Monthly Archives: July 2012

What happened to Our Tunes

“Lift Every Voice and sing till earth and heaven ring, ring with the harmonies of liberty.” These lyrics were written by James W. Johnson in the early 1900s as poem, and were later made into a song when Johnson’s brother added music to the poem. This song quickly became known as; “The Negro National Anthem.” Lyrics and music once meant something in our community and had a significant meaning to it, but that was a long time ago, before we met artist like Khia, Lil Wayne, Trina, etc.

During the 17th century when blacks were slaves and weren’t able to get an education, they relied on doing everything orally. They would make-up folktales/songs to make the time go by, and these were passed down from generation to generation, they were very popular within the African American community. These songs would be about life, religion, becoming free etc. our genre of music has changed dramatically since that time, now whenever I  turn my radio on, the lyrics I hear are about sex, disrespect to women, curse words, and several other things that would cause our ancestors to roll over in  their graves. Several people in our communities don’t know anything about the genre of music that was once called; “Negro Spirituals.” Negro Spirituals were religious songs sung by slaves. When exactly did music stop being about life and start being about sex?

Rhythm and Blues (R&B) originated in the 1940s. There were bands such as Tympany Five and Wynonie Harris, there lyrics were backed up with different instruments; trumpet, tenor saxophone, piano, bass, etc. Some of their popular songs were Beans & Cornbread which wasn’t about food, but the food identifies friends, saying the friends are like a good meal; “they go hand in hand.” Harris’ song; Good Rocking Tonight (remake), which was about having a good time with a loved one, but also enjoying the rhythm and blues. These songs still had a connection with Negro Spirituals.

In 1979 the first popular Rap/Hip-Hop song was born. Sugarhill Gang amazed the world with Rapper’s Delight. The song was fourteen minutes long and like the Negro Spiritual genre, this song was also about every day life and experiences, but instead of working in the fields, and living as slave this was a song about of living in the ghetto; and situations one must face while living in the ghetto and experiences with friends and family members. By the lyrics that are being rapped, it’s easy to tell that life for African Americans wasn’t the same as the 1900s because the artist didn’t sound lonely and depressed and they were no longer rapping about being free, because they are free.

As time change so does the music, lyrics and musical artist we hear. Today both R&B and Rap music has explicit lyrics, on these songs we hear men disrespect women and women disrespecting themselves. These songs are about being criminals and whores. It’s quite obvious that the artist has an influence over society; whether that influence is negative or positive is solely up to the artist themselves. Today’s music also talks about life, but it’s not always the life of the artist we’re hearing, it’s the life which sale singles and makes money.

One may think that modern day artist don’t know what real music is, it seems as if anyone can talk or yell can be a singer or rapper. Although I have so much negativity to say about this music, and today’s artist I too listen to these artist and their music quite frequently, I’m just open-minded enough to not have the music influence me in any way.

I am a fan of the old timer’s music, and as sit and listen to one of my old school songs and then I’ll listen to a current day and age song. I can’t help wonder where did our good music artist go? I sometimes also wonder if we can ever get some of that old soul back, although I know we won’t. I don’t’ worry about the future of our music, in all honesty, I don’t think it can get any worse.

And the Beat Goes On

   An unexpected pregnancy is never good, especially when the mother is an 18-year-old soon to be high school graduate. Aja Ellington, a 22-year-old attending Ivy Tech Community College, learned she was pregnant at the end of her first semester during her senior year in high school. Her dreams and her scholarship to play college basketball had to be put on hold. Now that three years has passed since this situation, Ellington is now comfortable and ready to discuss her past, present future and obstacles of being a young and single mom while trying to gain a degree to be a social worker as well as a music contract.

                Before she was impregnated, Ellington was an above average student in the medical magnet program at Washington High School.  She had an accumulative G.P.A of around 3.1.

Ellington first began rapping when inspired by her loved ones. “My family inspired me to become an artist, throughout my younger years of life believe it or not, I could not rap. My older sisters’ would write songs day after day, and I tingled inside just listening to them. Music in general, has always uplifted me, but music in my family as well as artist Tupac Shakur inspired me to become an artist,” Ellington said. Ellington rapped with friends throughout high school, and the only thing she wanted more than a basketball scholarship was a recording contract, but both things went out the window when her doctor told her she was pregnant, with not one, baby but two babies.

