Having just published 50+ stories in less than 3 months on Medium, I wanted to invite you guys to read my JUCIEST stories on there.
I published several pieces on my 5+ year journey as a minimalist, my international travel adventures and stories, how to live a purposeful life and life as a van-lifer.
For those of you wondering, I will definitely keep this blog up and will try to publish stories on here too. However, this year I challenged myself to write an article/day till December 31st (on Medium), and so far I think I can totally pull it off.
In fact, I’ve already written 170 new stories in my notes. Not too shabby.
First of all, let me start by saying that hip-hop goes far beyond the musical aspect of the culture.
Actually, hip-hop IS culture, and culture always transcends music and the arts.
So, what is culture ?
Culture is the sum of all the universal elements that bring people together.
It’s when our individualities work together to bring about change and evolution.
What makes hip-hop a culture ?
Hip-hop embraces different artistic elements.
Overtime, it blended and transcended the artistic aspect of itself to become a means for seeing, celebrating, experiencing, understanding, confronting, and commenting on life and the world.
Hip-hop is also an emotion, a state of being and a frame of mind.
It’s the feeling you get from the MC, graffiti artist or DJ when they’re in their element.
It’s a long lasting feeling that lives within you, it’s ingrained in your thought process and your vision.
Hip-hop, in other words, is a way of living, a culture.
Where and when
The elements of hip-hop came together in the Bronx borough of New York City. It was the early 1970s and times were tougher than usual for the poorer parts of urban America.
From a whole lot of nothing and a whole lot of imagination, hip-hop was born.
Where did hip-hop get its name?
Hip-hopcombines two slang terms:
The word “hip” has many plausible definitions and origins, none of which is actually official, so believe whichever one you prefer.
Research and speculation by both amateur and professional etymologists suggest that “hip” is derived from an earlier form, “hep”. Many etymologists believe that the terms “hip”, “hep” and “hepcat” derive from the west AfricanWolof language word “hepicat”, which means “one who has his eyes open“.
“Hip” also means “in the know” or “aware” (which isn’t too far off the definition above) and has been a part of African American vernacular since the late nineteenth century.
“Hip” also means “very fashionable”.
“Hop”, on the other hand, represents the hopping or leaping movement exhibited by hip-hop performers.
The difference between rap and hip-hop
Put simply, rap is a method of delivery, it’s the action of speaking rhythmically.
Hip-hop is the whole cultural movement behind rap (music).
Hip-hop entails business-savviness, marketing, money management, philanthropy, entrepreneurship, advertising, content, graffiti, DJing, fashion and design, not just “music”.
Artists that shaped my frame of mind
Like many people my age (90s kids), I grew up listening to hip-hop on the radio and cassette tapes.
From KRS-One to Big L, Mos Def, Jay-Z, Pun, Wu Tang, Snoop, Ice Cube and Pac, these artists shaped my mindset and outlook on life.
Later came the likes of Eminem, 50 Cent and Ye, just to name a few.
Many (if not all) hip-hop artists come from very humble beginnings.
However, despite starting at the very bottom and with virtually all the obstacles one could face in modern society, these craftsmen honed their skills and built empires through hard work, talent and focus.
Their determination and fighting spirit are beyond admirable and I’m glad I had them to look up to as a kid.
Hip-hop is my culture
You’ve probably heard me say this on my podcast, but I’mma say it again: hip-hop is my culture.
And I ain’t talking about the music. Hip-hop is a lifestyle.
It’s the way we talk, the way we walk, the attitude and the flavors.
It’s how people carry themselves, how Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone (KRS-ONE), the power of storytelling and communities as well.
Let’s go deeper, though
People in the 90s used to say hip-hop (and MCing) was a fad.
Growing up in a (somewhat) conservative, immigrant family, rap music was always looked down upon.
They labeled it “gibberish”, “noise”.
My old man (and most people his age) told me this a hundred times.
They didn’t get it then and many still don’t get it now.
So let me explain hip-hop culture, once and for all, as simply as I can.
