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I’mma throw shade if I can’t get paid.

During an interview for her upcoming film Girls Trip, Queen Latifah gave a brief retrospective of her career. From music to TV to movies to behind-the-scenes, Latifah has been a part of it all. And I can remember pretty much every one of those moments.

And how they all changed my life.

I often talk about how “representation matters”. When you see someone that looks like you, it allows for you to believe that you belong in whatever space they inhabit as well. Oftentimes that is needed within media where diversity and inclusion fail to exist. Especially television.

I remember the first time I saw the video for Lil’ Kim’s “Crush on You”.

Everything about it just mesmerized me. The colors, the hair. The hair colors. I remember confusion in trying to figure out how Lil’ Kim could change her hair color so many times in four minutes. The lyrics made no sense since I was too young to understand. But I knew them all. I inadvertently knew the meaning of “throwing shade” before I could ever employ the verbiage. Back to the hair; I really wanted green hair. Green hair and green shades.

I wanted all of the background dancers’ outfits. I wanted Aaliyah’s outfit. I wanted to be at that party. I thought parties like that were meant for grown-ups and I couldn’t wait to get older.

To this day, it’s one of the few rap songs that gets me hyped without much effort. It’s an anthem. My anthem.

Every single iconic moment in my life that helped to establish what Black womanhood would mean to me happened through hip-hop. A genre that can be overly misogynistic and demeaning to women ended up giving me role models and influences that I still carry with me today.

I can still remember my Aunt Leslie blasting her 80’s hip-hop around the house. Her door knockers earrings and her effortless style. I thought she was the coolest woman on the planet.

I remember when I first saw Big Les on Rap City. She commanded respect from everyone that she interviewed. She was so much a part of the culture that there wasn’t a hip-hop video that did not demand her presence.

I remember Misa Hylton. She styled Kim, Missy Elliot, Mary J. Blige and more. She helped to shape the images that ultimately shaped me.

I remember Foxy Brown. I remember Charli Baltimore. I remember Eve. I remember Ms. Jade. I remember Mia X. I remember feeling like women had a place in the genre and so did I. The culture of hip-hop is ingrained into everything that I do. How I walk, talk, act, think. I can chronicle every important moment in my life with a rap music. I’m very defensive of the genre. Very protective yet hyper-critical. And I know I have the standing to do so because I am a part of it.

And forever will be.

This is part of my attempt to write every day in July. You can follow the series here.

Memoirist in spirit and in truth. Christian essayist when both the spirit and truth move me. email: crjtwrites[at]gmail.com

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