On Fathers Day in 2020 I launched a podcast to discuss the highs and lows of being a dad, FathersWhoBother. The name was inspired by a line from Pete Rock and CL Smooth’s classic, “T.R.O.Y” where CL rapped “Took me from a boy to a man so I always had a father, When my biological didn’t bother,” in homage to his Grandfather, Poppa Doc. It made me think about the fathers who DID bother, the artists who would show up to interviews with their kids in tow and answer questions with them in their laps.
So, for the next 50 episodes or so I got some of my favorite MCs, producers, DJs, comedians and actors to open up, laugh and shed tears about the varied experiences with fatherhood and their relationships (or lack thereof) with their own dads. It’s why the tagline is ‘Dad as we wanna be,’ because this is fatherhood done their way. Our way.
In the edited quotes below, I have culled some of the gems from some of the over hour-long conversations. If you like what you read, take some time to listen and get the full context. Happy Fathers Day!
1. Phonte Coleman on reconciling with his father before he passed.
I never even saw myself having kids to be honest. When I was growing up all I ever wanted was music….I never thought I’d be a father at all. But it came. It happened. And from that point on I said I can’t be the way my father was. I want to be in my son’s life and be present. I just gotta suck it up and figure this shit out.
My parents were very young when they had me. My dad was 17 and my mom was 15. They were in high school. Growing up, my mom was just my mom, I didn’t realize how young she was. My dad was just ‘that’s my dad.’ It didn’t occur to me as a child that my parents were also children.
My dad wasn’t really in the picture. He ended up moving to D.C. and doing his own thing. I would see him here and there but I didn’t really get a chance to really know him until the last couple years of his life. He passed [away] in 2016. He came to see me one time in 2012. There was a girl he was seeing that lived around my way. He stayed on brand til the very end, for better or worse. He showed up to my crib and he had a suitcase with him. It was the raggediest got-damn suitcase I ever seen. Him and his girlfriend came over and I cooked dinner. He ended up staying with me for two or three days.
That was the most time I’d ever spent with my dad in that way and it taught me so much about myself. It was so many things that he did that I didn’t know where I got it from. We went to Target and I was picking stuff out for my crib and he liked the same things I liked. We were about to check out and I went and grabbed some peanut M&Ms and he said ‘You like peanut M&MS?’ I eat these all the time!’ And I never knew.
I had the thought years later when he passed that that was his way of saying good-bye. He was really secretive about his health and there were a lot of problems he had that I didn’t find out about until months later. When I went to see him in the last year, sitting with the doctor, the doctor was just reading off a laundry list of health problems. By the time I found out, his heart was only working at 10 percent capacity.
The last time I saw him was before a Foreign Exchange show at Howard Theater. I saw him at a nursing home up in Maryland. It was beautiful. We had a conversation and at several points my dad just broke down crying. He was just saying ‘I love you, man’ and ‘I’m proud of you.’ I guess all these things he didn’t have the words to say before.
The biggest takeaway from his life and what led to my parenting approach with my sons was that I learned that the biggest gift we can give our kids is the gift of ourselves. The best gift you can give your kids is giving them the opportunity to know who you are.
I was angry when my pop passed because there were so many questions I had that I wanted to ask him that I never got a chance to. There were a lot of things I was going through as a young man that I had questions about and I wish I had him [there] to help me through that. With my kids, I wanted my boys to know me and what I’m about, because the better they know me, the better they’ll understand themselves.
“Cry No More”
2. General Steele of Smif-N-Wessun on introducing his son to his father.
When I was recording Amerikkka’s Nightmare Genesis was with me, he was there in the studio with me every day. My career at the time wasn’t doing anything, but I was able to commandeer all the equipment from Duck Down. So GI [Genesis Inity] would be with me whenever I was in that basement recording. There are certain songs you can hear him in the background. He was like two years old. You can hear him trying to vibe and stuff. He’s always been there.
