Rappin' Radical

Grime is the unholy terror of the Valley's hip-hop scene

"I remember one day I was at the house making homemade ice cream, when the land keepers caught somebody trying to steal fruit from [their] backyard," Tariq says. "When the cops came, they offered to chop off the motherfucker's hand. My father stepped in and said no. He's a Marxist, different from people out there. He at least sympathizes with the people's struggle, what they need to do to feed their families. Anybody can turn into an animal. Their justice system, their political system is one of the most corrupt in the entire world."

Nonetheless, his grandmother and aunt's influence led Tariq to study Islam while he was in Pakistan. "I didn't pay attention to religion most of my life," he says. His mother was always an atheist, and his father didn't embrace any organized religion, though he retained a great deal of respect for Islam.

"Then I went to Pakistan. I met my grandmother and my relatives. They value being righteous and being good. My aunt Nazo is very devout; she made it her priority to convert me. I started reading and praying and studying, stuff like that. I'll be honest, though, I never felt the presence of God. I used to pretend I did . . . I never really did. When I was on the carpet praying in Pakistan studying and learning about Islam, I liked it and I appreciated it and I appreciated the message and substance behind it, but I never really felt anything. When I came back to the States, I went back to school and forgot about it pretty much."

Grime
Giulio Sciorio
Grime
Grime (right), backed by DJ Konradio.
Giulio Sciorio
Grime (right), backed by DJ Konradio.

"From Grime, to whom it may concern/While I'm writing this verse the world burns/They killing for pennies, shit is insane/Governments making war for political gain/What's the difference between dropping bombs from a plane/And a suicide bomber hopping onto a train?"— "Everywhere Is War"

When Tariq's mother started home-schooling him, socio-culture shock set in, and music began playing a much greater role in his development. "Mom's working full-time, my dad lives on the other side of town, my stepdad works a full-time job, I'm basically in the house all by myself all day," he recalls. "That's when I found hip-hop again. When I was a kid, my mom introduced me to Public Enemy. From there, on my own, I got into Cypress Hill, KRS-One, stuff like that."

Lee, a sweet, short woman with glasses and gray hair streaked with purple, who teaches biology at a local community college, sounds amused that the introduction to Public Enemy was a catalyst for what her son has done with his life. "It's very surprising to me," she says, laughing. A friend of hers with eclectic musical tastes had given her a Public Enemy tape after she'd moved to Arizona. "I just really liked it, right away. It's the intensity, the feeling, the rhythm. I like the rap that has some content."

Tariq was young when his mom exposed him to Public Enemy, and the group's influence didn't stick with him. "For whatever reason, when I got into a lot of trouble, I got into dumb shit, dumb music," he says. "That shit changes you. Music is powerful. It impacts your life. For a lot of people, it structures your life, it influences people — it changes me still. I find myself listening to different shit, I find myself acting different. Music changes moods, atmospheres, it has the power to change everything."

Tariq Rahman had rhymed since junior high school, but extracurricular thug-tivities had quelled that outlet prior to his abrupt transition to social isolation.

"For whatever reason, I found real hip-hop music again. Out of boredom — not having any friends around, not having anybody to chill with, not being in high school, being alone — I got into a lot of Wu-Tang, Canibus, Nas, whatever was hot at the time. It got me back into that real shit."

Tariq started writing raps again and recording songs, but his heart wasn't in it until he encountered the song that would change his life's trajectory: "Nature of the Threat," by Ras Kass.

"Let freedom ring with a buckshot, this ain't a warning/I got one in the chamber with your name on it/Let freedom ring with a buckshot, but not just yet/Not just yet/'cause your death is coming soon and I'm praying for it."— "Let Freedom Ring"

"Let freedom ring with a buckshot," begins "Nature of the Threat," before launching into a chronological litany of history's crimes against native peoples by white colonialists and capitalists.

"[That song] completely changed the way I look at life, politics, history, myself, and everybody around me," Grime says. "It's this chronology of . . . it's based on race, but that's not what I took from it. It's based on European, Anglo-Saxon, white American oppression. What I took from it is a chronology of imperialism and colonization. I learned things from that song that I would read in books years later."

"Nature of the Threat" is a behemoth exercise in which Ras Kass, a California MC, spits a nearly eight-minute-long history lesson listing a litany of crimes and oppression perpetrated against colored peoples by white people. It begins with the origins of humanity and the migration and genetic adaptations that caused racial differentiation regionally, and continues through present-day America: "See blacks were 3/5ths of a man with tax purposes intended/You think you're Afro-American? You're a 14th Amendment and a good nigga/Jews don't salute the fuckin' swastika/But niggas pledge allegiance to the flag that accosted ya."

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