Felicia Pride: Message in the Music

Author Felicia Pride expresses her love of Hip Hop in The Message: 100 Life Lessons from Hip Hop’s Greatest Songs. What would be the soundtrack to your life? What songs would express your love, your fear, your excitement? What are the songs that get you through your heartache and the ones that just get you through the day. Author Felicia Pride got the idea for her book, The Message: 100 Life Lessons from Hip Hop’s Greatest Songs (Thunder’s Mouth/Running Press) from a personal quirk. Pride tends to use rap lyrics to describe her feelings, her day, or even as the response to a question. She was riding on the subway while living in New York City when A Tribe Called Quest summed up her melancholy mood in one sentence, “Riding on the train with no dough, sucks.”?Moved by the line because that was how she was feeling and trapped in a low paying job and a high cost apartment, Pride found solace in the music that was her release, Hip-Hop. After that lyric, she began to think of other Hip-Hop songs that had influenced her and what those songs had taught her. Before she knew it, she had the basis of a book. The Message is deeply personal. After reading the book, one feels as if they have just read the diary of a friend. Felicia Pride was not planning for it to be so personal when she started the project. “It was just life lessons without me in it, and I felt that they weren’t substantial enough,” says Pride “And I wasn’t even connected to it. Then I started writing myself into it, and it started to feel weighty and meatier. It’s probably the closest I will get to writing an autobiography.” Her obvious love for Hip-Hop music is apparent in the book as is her knowledge of the genre. The songs that she included span from Hip-Hop’s illustrious inception to its formative years, its Golden Age, and on dwon to some recent favorites. Everyone from Gang Starr to Digable Planets to Eminem are included in the broad scope of the book, which is a large part of its appeal. Every page is another surprise as she dissects your favorite rap songs and infuses them with stories of her life and times. Pride explains how she chose the songs, “I definitely wanted it to be wide ranging, as far as the themes and the artists. From around the country, all different calibers and locales.” She elaborates, “I wanted it to feel eclectic, and show the diversity of Hip-Hop. Hip-Hop is very diverse. Not at all monolithic.”One of the songs that Felicia Pride gleaned a lesson from is a Hip-Hop staple, the Pharcyde classic, “Passin’ Me By” (1992). She writes:

As a thirteen-year-old who wore purple stirrup pants, matching violet hi-top Reebok Freestyles, and had a bushy ponytail affixed to the side of my head, I had a find-out-if-he-likes-me-through-a-note-that-my-girl-passes crush. His name was Sam. A bigheaded boy who straddled “class clown” and “young pimp.” The note was passed. Or maybe the secret was whispered. Either way, I liked him. He liked my girl. That’s the day I learned that not everyone will dig me. Damn.

She continues to explore the topic of one-sided relationships:

Over the course of time there will be some incompatible folks who will bypass you like a drop-top in the fast lane. And that’s cool— you wouldn’t want them anyway. But the key is to keep moving, because if you don’t, how will you ever reach your true destination? By letting Sam and friends pass, I proved to be a better woman.?

While The Message is one person’s reflection, Pride states that the book is not, “Felicia’s Top 100.” The book was written for the Hip-Hop generation to inspire and encourage reflection, “To show our good our bad, to show that there is power in Hip-Hop, there is a tremendous power that we are aren’t harnessing correctly. The power of art which can make you really reflective.”

“When we speak of women in Hip-Hop we limit it to MCs and video girls… You don’t just have to be in a

video you can direct it, you can write it.”

Word is out on The Message, schools are beginning to used it, along with the book of her friend, Farentz Lafargue, Songs in the Key of My Life. Both books have a sentimental quality that point to the importance of music as art that can teach and Pride has developed discussion guides and lesson plans for the book. Pride is also working on women in Hip-Hop project called, The Womanhood Learning Project, that works aggressively to better the image of women in the industry. “When we speak of women in Hip-Hop we limit it to MCs and video girls. We forget about women who are working—the writers, the activists, so kids don’t see these images and see that they can still be Hip-Hop and still be doing good things.” Pride elaborates, “We have to be the ones to usher in other images in Hip-Hop. You don’t just have to be in a video you can direct it, you can write it.”Pride is the founder of Backlist, an organization that provides editorial, consulting, programming, and community outreach support for the literary arts. With so much on her plate one may wonder how she finds the time to get it all done, she seems to live by one of the lessons in her book, in this life, “Ain’t No Half-Steppin’.”

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