Explaining hip-hop culture
The first thing you gotta understand is that this culture has many themes, the most common ones being knowledge, righteousness, struggle, empowerment, violence and drugs.
The best songs in hip-hop are about everyday life, struggles and change.
Hip-hop artists, whether we’re talking about musicians, DJs or graffiti artists, take cues from their lives to create art pieces.
Violence and drugs must’ve caught your attention, so let me enlighten you with an interesting fact about the progressive side of hip-hop (which mainstream media won’t tell you):
Did you know that break dancing gained popularity when Afrika Bambaataa’s Zulu Nation began using break dance battles as a substitute for gang-on-gang violence?
Note: I don’t like this dude one bit, but credit where credit is due.
Anyway, hip-hop artists have always tried to provide answers to society’s rampant problems.
They tried to change mindsets and make people visualize the change they wanted in their lives and the world.
I consider hip-hop artists to be teachers, mentors, change-makers.
Some of them used their platform to spread violence and bad behavior, but we can’t let a few bad apples spoil the bunch.
The likes of RZA (artist turned philosopher, vegan), KRS (teacher, activist), Mos Def (activist, actor), Talib Kweli and Jay-Z have done more for our culture than artists of all other genres combined.
They elevate communities and give them hope.
They paved the way for future generations, gave us the blueprint.
These legends are the reason for so much positive change and wealth in the black and latino communities, something easily dismissed by the media and folks who know very little about hip-hop culture.
Hip-hop ain’t about breakdancing, fashionable clothing and dope beats anymore. It’s about business, wealth building and minority empowerment.
Last but not least, hip-hop is one of the cornerstones for so much black wealth and minority entrepreneurs.
It is the foundation of several self-made moguls and multi-million dollar businesses in minority communities.
Ye, Jay-Z, Dre, Diddy, Eminem, Birdman, Akon, 50 Cent, Rick Ross and the late Nipsey Hussle fall directly into the those categories.
Hip-hop is one of the few genres that you can hear everywhere you go.
Africa, South America, Asia, Europe..it’s global !
What makes hip-hop such a powerful phenomenon is the way it changed the way people dress, what they consume and the way they carry themselves in everyday life.
I look at hip-hop as a powerful tool for change, a global positive influence.
Hip-hop empowers and guides, which is the very essence of this culture. It also ignites conversations and exposes our modern society for what it really is.
Police brutality, social inequality, racism, discrimination, poverty and power are all common topics in hip-hop songs and among hip-hop heads.
Many hip-hop artists are activists themselves. They often come together during tough times to support new systems, empower communities and give back.
Hip-hop is an enlightenment for those seeking knowledge. It’s an enlightenment for people yearning for positive change.
Hip-hop ain’t “urban” culture anymore.
Hip-hop is culture, PERIODT.
Seeing the likes of DR, Snoop, Fif and Em on stage at the Super Bowl LVI brought things full circle.
It’s been a long fight but hip-hop is now undeniably one of the most important music genres in history.
Mom used to be a chef. She gave me the best tips to get the ball rollin’, but it wasn’t enough.
So I did what anyone trying to learn anything would do: I opened YouTube, and then Instagram.
But first, let me tell you something about me (that I haven’t shared on this blog yet).
Blah-blah about me (that you can skip)
You see, my family and I are extremely different.
I love them to death, but we were brought up in different cultures, environments and have different characters and standards. That said, we share the same values.
My parents and siblings are somewhat conformists. They love being “normal”, fitting in, which was never my thing.
(Btw, conformism is NOT a bad thing, I’m just stating our differences ^^)
After leaving the family nest at the age of 18, I deconstructed what I was taught and took on the heavy – but necessary – task to relearn everything on my own.
It’s one of the things I’m most proud of, tbh.
I’ve always dreamed and hoped for a life that fits me and my standards, not that of my family, certainly not that of society.
It was a long, tiring process. Conforming and acting in accordance to what you were told would’ve been much easier, but costly.
Authenticity is priceless
Deconstructing your beliefs and rebuilding your character are the most rewarding things you can do for yourself.
Doing so is one of the main reasons I hardly ever feel “lost” in life, the other reason being my faith.
