Stories in the Sky

Acceptance

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For rapper Theo “Intalek” Jamison, hip hop had long been a matter of secrecy when relating to his parents. As a young child, he would listen to his father’s collection of rap albums on cassette tapes only after his father left for work. “He’d keep it from us,” Jamison explains, “’cause it was one of those, like—this is like late 80s, early 90s . . . It was strong, so the language was a little bit more heav[y] than it is now, maybe in a sense. It was politically driven acts. You had your straight hip hop acts—stuff like that. So he’d keep it kind of from me because of the language use.” But Jamison always found a way to his father’s collection when he was away, so Jamison enjoyed listening to hip hop tracks every day. But the fun didn’t last long, as he was one day caught with a broken tape of MC Lyte’s Lyte as a Rock record. His father was not pleased.

Later as a college student, Jamison began recording his own lyrics with his friends, but the secrecy resumed in a different way, as he hid all production activities from his parents. “I always hid it from them. Like I would record songs on the computer at the house with my friends, or go to my friend’s house and do it. I never really let them listen to the music ‘cause it was rough. There was language I didn’t want my parents to hear at the time. So it was tough for me to do. But then on that end, it was like, I would be in the house and be somebody else but then go outside and get so much praise for the type of music I was making.”

It was not until he made preparations to move to L.A. and expand his music career that he decided to break the news to his parents, as his parents wanted to know why he planned to move there. He presented his album Lives and Vibes to them and revealed his work as a rapper. To his relief, they accepted his career choice. “It took some time. It took years. It was like years of just hiding it and trying to keep them from looking at me in a different way. But, you know, once I stood up and kind of said, ‘Hey, this is really what I do. This is who I am. I get paid gigs. I’m actually out here doing something with it.’ And when I can present it to them that way, then it makes sense for them. ‘Cause all parents don’t want their children wasting their time, you know. So, they’re looking at it like, ‘All right, well, he’s doing something with it.’ So I think that’s what it took—it took time for me to kind of build that resume and bring it to them.”

With the acceptance of his parents earned, Jamison now hopes to gain the acceptance of critics who, according to Jamison, view rap and hip hop as distasteful music because of a misunderstanding of the culture. “You have just regular hip hop style—where . . . they kind of keep the actual art form alive—that get thrown into that box that you think is negative because of the language use, you know. So there’s a certain fear that I feel like that’s still in our area.” Jamison goes on to explain that even though hip hop has a large presence in media and young listeners embrace its music, the older generations have trouble acknowledging it. “It’s just a fear. And I want to break that barrier and take that fear down because we’re here, like I’m willing to talk to anybody.” Jamison hopes that spreading awareness of hip hop’s broader identity will bring more people to accept the genre.

In this episode of Stories in the Sky, Jamison talks with Victor Russo about his work on his recent albums, his life in Bahrain, and how he broke his father’s Lyte as a Rock cassette tape.


Theo Jamison is a rapper who goes by the stage name Intalek. You can listen to his music and find more information about him at intalek.bandcamp.com.

Note: The songs played in this episode—listed in chronological order—are Good Morning, Los Angeles, VA; Ecstasy; Purpose (ft. Pastor Steve Kelly); and Celebration by Intalek.

 

 

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