hometown, and become synonymous with it. Drake is the brand ambassador for his hometown NBA team, the Toronto Raptors, and has done everything from designing jerseys for the team to having his own night where he was the MC for the game and passed out shirts to people in attendance. And he gifted the Raptors with signature Jordan sneakers and landed an endorsement deal with the popular coat brand, Canada Goose as well.
“Drake’s influence here (Canada) is crazy,” said Canada native and Michigan State University alumna Celestina Hurst. “He has billboards everywhere, you hear his music 24/7, you really can’t escape him here.”
Jay-Z took that a step further, by getting the NBA team the New Jersey Nets moved to his hometown of Brooklyn and now Brooklyn has its own professional basketball team for the first time. Jay-Z has a stake in the team and helped get Barclays Center opened, which is the arena for the Nets.
The phenomenon is not always a good thing.
Some artists provide negative connotations of their cities. Chicago had an invigorated rap scene around 2014 with “drill music,” which was a bunch of rap in a certain tone about gang banging, guns, drugs and other references to violence in Chicago
Artists like Chief Keef, Lil’ Durk, G-Herbo were all at the forefront of drill music, that brought a cloud over the city, according to police. During that period, Chicago had one of the highest murder rates in America. Gun violence was at an all-time high. A lot of rappers were banned from performing to decrease the violence, but to Chicago natives, those artists could do no wrong.
Some residents say the artists were blamed too much for social problems with deep roots.
“People tried to attribute the high murder rate to rappers a few years back but it’s a lot of different factors that go into that besides specific rappers,” said Chicago native Mia Grady, a junior at Michigan State University. “Lack of police, prevalent gang wars, and lack of guidance all played big factors in the violence in Chicago, not rappers.”
Hip-Hop heroes are relatable usually because they come from humble beginnings and are more accessible than others. If you’re ever doubting making it where you come from, look no further than somebody that rose from the same situation in the same place.
There’s a lot of inspiration there to heed.