My formative years of listening to hip-hop came in high school, when I’d have to catch the city bus at 5:30 in the morning to go to school in Honolulu. It took about an hour to sweep through my town and pick up other riders then go over the mountains to get to my school. The perfect amount of time to listen to an album.
It was on one of those bus rides that I first listened to It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot — a Hemingway-esque title that spoke to a bookish, angsty pastor’s kid invigorated by the chill of the early morning air and the rebellious potential of adolescent independence.
The only song I’d heard before then was “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem,” because how could you not. It was everywhere when it came out. Even if you didn’t listen to the radio or watch MTV or whatever, it would still find you in traffic, thumping out of someone else’s car speakers directly into your bloodstream.
As one track after the next passed through my ears in the pre-sunrise delirium, the song that stuck with me most — both that morning and ever since — was “Damien,” where D(MX) the struggling artist is promised unimaginable success by D(amien) the devil in exchange for “blood out, blood in” allegiance…