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When G.I. was born, I was like I gotta introduce my father to ME. You know what I mean? So, I brought my Wisdom at the time, brought my kids mom and brought my son [to meet him] and he fell in love with Genesis, man. And I swear to you–yo, you’re about to see a grown man cry on this show, man–And I promise you bro, when I seen him, when I seen my Dad, pick my son up, bro, I lost it bro. Because I don’t remember that! You feel me? I don’t remember that tenderness, you feel me?I know it was there but I just don’t remember it.
So, when he grabbed my son I was like “woow.” That was it for me man. I was like, yo, man, I got to get to know this guy. Because all this time, he just been my dad, you know? People, people called him ‘Smiley,’ know it had to be a reason. He can’t just be this animal, this Beast. So that I think…So it’s like I started going every Sunday to go see my dad. Every Sunday.
3. Dres of Black Sheep on watching Into The Spider-Verse with his youngest son.
Man, you talk about proud? And I say proud across the board, unequivocally. First of all, huge, huge happiness in my household behind Miles Morales. We’ve never seen a Spider-Man of color. Like, and I didn’t even know he existed, to be honest with you, until the making of. And to see someone that was just like, just like my son, he’s mixed and in an urban environment and he’s dealing with the things we all deal with, from riding the bus to whatever. Everything that took place was just beautiful and it reflected us seeing ourselves on screen in a way we never had. And it was very human, even though it was a cartoon.
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And then on top of it to have my personal music in it, and even in the scene that it’s being used in, for it to be one of the most exciting scenes in the entire flick, it was really cool. I’m sitting next to my son and I’m just seeing him BEAM, he’s lighting up—he would have been lit up without my music in it–but when it comes on and just the pride on his face. He’s looking at me and I’m looking at him and he’s just so happy. He was Spider-Man for Halloween that year and we’ve got all kinds of paraphernalia, that’s how important it was in our household. We sat all the way to the end credits.
4. Mack Wilds on being present for the birth of his daughter
When she got pregnant Swagger came around. I booked that and was doing it even during quarantine.
We had a birthing plan. We were going to New York Presbyterian all the time to figure out how we were going to do it. She had to get a C-Section because the baby was breech. The doctor said if we try to turn her we could hurt the baby, or we could do a C-Section. Christina said let’s do a C-Section.
They gave us a day for the C-Section and it snowed like crazy that day. Once we got to the hospital we were sitting and waiting. Her mom comes. Waiting. Waiting. My mom comes. Then my sisters come. It felt like we were waiting a lifetime. She’s nervous and I was like ‘I will not let anything happen to you. I’ll elbow a nurse! We will be good.’ She told me as soon as they take the baby out, follow the baby. Go with the baby. I’ll be fine.
She was nervous about getting the epidural because she has scoliosis. It worked, thank God. The nurse is like ‘she has such nice abs, it’s hard to cut through.’ Finally the baby comes out [and] we hear her crying. They cut the cord and bring the baby over. I rush to the side and I’m watching them clean her off. Christina is still behind the curtain and asking me how the baby looks.
I turn around, I look the wrong way. Out of excitement I turn to the side with the surgery and I watch them put stuff back into her. I was like ‘Woah, this is real!.’ On the other side of the blanket she’s smiling and looks perfectly fine, but on the other side it’s a bloody murder! I’ve seen some stuff in my life but that was a whole other… I said ‘Baby, I KNOW YOU know you on a whole other level now.’ It’s a lot.
5. Rhymefest on reuniting with his father, who was homeless
My father was homeless. My father wanted to meet me in a library because that was the one place he knew he could have dignity when we first met. It wasn’t an alley. It wasn’t a store, it was a place of business. It was community. It was everything he believed his son was about. So he wanted to meet me in the library so that meant something to me. And then I found out that homeless [people], the library is where they meet. How apropos that I was in a movie [The Public] and I was playing that character that my father lived. Life is an amazing thing if you just give it a chance and we’re courageous enough to tackle our own issues.
Our relationship is beautiful. It didn’t take long for me and my father to turn into Fred and Lamonte Sanford. We love each other and call each other ‘Big Dummies.’ Because he was homeless for 30 years, he still lives like a homeless person in an apartment. That’s a sitcom right there. I’m trying to make him adjust to a normal way of living. Using love to try to build understanding becomes very comical.