That said, my parents and I share the same Polaris, that being our love of God, his prophets (PBUT) and religion.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand
Topic at hand
Having traveled so much wasn’t just a treat on the cultural, educational and spiritual level, it’s a privilege because we got to taste and cook foods from all over the world.
Travel is a powerful thing, fam. It introduces you to people from distinct backgrounds, cultures and habits.
The cool (and maybe my favorite) thing about people is that they all have this one thing in common: they cook, and they eat.
Inevitably, travel introduced me to foreign cuisine.
The list below serves as a reminder that veganized, international cuisine is where it’s at. These are some of my favorite mouth-watering dishes, desserts and drinks, most of which can easily be made at home.
🇩🇿 Algerian boureks and bricks (north african samoussa), rechta (local noodles with a veggie sauce), couscous, dolma (stuffed veggies with vegan mince or plant-based meat), karantika (aka garantita, calentica and karantita, chickpea thick pancake) khobz el bey (cake made from almond meal and breadcrumbs, soaked in a syrup flavored with orange blossom water)
🇪🇹 Ethiopian teff and spinach lasagna, teff injera (Ethiopian crepe), zucchini wot, spinach lasagna with local teff (cereal)
🇲🇱 Malian and Western Saharan tea (the best I’ve ever had!)
🇲🇿 Mozambique pao (fresh, local bread), mucapata (mung beans, coconut milk and rice)
🇹🇬 Togolese Nougbagba with rice
🇸🇨 Seychelles plantain chips (aka chips bannann, a creole delicacy)
West African maafé with rice and veggies
West and east african Karkadi (aka Bissap, hibiscus drink)
North and South America:
🇺🇸 American burgers, hotdogs, buffalo wings, tater tots, rainbow cake, donuts, cupcakes, layer cakes, mac n’ cheese (esp. when I was young), potato chips (yes, it’s an american invention just like ketchup), PB&J, popcorns, fried chicken similis, WHITE vegan chocolate-chip cookies, blueberry cobbler, nachos..
🇦🇷 Argentinian empanadas, bombas de papa, vegan choripan (hotdogs), chimichurri (some sort of local pesto), alfajores (heavenly stuff), medialunas (argentine croissants), argentine style pizza (triple-layered with so much vegan mozzarella and a thick crust), humita (corn and plant milk with spices and onions) and of course yerba mate
🇧🇷 Brazilian bolas de papas, pao de queijo and vegan feijoada
🇨🇴 Colombian arepas, lulada (local, fruity drink), obleas, cocadas (coconut sugar cookies), empanadas (you’ll find those in many south american countries tbh) and cholao (a sort of frappe, fruit salad, and dessert all in one)
Hawaiian toasts and bowls, as well as hawaiian pizza (yes, with pineapples on top)
🇲🇽 Mexican burritos, tacos, tostadas, tamale breakfast bowls and jackfruit tamales, 4-layer enchilada cakes and guacamole, of course
🇻🇪 Venezuelan empanadas and arepas
Asian noodles (of all sorts!)
🇮🇳 Indian naan and curries (veggies, curry, coconut cream and rice)
🇰🇷 Korean bibimbap, Jjajangmyeon (korean thick noodles) and kimchi (I LUHV kimchi !!)
🇲🇾 Malaysian apam balik, teh tarik (pulled tea, with oat milk), barley juice, water chestnut juice, longan juice, and lychee juice (street vendors make the best litchi juice btw) – needless to say, malaysians make some of the best juices out there !
