So what’s the difference between rap and hip hop? It’s simple. It’s like sayin’ you love somebody and bein’ in love with somebody. Rap is only a word.
This line attributed from the 2002 urban, romantic film Brown Sugar is one that rouses the soul of many who share a common, undying passion for hip hop. To them, hip hop is more than simply a music genre. It is a culture, and a lifestyle; It is the history of its design. To them, hip hop is the talented forces that crafted the movement and the innovative generation who keep it alive.
Joe Nipper, also known as Joe Nipp, is a man who understands this passion all too well. The Harlem, New York native grew up amongst some of the notable names of this once underground genre which would eventually dominate the sound of American mainstream music. Perhaps it was his warm spirit and personable demeanor that drew me to him. It may have been that magnetic disposition of his- a common trait of hip hop influences. Nevertheless, this man had a story about him, and the eagerness in his smile proved that it was an eventful one.
Joe Nipp has natural musical talent pumping through his blood, first learning to play the drums, piano, and guitar all by ear. He also raps and has been dancing since the age of four. Like many other children during his generation, he grew up captivated by the unparalleled dance moves of artists like James Brown, the dynamic sound of Otis Redding, and the appeal of the Jackson 5. He modeled his own technique after such artists, quickly catching onto their styles and sounds.
At the tender age of five, a chance of fate allowed Nipp the opportunity to perform as a dancer alongside the legendary James Brown at the historical Apollo Theatre. He described the feeling as “More than exciting. It totally changed my life.” He considered that moment to be his official “stamp of approval” to enter into the music industry. From that instant, Nipp was a hit among the community and was offered additional opportunities to further his career in the arts.
Despite his celebrated and unforgettable experience with the Godfather of Soul, Nipp began to feel ostracized by peers within his neighborhood. “I wasn’t a normal child” he states. He felt his talents made him strange among others in the projects he lived in. Nipp recalls an instance when he was approached in an elevator by a group of neighborhood kids and a fight broke out. He explained incidents such as these were common and due to jealousy from other children. As a result, Nipp explains, “I began to suppress my talents. I just wanted to be a normal kid.” Instead of choosing to dance, he joined a resident gang, began to steal, and ran drugs for local drug dealers.
Realizing the destructive path his son was leading, Joe’s father moved the family to the Bronx. There, Nipp rediscovered his passion for music. Upon entering high school, he applied to the High School of Music and Art, a performing arts school in Manhattan, but was turned down due to failing grades. Instead, Nipp took control of the opportunities available to him and decided to join his high school band as a drum player.
Following high school, he reconnected with a childhood friend and local DJ known as Greg Ski. “We started doing a lot of shows with the Cold Crush Brothers and a lot of other groups . I really did do a lot with music until about 1989.”
Unfortunately, the streets that Joe Nipp grew up on had a hold on his mind. Throughout his young adult life, Joe continued to associate himself with the street life, participating in drug related endeavors. During that same year he was arrested for drug possession in Colorado. Fate gave him another chance as he only served 13 months.
Just when you think you know hip hop it surprises you and reminds you why you fell in love with it in the first place.
Brown Sugar (2002)
Atlanta, referenced as the capitol of the South, is known for its entrepreneurial opportunities. It is also currently the music capitol of the nation harboring some of the most musically gifted and creative people in the country. Many move to Atlanta seeking the opportunity to expose their talents to the world. Joe saw it as a new start career wise. The move also presented for him the opportunity to become more involved in his music, working with local artists and musicians.
Despite the numerous setbacks Joe Nipp has encountered, he continues to pursue music with more enthusiasm and ferventness as before. He is currently producing his own mix tape. He describes it as “Hip hop at its purest form; one take freestyle, raw, and uncut.” Ultimately, Nipp plans to own a production company including a network of diverse artists and talents.
Joe Nipp also plans to give back to the community in a way that helps encourage shy, troubled youth take advantage of their talents. He completely understands that the setbacks he faced were due to the pressures of being a product of his environment. “I had lot of opportunities set up for me” Nipp recalls. The decisions he made are mistakes learned, and his goal is to help youth avoid making similar poor choices. He wants children to see past their current circumstance by aiding them in their creativity.