German philosopher Nietzsche believed that all philosophy is personal, that someone’s philosophical musings tell you more about the individual than of any objective truth. German Philosopher Immanuel Kant’s historical dialectic reflects his personal life in Prussia more than it does actual history. Nietzsche also said that “without music, life would be a mistake.” And in fact, in music, philosophical inquiry is abundant. From Nas’ famous commentary on suffering – “life’s a bitch, and then you die” – to Ab-Soul’s discography, hip-hop is a frequently used medium to convey philosophical musings.
I got on the phone with Rapper Trip Dixon, a 23 year old artist from Woodbridge, Virginia to discuss his own philosophy. Trip’s music explores the relationship between the positive and the negative and develops a definition of unity that considers both the bad and the good equally important.
Trip used to dabble with the piano and first started rapping in middle school, solely focusing on what he describes as “Christian music”. His father, raised as a Jehovah’s witness, was passionate about his children attending church. Trip, unlike his devout father, was not very religious and rapping was his way of doing something creative that he enjoyed within a culture he felt no connection to. What he expressly rejected about the church was its inherent religious segregation and the firmly implemented rules and regulations, such as what attire is permissible to be accepted by God.
Leaving the church as an early teenager, a young Trip took great interest in the spiritual teachings of the Rastafari, following the example of his peers. Around this time, Trip, persuaded by Rapper Badmon Benz, formed Stogie Club, a rap collective from Northern Virginia featuring Ra Chul, Gucci Luey, Shaboozey, T.Mike and Preme. They started the group, nobly, by “getting fried and freestyling.”
Trip describes his music as a composition of his free-flowing thoughts. He typically begins a track with something negative, such as the feeling of loneliness, and then concentrates on its antithesis, giving each song a positive spin. In Trip’s music, balance is paramount. Every situation we encounter as humans is dependent upon how we choose to perceive it. If we are to discern a situation as positive, we can also, conversely, determine its negative sides. The inverse of this concept is therefore true as well: we can experience a negative situation while also witnessing its positive attributes. Take loneliness, for example. Loneliness is the negative characteristic of isolation, but isolation also has the positive characteristic of self-determination. Both loneliness and self-determination coexist within the concept of isolation. Trip expands this yin and yang attitude to spirituality as well, explaining that “Heaven” and “Hell” both exist on Earth simultaneously. That is life as he understands it. In essence, “Nothing is Something”… The absence of darkness, is light… “nothing can be without each other,” and so the significance of something is determined by its collective parts.
Trip’s effort to find balance among chaos is important and stems from his battle with depression and the isolation of being mixed race. He admits that these challenges played a part in the development of his belief system and why it is then imperative to flip negatives into positives, aptly tagging his music as motivational. Like he said, he’s “not tryna’ make people more depressed.”
Given his own journey, Trip Dixon doesn’t prescribe to any sort of belief; “People rock with what keeps them sane”, a key component of his personal philosophy. His music highlights self-actualization and freedom of expression. You are the spirit, the god to whom you pray to, a concept Trip Dixon fully embodies. People tend to feel more safe and secure with having a physical representation, a figure, to which they pray and seek guidance from, but to Trip, the truth can be sought within you. Pursuing those truths within you, despite people’s intolerance, discomfort, or disbelief while also accepting others completely permits true freedom. This is “overstanding,” this is enlightenment, this is love, this is freedom. Yet, importantly, Trip remembers that humans are not just spiritual beings, but are earthly and physical too, so he doesn’t just rap about metaphysical concepts. He talks about money too, just not as often and without infatuation. Whether you agree or disagree with Trip Dixon’s line of inquiry, his music adds a rewarding philosophical perspective to Hip-Hop.