When I was growing up I used to blame my mother and I used to be like ‘she had sex with somebody who had bad genes.’ I made up my mind that everything bad about me came from [my dad] and I had to overcome his genes and his family. When I met my father and we got to the love part, I realized my humor came from him. My charisma and my wittiness came from my father. He didn’t survive 30 years of homelessness because he was tough, he survived because he was funny and clever. And those are all the same qualities that made me who I am now. And I was blaming my father my whole life for my own flaws.
“In My Father’s House”
6. Skyzoo on conceiving his son after being told he couldn’t have children.
“I was born in Kings County, shooters beside me/My son was born in the same hospital as Blue Ivy/ My father was 20, I was 35/ I’m still trying to measure up to the world he designed.”
That’s one of my favorite lines on the [Milestones] project. It’s like a Ying and Yang with the line. For Brooklyn hospitals that was one of the worst ones.The guy in the next room probably had a bullet wound. [But] My son was born in Lenox Hill where [JAY-Z’s daughter] Blue Ivy was born. The line means my pops was doing it one way because that was all he could do. So his job was to make sure he elevated [me] and have my son born in the Upper East Side. But on the flip side, I’m still trying to measure up to my pop. That’s the irony. I took it a level higher, but I still don’t feel like I’m good enough.
Just being super candid and super open, I was told for about a year or two before [he was born] that I couldn’t have kids. The way the world works, people always assume it’s the woman and it’s sad. My Wis did all the tests with the doctors and they said it wasn’t her. So, I did a bunch of tests and they said it’s you. They said I would have a 2 % chance of conceiving.
I said it on Retropolitan: “The doctor said I couldn’t make Miles until I made miles.” People didn’t know what I meant but my family knew. We did IUI and IVF. I went through all kinds of tests and fondling. It didn’t bother me too much. I felt like it was something people could relate to later. Maybe there are some other dudes out there. But then it just happened naturally. When I got the call I was like ‘yeah, right.’ I literally was like ‘take another test.’ But sure enough, she was pregnant. Doctor said this is literally an act of God. So I call him ‘Miles the miracle.’
“A Song For Fathers”
7. Royce 5’ 9” on raising children with special needs
My second child has autism. We figured that out around four or five. My mom used to run a daycare and she said we should get him diagnosed. She had a lot of kids on the spectrum so she knew the signals. Took him and got him evaluated and they diagnosed him as on the spectrum. He started out going to regular Kindergarten. He was able to do the work and function in the curriculum but it was a social thing. And I didn’t like the teachers because they’re quick to label somebody. And no he’s not taking no fuckin’ medicine and you need to stop being afraid of him because he’s a child. They act like ‘oh my God he’s having a meltdown again.’
I ended up putting him in a school that focuses on kids on the spectrum. My son went through a lot of different phases. When he was ‘bout 6 or 7 he went through a phase where he memorized all birthdays. If you came to the house and told him your name and birthday, a year later he’d say “hey, Jerry. July 5th.” He had all birthdays in his mental rolodex and one day I asked him and he was like “I dunno.”
It takes a lot of patience but it will build character in you that you can apply to the world and life. It’s a good opportunity for you to educate yourself on something. As your child grows you want to learn more about it because no two children are the same. That’s why they call it a spectrum. They have their own autistic DNA. No other child is like them. There are some similarities in terms of traits and patterns. My son went through a phase where he was super neat, but now he’s so junky. The first time he played Grand Theft Auto he didn’t want no weapons, he just wanted to run around. He didn’t get no cars, he just ran everywhere. I seen parts of the city I’ve never seen before and he had a ball.
8. Consequence on guiding his son Caiden’s rap career.
When I did Love & Hip Hop I had him on the show with me. I include him in everything that I’ve done because I don’t take time for granted. When you see my son rapping, that’s me giving him a living inheritance. My son should reap the benefits of me having certain relationships. So why wait for him to get it from a Will when I could activate it while I’m here? He took an interest and wanted to be like his father so I said give him his own thing.
