It was all a dream. I used to read Word Up! Magazine. And The Source, Vibe, and XXL.
I hung pictures on my wall, tearing out images of my favorite rhymesayers and major players in hip-hop culture. But first, I drank in every adjective, noun, and verb used to describe them. My people lived in these pages.
And Dream Hampton didn’t just hold space for them, she delivered their stories to us by kicking in the front door of our hearts with unapologetic truth dripped in soul.
She’s among the journalists who kicked in the door for the rest of us culture writers. The journos who fight to cover hip-hop with nuance, to delve deeper than stereotypes, to love it all, and also be able to point out its problems because we know it’s not just music. It’s our culture.
My sophomore year in college at Norfolk State University, she wrote about one of my favorite lyricists, Jay-Z, for Vibe. This was before they were friends, before they’d collaborated on his book, “Decoded.” It was 1998, at the tipping point of his career.
She didn’t just interview him. She spent days with him over the course of some weeks, eating with him in New York, a flight to Virginia, a tour boat, and a football game at my college. This wasn’t just his world, it was our world. The party and the closet full of frail skeletons. And she contextualized it in a way that made me want to do it, too.