🇻🇳Vietnamese spring rolls, cauliflower and rice, soy balls
🇧🇪 Belgian waffles and fries
🇫🇷 French tacos, baguette, crêpes, macarons, croissants (too good !), joie gras (vegan and cruelty-free foie gras), vegan rillettes, raclette, pain perdu
🇬🇷 Greek tzatziki (soy yogurt, cucumber, garlic powder, chive and lemon) and mushrooms (stifado)
🇵🇹 Portuguese bolas de berlim (not a big fan of portuguese cuisine)
🇮🇹 Sicilian pizza and arancini
🇪🇸 Spanish vegan croquetas, tortillas, gazpacho, patatas bravas and tapas
🇸🇪 Swedish vegan cinnamon rolls
Hummus, falafel and dolma (stuffed vine leaves) can be found in many middle-eastern countries
🇵🇸 Jordanian and palestinian Maqluba (akaMakloubeh: spiced rice dish that is mix with fried cauliflower, eggplant, potatoes, and veggie meat)
🇱🇧 Lebanese baba ganoush (aka moutabal: roasted eggplant dip, heavenly stuff) and tabbouleh
🇹🇷 Turkish lahmacun (turkish-style pizza), kebabs, vegan döner (turkish sub or sandwich), corba (red soup), pide (patty), Yaprak Sarma (steamed vine leaves wrapped around a filling of rice and onion flavored with mint, currant, pepper and cinnamon), Imam Bayildi (aubergine entree, filled with rice, bulgur and other veggies and stuffed with a tomato, onion and garlic mixture, baked in an oven), borek (spinach puffs), Kumpir (made of jacket potato with a crisp outer skin and soft inside, available with a variety of toppings – veggie cheese, sausage, pickles..), Mercimek Köftesi (vegetarian meatballs) Simit (turkish pretzels), baklavas (pastries), lokum (jellies), halva (tahini and sugar)..turkish cuisine is CLEARLY one my my all-time favorites bruh ^^
It’s quite obvious that I couldn’t fit everything I’ve ever eaten into this list, but you get the idea.
The more you travel, the more you’ll want to know about the world and all it has to offer.
“The best of mankind is a farmer, the best of food is fruit” – Ethiopian saying
Below are photos of our favorite vegan foods, snacks and desserts. All pictures were taken by me.
The Sahara Desert is the world’s largest hot desert and the third largest desert behind Antarctica and the Arctic.
Located in North Africa, it covers 9,200,000 square kilometers (3.6 million square miles), nearly a third of Africa.
My journey through a fraction of this majestic place was nothing short of sensational.
The sand dunes, beautiful wild camels, excruciating heat, vastness, hospitable nomads and their stories..the magical spirits..a once in a lifetime experience.
Speaking of, here’s a fun fact about camels: a camelcan drink 200 liters (53 gallons) of water in three minutes !
That’s insane !
Anyway, I don’t know about y’all, but I love stories about supernatural creatures, angels and jinns.
What are jinns, exactly?
Jinns are usually known as genies (yeah, like the one in Aladdin) in western literature.
Jinns aremagical spirits who may appear in the form of a human or an animal and can take control of a person.
They’re said to inhabit caves, graveyards, deserted places and darkness. The Sahara Desert, like the ocean, is where many Jinns actually live. And believe me, it’s feelable (spooky!).
Jinns lead similar lives to us humans. While they’re believed to be invisible (mostly), jinns have the ability to eat, drink, sleep, breed and produce offspring that resemble their parents.
They also have free will to choose between good and evil. Therefor, jinns can be Muslim, Jewish, Christian, etc.
But unlike us, jinns have numerous powers that are exclusively theirs.
For instance, jinns are capable of moving extremely heavy objects with relative ease.
There’s always been some sort of air of mystery and mystique around the topic of jinns, and rightfully so.
Fun fact: Jinn means “hidden” or “concealed” in Arabic.
As per a hadith narrated by Ibn e Masood, there are 3 main types of jinn: those who fly, those who appear in the form of dogs and snakes, and those that stay in travel.
Jinns live much longer than us. It is said that they can live up to thousands of years.
Jinns delight in punishing humans, intentionally or unintentionally, and are said to be responsible for many diseases and all kinds of accidents
It’s been said that jinns eat like humans, but instead of fresh food, they prefer rotten flesh and bones. Yuk!
Fun fact: King Solomon PBUH, one of God’s beloved prophets, was bestowed with many God-given gifts, including the ability to speak to animals and jinn.
While many people are aware of the existence of Jinns, Hinns, on the other hand, are barely ever talked about.
Here are a few interesting theories about the Hinn.
