Amia’s ‘Old School’ dad

| October 7, 2013


I was riding in my car, blasting Machine Gun Funk, by The Notorious BIG, when it happened. The music was loud, Biggie sounded so good coming from all eight speakers of my car and I was in that zone we’ve all experienced where man, music, and automobile are all in-sync with one another. I knew every word of the track and I’m positive my flow sounded just as good, if not better than Biggie’s:

I Live for the Funk

I Die for the Funk

I Live for the Funk

I Die for the Funk

Now most rap fans know there is a point in the song where Biggie informs one of his associates who is currently incarcerated to, “hold your head, cause when you hit the bricks, I got gin, mad blunts, and ….”

That’s when it hit me.

While sitting at a red light, rapping my lungs out, I turned around and saw my three-year-old daughter, Amia, doing the same thing. She was into the song more than me and her little head was just bobbing away in her car seat.

The light turned green and I turned the music down, then found a mixed Sade CD I had in the car, and started playing Hang On to Your Love. My daughter didn’t say a word as she sometimes would do, if I changed our music in the middle of a track. And by the time, King of Sorrow came on, she was singing along and bobbing her head once again.

The incident stuck with me though; because that was the moment I realized I couldn’t just play anything around my baby girl’s ears. It didn’t matter that I had grown up along with hip hop or that I knew she would hear more adulterated lyrics as she grew older either. What mattered was that she needed to know she wouldn’t hear that kind of music while she was with her dad.

I still listen to hip hop in the car and at home, but I’m more aware of lyrical content when my daughter is around. Even what’s played on the radio today is much more blatantly sexual and sometimes even vulgar in comparison to 20 and even 10 years ago. And, I’m not saying the music is bad, I’m just saying my daughter doesn’t need to hear about someone, “hitting it from the back,” every time we take a trip.

I’ve also taken it upon myself to make sure she learns about great artists from the past. My mother was a big fan of Al Green and Aretha Franklin, and now so is my daughter. My dad was a blues man and now my daughter likes that too. She listens to funk, jazz, soul, R&B  and even a lot of pop music from the ’70s and ’80s. She has a very special ear for music now and she doesn’t need to know a song is new to give it a chance when I play something she hasn’t heard before.

The other day while we walked home from her school, Amia told me her music teacher had asked what kind of music she liked. You should have seen the pride in her face when she let me know her answer had been, “Old School.” Then you should have seen the pride on my face as we continued to make our way home.

D.L. Russell is an author of Horror and Dark Fantasy and the co-founder and editor of Strange, Weird, and Wonderful Publishing. You can also visit his blog at


This article originally appeared in the Oct. 2 print edition.

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Category: Entertainment, Local, Opinion

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