Ellington wasn’t surprised because she, her father, and her children’s father, brother are all twins.

“Becoming a mother changed me in a drastic way starting out. I believed that motherhood came naturally, but boy was I wrong. I went through a lot of painful and hurting times, but I fought through them and I must say being a mother is a lot easier now than when my twins were newborns,” Ellington says with a smile.

Ellington admits it was a struggle, but she can’t understand why a mother would give up that chance. “I sort of laugh when individuals give up on mother hood, complain all of the time, or make excuses as to why they can’t raise their children. I became pregnant at 18 years of age, and the struggle was very hard. I resided in a one bedroom apartment with my kid’s father and the twins after birthing them and it only got worse. I had no visitors from family or friends for a very long time. I felt depressed and suicidal not knowing that I was suffering from postpartum depression. Two feedings, two diaper changes, two sick babies, two everything, I barely had time to take a shower or feed myself. I thought about putting my twins up for adoption, but my heart would not let me. I stuck it out, and am still raising my twins to the best of my ability. They are clean, healthy and want for nothing. Being a mother has matured me in a great way,” Ellington says with a twin on each side of her; a boy and a girl

Ellington quickly learned it was impossible for her to try to maintain a rapping career while tending to her family and going to school. “The most difficult thing I encountered juggling being a mom, a rapper and a student is I have to put my passion for rap on the back burner, I have to make that my last priority,” Ellington seems a bit hurt by it, but she won’t  allow it to show.

Although Ellington has dreams of being a rapper, she admits she isn’t ‘hungry’ enough for it, because she fears rejection. “I haven’t crossed too many obstacles when it comes to music due to the fact that I am not hungry enough for it. In a way, I fear getting heard due to criticism, but I know that you must deal with that in any profession, so I am prepared. I guess you can say having as many recorded songs that I have is my achievement.”

One of the reason why Ellington refrains from diving into her music like she knows she can is because of her family. “I can’t really focus on my music career, because I am focusing on raising and providing for my children. My current relationship with my kid’s father also holds me back a bit; a lot of men reside in the music industry and out of respect for him, I have just been taking it slow as far as getting on tracks with guys and visiting males studios.”

Unlike some of the female rappers we hear today, who raps mainly about sex, Ellington isn’t comfortable with rapping about that topic. “My music is usually about what I feel, but not in all cases. Sometimes my music comes out based on what I feel like, for example; angry- aggressive flow, Happy-exited flow, sad- mellow flow. My music expresses me and what I’m made of,” she says as she goes to her video on YouTube and we listen to her song; ‘Luv me In Return.’ The song is just what the title says; she talks about her family and relationships in the song. Ellington rappers like Tupac; “my number one favorite rapper is Tupac Shakur, I can relate to Tupac through the struggle we both have in common. I particularly grew up on his song ‘Dear Momma,’ I never really had a mother, and that song always brought my brothers, sisters and I to tears as we sang it word to word,” as far as the other rappers goes, Ellington just settles. “I never really had particular favorite rappers, but I do like Nicki Minaj, Lil’ Wayne, and Drake; but maybe that’s because that’s all that I hear in society’s music choice.”

Ellington is happy where she is in life and where she is going, though she knows it would be both a dream and complicated if she got her degree and a recording contract. “If I got a music contract and a degree, I honestly don’t see how that would work. A rapper/social worker… I must say the music would def. come first and the social work would be put on hold until I am at a state of mind to balance the two.”

Ellington wants to become social workers to help juveniles who have been situations similar to those of her twin brother.

Ellington has come a long way from where she was three years ago, and she’s proud of it and  she’s willing to give others advice whose going through the same thing she’d already been through.  “If there is one thing I can tell lost single mothers trying to find their way, it would be to stay strong for you and your child. In a way you must put your life on the back burner. I enjoy myself from time to time, but when I first had my twins, I didn’t even think about hitting a club. You are no longer living for yourself but for the little one. No matter how hard it ever gets, as long as you are motivated to accomplish; you will. And your life will do a major positive turn around.”