A timely reflection on identity in America, exploring the intersection of fatherhood, race, and hip-hop culture.
Just as his music career was taking off, Juan Vidal received life-changing news: He’d soon be a father. Throughout his life, neglectful men were the rule – his own dad struggled with drug addiction and infidelity – a cycle that, inevitably, wrought Vidal with insecurity. At age 26, with only a bare grip on life, what lessons could he possibly offer a kid? Determined to alter the course for his child, Vidal did what he’d always done when confronted with life’s challenges. He turned to the counterculture.
“The counterculture took the place of a father I could no longer touch. Since things like school and church couldn’t get through to me, I was being trained up outside of organized institutions. What I gravitated to were these movements that not only felt redeeming, but also freeing. They were almost everything I needed.”
In Rap Dad, the musician-turned-journalist takes a thoughtful and inventive approach to exploring identity and examining how we view fatherhood in a modern context. To root out the source of his fears around parenting, Vidal revisits the flash points of his juvenescence, a feat that transports him, a first-generation American born to Colombian parents, back to the drug-fueled streets of 1980s-’90s Miami. It’s during those pivotal years that he’s drawn to skateboarding, graffiti, and the music of rebellion: hip-hop. As he looks to the past for answers, he infuses his personal story with rap lyrics and interviews with some of pop culture’s most compelling voices – plenty of whom have proven to be some of society’s best, albeit nontraditional, dads. Along the way, Vidal confronts the unfair stereotypes that taint urban men – especially Black and Latino men – in today’s society.
An illuminating journey of discovery, Rap Dad is a striking portrait of modern fatherhood that is as much political as it is entertaining, personal as it is representative, and challenging as it is revealing.