My journey of becoming a hip-hop artist



Caleb Dickson, also known as Yung_CED in the rapping community, performs Feb 7 in the Lincoln gym. Dickson led a presentation created by Critical Race Studies 3-4 students about art forms important to the black community.

I am a hip-hop artist in Portland, Oregon. When I was a little kid, I loved to listen to music. I would dance to the rhythm and I would perform in front of friends and family. Performing at birthday parties, school talent shows and in crowds of people that I’ve never seen before was something I loved. I wasn’t always rapping, though; my favorite artist was Michael Jackson and I would watch videos and practice in front of the T.V. trying to master every dance move that he did. This helped me develop rhythm at a young age by following dance moves on beat and lyrics with the music. My younger brother Eric and I did everything together. He would dance with me and supported me with anything I did. He became a great singer and I was always happy when he showed off his talents. Music ran in the family. My uncle became an artist and a producer that went down to L.A. and my dad always had some bars in his rhyming capabilities. 

As I got older, I started to move away from dancing and more towards rap music. I remember listening to albums from the Black Eyed Peas (THE E.N.D.), Jay Z/Kanye West (Watch the Throne), and Drake (Thank Me Later). These artists had different styles of music which introduced me to the versatility of hip-hop. I would play music on my iPod and enjoy the sounds, instruments, lyrics and artists. My biggest hip-hop influencer was J. Cole and his 2014 Forest Hills Drive album. I would spend countless hours trying to memorize everything he said by studying his lyrics and learning the true meaning of his songs. It’s funny looking back at it now, but the instrumental of the first song I ever wrote when I was in the 6th grade was “Fire Squad” from J. Cole’s album. I knew I had a long way to go but it was the start of becoming an artist.

I loved lyrical artists that could tell a story in their songs. That’s why J. Cole was such an inspiration for me. Artists like Kendrick Lamar and Logic were people I admired and appreciated for what they brought to hip-hop. This was considered the “New School” era where conscious rappers would have the biggest impact. My parents liked this new generation of music, but they also wanted to introduce me to their generation of hip-hop. I remember my mom telling me to listen to “Illmatic” by Nas which changed my life forever. Illmatic was my favorite album of all time with each song remaining a forever classic. It was timeless. Nas told a story in every song that included punchlines, historical background, personal encounters and literary devices that I had never heard before. Even today, It still remains to be my favorite album and one of my favorite artists. This truly influenced me to listen to more old school artists like Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls, Ice Cube, Rakim, Big L, Jay-Z, Big Pun, and many more. I started to learn more about the hip-hop culture with each old school artist telling a different story in a unique way. I learned about the different groups that would form including the Wu-Tang Clan, N.W.A, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, Gang Starr and more. The old school era (specifically the ’90s) was my favorite time in music and part of me wished I was alive to see it. 

Every year, I started to see progress in my lyrics. My vocabulary was expanding, I was developing better rhyme schemes and switching up flows became natural. I released songs that had an old school essence with lyrics that had a deeper meaning. As I was making music, I became more aware of my surroundings, especially around race and politics. In school, I excelled in English and History and I used those skills to my advantage. Writing became much harder because discussing social issues in my lyrics took more time and energy. The reason I love being a lyricist and a conscious rapper is because it parallels with Political hip-hop. It focuses on topics such as religion, African American culture, everyday life and the state of hip-hop itself. I used these connections to paint a better picture for people to understand what my lyrics truly meant. I would practice this type of writing for hours and as I got better, I was able to incorporate my emotions, personal stories and inspiration.

Rapping became natural for me and with the techniques I’ve learned over the years, I became very versatile. I was able to freestyle off the top of my head whenever someone played an instrumental, I started to write poetry that helped my lyrics develop into something greater, and creating different styles of music became more frequent. Hip-hop has changed my life so much and has shaped me into a better person. It’s more than just listening to music. Whenever I felt down in life, music would help pick me up. Whenever I was angry or sad, writing lyrics helped me process my thoughts and helped me gain more self-control. I love music so much that I’ll use it to continue my journey into becoming a greater artist.

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