I did that XXL shoot with inflammation in my neck. If you look at the pictures, I’m grimacing in every picture. But because it was his go, I did it. I wanted to cancel it. I knew what the opportunity was. We did 6 pages in XXL and that was just us. Nobody gets that. I was on muscle relaxers just twisted, but it was necessary. I was wrecked at that shoot. I fronted it off good though.
I’m spending a lot of time with my son. Whatever he’s been passionate about I try to include myself in. Whether it’s rapping, basketball or wanting to swim. We are actually friends, which I think is really dope.
I was watching the video for “That Dude” the other day. That started everything. We went in Toys R Us on some gorilla shit. That was a real moment in time because there isn’t even Toys R Us anymore. That’s when I knew he was on a different bop. He was with it. They played it on REVOLT for Fathers Day. It’s really amazing.
9. Masta Ace on learning to care for his daughter
My wife, I remember her waking up saying something was wrong. We knew it was close to the time. I brought a camcorder with me. She didn’t know I was going to be filming. She told me not to because she didn’t like how she looked. We pulled up to the hospital in Brooklyn and I walked her into the hospital. I turned the camcorder on and was narrating what was going on. ‘It looks like tonight is gonna be the night.’
In my mind I was gonna document this whole experience. I remember her being on the bed and nurses coming in. I’d film little moments. To this day she doesn’t know I filmed all that stuff. I said one day this is gonna be really cool to pull up and watch. I’m not exactly sure where that mini-DV tape is, but it’s somewhere in the house. I don’t look for it, but I know it’s here. I’ll find it when it’s meant to be found.
I had zero experience with babies but I was really trying to be a sponge. The nurses were trying to show me the ropes. One of the big things was how to do the swaddle with the blanket. I had a nurse show me how to do it and I got to be as good as the nurses. It makes the baby feel comfortable, like they’re still in the womb. My wife will tell you I had the baby wrapped up like a burrito. The baby couldn’t wiggle out or nothing. I didn’t know what I was doing at all. We were winging it. We got advice from our parents, but when they say there’s no book, it’s true. You gotta learn on the fly. Which is scary when you’re responsible for a human life.
10. Open Mike Eagle on recording with his son and getting him drunk as a baby
My little boy is the only planned human being I’ve known in my life so I was like ‘nailed it.’ Most of the first year of his life I’ve completely deleted out of my mind. It felt so traumatic. He had colic. It’s this condition where you’re a baby, you’re born but your digestive system hasn’t completed its development. So digestion comes with intense pain. He would eat and he’d be SCREAMING. We had to learn how to make him fart. There are these techniques to make a baby fart. You put him on his back and pump his little legs in order to make him fart. When he farts he feels better.
When my son was maybe 16 months old, I got the kid drunk by accident. I got my baby drunk. I had a buddy from out of town staying with us. He made some sangria and he made it using some of the same juice we’d use to make the kid’s bottle. So, when he made it it was too much, so he poured it back in that bottle. So I made my son a bottle with the sangria juice. I didn’t notice until he drank like a third of it. I was like ‘this smells weird’ and he kind of was just real manic for like 20 minutes and then he just passed out. He was out for like four or five hours.
[On ‘Asa’s Bop] That melody that he’s humming in the hook, he used to bop around the house singing that all the time. I think he came from those Arby’s commercials with the little trap music at the end. I think he was interpreting that. But he would go around the house going “bom diddy go.” So I built the song around that.
He considers himself a bedroom rapper. He used to rap himself to sleep at night. When it was bedtime he’d go to bed and rap until he passed out. Just freestyling. He was excited to be in the studio with me. He wants to have a rap career but he refuses to write anything down. Little Ase is his rap name. He’s had several. One Life was another name he had. I was hoping he’d stick to that one.
We raised him on a steady diet of MF DOOM and Shabazz Palaces but then he discovered mainstream rap and hasn’t looked back. Once he heard Drake he said to hell with all this grimy stuff. He said I want to hear rap with the beats that sound like pop. He likes modern mixing. He spends his whole life on Youtube.
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