The Power of the Pad

The story of an artist unfolds in chapters or seasons of life. As a teenager with grandiose dreams of impacting the world through my heartfelt lyrics, I created with passion. The words of a shy white boy from a suburb of Cleveland would one day become a lion's roar to speak out for social justice, health equity and the voice of inner city youth across Cleveland. My first artistic season was experienced from the back of my 7th and 8th grade classroom . . . as Dee Jay Doc, the artist, was being developed. 

 In searching through old keepsake bins in my basement, I couldn't find my original lyric box containing all of the various versions of my original notepads, but this pictures shows how discrete my powerful new weapon could be.

In searching through old keepsake bins in my basement, I couldn't find my original lyric box containing all of the various versions of my original notepads, but this pictures shows how discrete my powerful new weapon could be.

Today's youth have phones permanently connected to their hands. In class, it can be such a distraction. We teachers, find ourselves constantly asking students to, "put your phone away."  In my day (the early 1990's), it was my minuscule memo pad. I stole away moments during teacher's monologues, not to go on social media, but to craft my latest verse. The skinny memo pad allowed me to write lyrics quickly; keeping my hand and arm relatively still. The teacher wouldn't see my arm moving back and forth across a large piece of paper as my pencil flowed with creativity. I could scribble discretely, like a journalist, but the story was being pulled from my own imagination.

In my first writings, I would pattern my verses exactly after the rhythms and rhyme schemes of Das Efx, Naughty By Nature, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and the Fu Schnickens. I would fit my own words like puzzle pieces into their rhythmic patterns. I think I had to consciously do this because rap rhythms weren't in my soul yet. The first rap song I ever heard was Paul Revere at age 11. It's been said, "You are what you eat." It took a few years of consuming lyrical phrasing for my soul to become one with the beat. Eight years later, I ran sound at Fat Fish Blue, a blues club in Cleveland, every Friday and Saturday night absorbing soul and blues. This added to my repertoire of rhythm and expression of emotion.  

My lyrical message back then was more reflective of my favorite, less known, rappers like D-boy, P.I.D., Freedom of Soul, Dynamic Twins and Brainstorm Projects. From the back of the class I sought to create a verbal onslaught of positive messages to sling at all negative rap opponents. The pad in my hand was like a storage tank for fuel or clip full of bullets as I built a weapon that could be wielded as I saw fit, or as the original Creator had intended. A true MC can use his gift to gain fans, fame, likes or money while propagating destructive messages, or the brave young man or woman can choose to blaze a worthwhile trail by speaking their own authentic messages that combat prejudice, oppression, ear candy and lies. This intense mental, emotional and spiritual work built up my internal strength years before I'd have the opportunity or guts to perform on any stage or enter a freestyle battle. Pouring my heart out on these tiny little notepads, proved to be a powerful progression of skill development and confidence building. Dee Jay Doc, the MC, turntablist, producer and teacher was being born, one tiny page of a memo pad at a time.

 

Doc Harrill