Cyn McManus, 32, is a Mixed Media Artist from Tucson, AZ. I never really had a broad understanding of “blackness” in my youth. I’m from a mixed race military family so I never experienced what it meant to “grow up black” in America. MTV was always on, but our household had pretty solid R&B and Classic Rock leanings. I knew some songs, I’d seen some videos, but a lot of it was labeled inappropriate for a kid my age. 2Pac and Biggie died just before I turned 10, and I remember seeing people genuinely sad about someone they didn’t even know. I didn’t get it, and I wanted to know why they were so important. I started listening to Hip Hop more and more, it even crossed over into the music that I liked. Andre 3000 and Missy Elliot were weird like me. Kid Cudi rapped over samples of all the songs I cried to in my car in High School and was honest and open about depression. JayZ made every young person aspire to be something no matter their circumstances. Ice Cube was like the hardcore rock and metal I was used to listening to, angry, righteous, and cathartic. Hip Hop educated me, it made my weirdness and my blackness make sense.