If you’ll allow me to indulge in a little autobiographical musing, I’d like to talk to you about my history with hip hop.

Prior to about 2003, I hated hip hop. It was garbage. I also hated all pop music. Okay, I was a pop-punk kid who pretty much hated anything that didn’t sound like New Found Glory or Blink-182. I was a lil white snot nosed little shit head. Let’s just call it what it is.

Around 2003, however, I discovered that I enjoyed my English class. I enjoyed reading. I enjoyed dissecting words, and language and studying how others before me had put it all together. Also in 2003 was the release of the 8th Edition of Epitaph Record’s annual compilation of punk songs, Punk-O-Rama. Punk-O-Rama 8 featured a track called “Makeshift Patriot” by Sage Francis and subsequently introduced me to a whole new world of underground, independent hip-hop.

“Makeshift Patriot” is essentially Sage Francis’ response to our own national response (particularly manipulation by media outlets and government officials) to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. He used imagery, symbolism and rhyme like the poets I was studying in class only he was writing and speaking about events that I actually experienced and feelings I had known. Discovering more of Sage’s catalog led to the discovery of Atmosphere, who was later featured on Punk-O-Rama 9 with their song, “The Keys To Life vs. 15 Minutes of Fame”. They’d also be featured on Punk-O-Rama 10 with “National Disgrace.”

Sage, Atmosphere (rapper Slug and producer Ant), and the rest of Slug’s Rhymesayers label changed how I looked at music and showed me that hip hop isn’t just what top 40 radio shoves in your face or what blows up the speakers at dances and parties. It’s art. And it’s beautiful.

Anyway, I tell you all of that to share with you that it is the 20th anniversary of Rhymesayers, a record label and collective of hip hop artists that boasts a lineup of releases from independent hip hop heavy weights like Aesop Rock, Blueprint, P.O.S., Brother Ali, Grieves, and Eyedea (RIP) & Abilities.

In celebration, they’re going about their business of releasing dope shit (Hail Mary Mallon have a new record out) but along with that they’re also doing a YouTube series of shorts about the formation of Rhymesayers.

Check out the video below to learn about the formation of one of the most influential movements in hip hop. A new episodes comes out tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

– Mike

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