My name is Derek Christoff.

In 1991, I begged my mother to buy me a cassette. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince:He’s The DJ.I’m The Rapper. The opening song, Nightmare On My Street, was the magnet. I knew nothing about rap music. I knew everything about Wes Craven’s horror franchise, A Nightmare On Elm Street. Dressed in Toronto Maple Leafs sweat pants and a glow in the dark Freddy Krueger t-shirt, I escorted my mother to Westside Mall for the purchase. She wouldn’t allow me to wear my plastic Krueger glove and grandfather’s fedora in the plaza.

I was obsessed. Not with the Grammy award winning album, or my first experience with the musical genre that would eventually change my life. Obsessed with a song about Freddy Krueger. I transcribed the lyrics. Memorized every word. Every note. It was a masterpiece. To my eleven year old ears, it was art.

Months passed and I eventually grew tired of the song. I needed to listen to something else. I only had two other cassettes; the La Bamba soundtrack & Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet, and both weren’t cutting it. I decided to explore the rest of, what I then called, the ‘Freddy Krueger tape.’

Love wasn’t instant. It took a few listens before I could say I was in love. I was overwhelmed. Words were coming from everywhere. Not what I was used. Concentration wasn’t necessary when listening to Aerosmith’s Pump. The dude looked like a lady. End of discussion. But this? This was different. This was incredible.

Robert Englund’s character had to take the backseat. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince took over the driver’s and passenger side seats. I went where they took me, no questions asked. I would give Hip-Hop music as a whole the same trust. And it took me away. Far away.

I drove with Cypress Hill, Fu Schnickens, A Tribe Called Quest, Redman, Dr. Dre Snoop Doggy Dogg to name a few. My world changed. I went from serenading my bedroom mirror with Rick Astley songs, to hiding The Chronic cd because it was stamped with a Marijuana leaf.

It was the beginning of my happiness.

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