In early Islam, a common belief held that mankind is actually the successor of other intelligent creatures such as Jinn and Hinn. Medieval Muslim traditions referred to the Jinn as pre-Adamites, depicted as human-like in various ways.
According to Ibn Kathir, the hinn belongs (together with the jinn) to those creatures who shed blood on earth before humankind, causing the angels to question God’s command to place AdamPBUH as a vicegerent.
In his work Al-Bidāya wa-n-Nihāya (The Beginning and the End), Ibn Kathir relates that the Hinn (and binn) were exterminated by the jinn so that they could dwell on the earth.
It’s sad to see what has become of interpersonal relationships, and activities in the ‘real world’ altogether.
I’ve decided to write this post to remind myself and my readers of the harms of excessive cellphone use and social media exposure. I also believe we need to push back and raise awareness against what’s happening in this realm.
It ain’t just about smartphones though, it’s about what’s in them.
Social Networks, gaming apps, dating apps, and so on are driving us away from the things that really matter. We’re losing our very humanity because of them.
I believe we need to rethink the place of smartphones in our modern societies, and the way we interact with both technology and each other, bridge some gaps.
I also think we need to push for less addictive designs.
As a society, we must hold Big Tech responsible for their doings and encourage them to focus on making more functional and utilitarian platforms instead of addictive cash cows.
Furthermore, we must be more aware of how technology is affecting our brains and society as a whole.
It’s like we have billions and billions of people zonked out, consuming hours and hours on their phones without realizing that they’re wasting years of their life.
Something needs to be done here.
From a behavioral standpoint
Our smartphones are the cue, craving, response, and reward all at once. They’ve been designed to be addictive, easy to handle and ultimately became our go-to gadgets to find simulated happiness, always a swipe away from a dopamine hit.
Unfortunately, we aren’t aware enough of this, and when we are, we just dismiss it like we do with many harmful things (ask your smoker friends).
Internet addiction is a bigger problem, though. It’s a problem that nobody wants to admit and something that’s beyond individual control.
Funny thing is, it’s almost unreasonable to think it’s someone’s fault for developing this addiction, because at the end of the day, WE are the enablers.
How many kids do you see glued to an iPad at ages that seem ridiculous?
Remember just a couple years ago when big tech pretended to care about this problem with some half-baked features like screen time & limits on their platforms? It was laughable.
I’m obviously not against social media, dating and gaming apps, not one bit.
I’ve actually met the dearest person to my heart on one of these apps.
But with that being said, wisdom lies in moderation.
Who would've thought "Cyber Cafes" or Internet Cafes would fit into our pockets someday ?
Back in ye olden days (late 90s, early 2000s), my friends and I used to spend hours outside. Riding our bikes around town, playing football in the street, freestyling, telling jokes, climbing trees, running or “working out”..
And whenever our finances matched our desires, which wasn’t that often, we’d grab a bite together and just .. talk.
No one was distracted while talking, because smartphones didn’t exist..yet !
At the risk of sounding old, those were definitely “the days, bro!”
P.S.: who would’ve thought “Cyber Cafes” or Internet Cafes would fit into our pockets someday ? It’s insane come to think of it.
I grew up in Cyber Cafe era, we used to hang out in cybers all the time, mostly playing video games (essentially Counter-Strike and Red Alert)
Here’s what Red Alert looked like ^^
Shit was mad dope, I ain’t gonna lie !
So why the sudden change ?
Tech companies leveraged smartphone ecosystems by using gamification and behavioral economics as their tactics to trick our brains into consuming more and more on our phones.
This is common knowledge but such strategies were inspired by casinos, the devil’s ground and masters of addiction.
Psychologists like Dan Ariely and Daniel Kahneman have had a major influence on how tech apps have been constructed to have addicting rewards systems.
I genuinely hope that people realize social media isn’t a substitute for real connection.
As a species, we must have a better understanding of ourselves if we want to keep evolving and find genuine happiness. It may not seem like it but we’re still as primitive as a man from the first century AD, only with more gadgets around us.
But it’s fascinating how slow death never gets a bad rep, though.
