Kick, Push: A Look Back at the Song That Brought Two Worlds Together
Back in 2006 with his Dunks, four wheels, and a mic, 23-year-old Lupe Fiasco paired the skateboarding and hip-hop worlds in his debut single, “Kick, Push.”
Fresh off a show-stealing guest verse on fellow Chicagoan Kanye West’s “Touch the Sky,” and a series of impressive mixtapes, the track and its video proved to be equal parts polarizing and significant.
While professional skateboarders questioned his understanding of their culture and his intentions for making the song, Fiasco collected two Grammy nominations. Meanwhile, hip-hop fans, who mostly associated skateboarding with punk rock and white America, were confounded by his love of aerials and varials.
But what the track did for bringing hip-hop into the skating sphere and vice-versa is its true legacy.
In an interview last July with Skee TV, Fiasco said he didn’t have such grand goals for the track: “I really did the song as a tribute for a skate shop,” he said.
He certainly wasn’t even the first hip-hip artist to dabble in the skateboarding world. Adam “MCA” Yauch (R.I.P) of the Beastie Boys was an avid skater, even showing off his skills in a 1992 segment of the now-defunct MTV Sports show. And then there’s Pharrell, an Oscar- and Grammy-nominee who sometimes goes by the moniker “Skateboard P.” So what made Fiasco’s tale of youthful rebellion stick?
It’s because “Kick, Push tells an everyday story: a six-year-old boy comes into contact with a skateboard. He faces early struggles, both physically (a busted lip) and in relating to the outside world (he’s labeled a misfit, a bandit). The boy grows up, falls in love with his board and, later, a fellow skater who weighs “120 pounds.”
The two, along with a gang of punks, continue their pursuit of good grinds and freedom, even in the face of laws against such activities.
Kick, Push is more than a rapper professing his love for half pipes and grinds; it’s a story about a couple of misfits who are told “there’s no skating here.” The song touches on the common denominator that both worlds share, a sense of marginalization and alienation from society. Hip-hop has always shared the rebellious sentiments of punk, and everybody knows anyone with a skateboard is a punk. All it took was a nerdy kid with a sharp pen and a bold sense of storytelling to bring the two together.
In spite of the criticism around the song’s release, Fiasco didn’t care much. “When you’re the first through the wall, you always get a little bloody,” he said. “Then it paves the way for … other people to kind of come in and capitalize on the culture even 10 times more than I did.”
It’s true. What about the kid who grew up skateboarding around the confines of New York City who picked up a mic and become Joey Bada$$? Without Lupe, would The Pack, the crew that birthed Lil’ B, have rapped about their Vans? And Wiz Khalifa, Curren$y and more are vocal about their love of both hip-hop and skateboarding.
On the song’s sequel, “Kick, Push II,” we learn the protagonist of Fiasco’s skateboarding saga left the parking lot (where he was of course illegally grinding), and headed back to the streets. He begged for change for he and his sister’s “little tummy” and bought two gyros with the change he managed to collect. For him “life wasn’t too attractive,” but he kept a steady rhythm of kicking, pushing, never looking back.
Love Chicago music? Check out Green Label Live in Chicago on 02/22 featuring Casey Veggies and Flat White, as well as Rae Sremmurd.
Image: Danny Mota