Andrew Shoemaker, San Diego, California

“For me, music has played a pivotal role in developing my self-esteem. I never spent enough time practicing an instrument to get good at it, and growing up my parents listened to AM talk radio, so my exposure to music was very limited as a child. The first artist I really enjoyed listening to was Weird Al. I was more familiar with the words to Weird Al’s songs than I was to the real songs that he was making parodies of. An older brother who was trying to be as cool as possible to his middle school friends did not take kindly to his 5th grade brother’s choice in music, but I believe it did help me develop a sense of humor. I guess I never really connected to music much after that or really followed it’s trend, which was rapidly changing. When I was growing up, music changed pretty rapidly with the introduction of bands like Metallica, Guns N Roses, Motley Crew, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day — the list goes on and on — and although I listened to them all, I wasn’t really into scene. People started to clique up and dress similar to the genre they were into. I never dressed like a punk, or a rocker, or grunge. Hip hop really started to change in my life time too. It went from the happy, simple rhyme schemes of De La Sol and Grandmaster Flash to a more rugged and darker side — NWA, Ice T, Ice Cube, Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, 2-Pac, and Notorious BIG.

It really wasn’t until I moved from California to Michigan did I really start to get into music. I remember specifically that it was in 10th grade. I had a started to hang out with a new friend named Steve. Steve was a big fan of rap. He had his driver’s licence and a 1970 Ford Crown Victoria car. It was huge — literally the size of a boat. It was old and junky, a rust yellow color, but we thought it was great. He would pick me up on Friday, and we would go to our high school football games together because a lot of our friends were on the team. He would blast rap music, and honestly, it just made me feel so cool. The whole scene of feeling older because we were driving on our own, blasting bumping bass in a huge old cool car just made me feel so much different than being made fun of by my brother while listening to Weird Al’s tape. I started to explore more and more rap music, and something about the ruggedness, the gritty stories, their expression of their own self-esteem and confidence really connected to me and helped me feel more confident. I didn’t change the way I dressed or the way I talked, but it did instill a bit of their self-esteem and confidence in me. I really connect to artists like Biggie, Outkast, Wu-Tang, and Jay-Z, and then Eminem came out when I was in 11th grade while living in Metro-Detroit and it all clicked. It was okay to be a white kid and listen to rap. It has been like that ever since…”

— Andrew Shoemaker, San Diego, California

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