Lyon is one of the biggest and most diverse cities in France.
Size and culture-wise:
It offers a wide range of cultural activities, sporting events and festivals.
It’s not too small so you get bored easily, nor too large that is gets overwhelming.
I ain’t fond of metropolises like NYC, Paris or London. Medium-sized cities like Lyon offer access to pretty much everything you could find in bigger cities, minus the stress, dangers and exorbitant real estate prices.
Combine that with Lyon’s amazing public transport network and you have a winner.
The proximity to Switzerland and Italy was a huge plus for me, with Brussels (Belgium) also being 4 hours away by train.
Besides, if you’re into hiking and/or winter sports like skiing and snowshoeing then look no further, Lyon is the place to be for you, with the Alpsaka the highest and most extensive mountain range system in Europe right next to you.
The dream !
Proximity to the mountains and surrounding countries was one of my favorite things about this city. Despite the locals being somewhat unfriendly, being in the outdoors and traveling around made the whole experience well worth it.
You can find some pretty gnarly trails in Valence, Roman and Grenoble and its incredible views of the Alps.
Btw the trails were surprisingly empty in the winter, perhaps out of caution.
In immediate proximity you’ll also find the amazing cities of Annecy and Aix-Les-Bains with its thermal baths.
I honestly couldn’t tell you much about student life in Lyon. I mean, my friends seemed to have a lotta fun going out, clubbing, going to festivals and whatnot. I wasn’t.
As an 18YO kid and fresh out the family nest, my focus was very different from that of my peers.
I had one idea in mind: make as much money as I could, pass my classes and learn how to invest.
I used to watch a LOT of football and geek on FIFA as well.
The thing about my passage in Lyon was that I knew I wasn’t gonna be around for too long.
As much as this post makes it sound as though was a city I loved, it wasn’t. I’ve always looked forward to leaving, for some reason.
Besides, it seemed as though all of my friends ended up leaving as well. Go figure !
All that said, Lyon offers several entertainment options, free passes and discounts for students. You’ll also find lots of Erasmus students and expats there, which is always nice.
Cost of living: it was alright, I managed to get by quite easily. If you budget your spendings, you’ll be fine, just keep in mind that this is France and life isn’t as cheap as it is in Spain, Germany or Portugal. It’s still very affordable compared to Paris, London or some other megalopolis.
Accomodation: it’s not easy to find the right place, but it’s doable. Finding accommodation is never easy in western countries, unless you’re financially very stable, in which case that won’t be an issue at all. But as a student, it wasn’t as hard as it is in Bordeaux, nor was it as easy as it was in Southeast Asia, Africa or South America.
You can always share a flat for a few months then move out on your own.
Cuisine: I’m not a big fan of French cuisine BUT Lyon is the birth place of “French tacos” (don’t ask me why they call them that, they’re nothing like tacos). French tacos are probably my favorite French dish of all. I know, I ain’t boogie enough, and I couldn’t care less 🙂
As a vegan, though, Idk if Lyon (like most French cities) is very vegan-friendly. The French love their meat and cheeses.
But if I had to go back, I’d probably start with Le Paradis du Fruit.
Parc de la Tête d’Or (huge natural park)
Vieux Lyon (Old town)
Island of Barbe
The Roman Amphitheaters
Rue (street) Prunelle and its beautiful staircase
Place Rouville (Croix Rousse)
Stade de Gerland and of course Groupama Stadium for football-heads like myself
Hôtel de Ville – Terreaux – Ópera
And of course the Quais (river banks), especially during the summer. Very lively and chill, the perfect place to go for a stroll, a bike ride or anything of that nature
The French “projects” or public housing in Vénissieux and Les Minguettes. I wouldn’t recommend going there alone unless you actually are from the streets. That said, I felt more at home there than I ever did where I used to live (Gambetta, which is quite central). People were just genuinely nice.
Place de Terreaux
Café Sevilla or Casa Latina if you enjoy reggaeton.
The festival of lights:
It usually takes place between the 8th and 11th of december each year, and summons about 3/4 million tourists.
The whole city gets lit up, which quite a sight to see.