Dad Rapper Beleaf Melanin on What Hip-Hop Gets Right About Fatherhood
Beleaf Melanin, the San Diego-based hip-hop artist and former member of the Dream Junkies, is ready for retirement. Well, retirement from making hip-hop albums, at least: Though his new record “Beleaf In Fatherhood” is sadly also his last, his second career as an inspirational YouTuber is only just getting started. With more than 23,000 subscribers tuning into his humorous videos about the trials and tribulations of stay-at-home fatherhood (he has three young children), Beleaf is well on his way to becoming one of the Internet’s most informative dads. And with lyrics about changing diapers and losing sleep, “Beleaf In Fatherhood” is a final bow that bridges the gap between the old Beleaf and the new. Fatherly recently spoke to Beleaf about dad-life, the new album, and what hip-hop gets right about fatherhood.
So this is your last album. I know you’ve said plenty about that already, but how are you feeling about it now that the thing’s out in the world?
I feel great about it. It’s like a death, it’s like a funeral. It’s like the dopest funeral party ever. In order for some things to grow, like fatherhood and moving forward with family, other things may have to die. The main reason I got into hip-hop was trying to support other people. It had a lot to do with arrogance—in order to be good at something you have to share the platform. And I just knew, in my heart of hearts, that I really couldn’t get past wanting to be the best.
Was there any one moment when you realized, ‘This is it, I have to move onto other things now’?
I was on tour last year and I remember we were sleeping at this Airbnb, and there weren’t enough beds so I slept in the van. And I’m sleeping in the van, I’m tired—basically traveling on tour is like, you drive for 12 hours, you get to the venue, you set up, you sound check, you do a meet and greet, you perform, you tear down, you eat and then you drive. So I got to this point where I was like, “Man, I have a bed at home.” And I realized that I’m performing for 400 people, 50 people here and there, and I realized that the biggest stage I’ll ever be on, the most impactful place I’ll ever be, is in front of my family. In my living room. So that’s the point when I was kind of like, “You know what, man? I’m done. I’m gonna put out this last record, I’m gonna do a couple of shows, and after that I’m gonna make my living room the platform from which I change the world.
What kind of image or philosophy of fatherhood are you trying to put forward in the record?
What I wanted to do was take all the corniness out of being a parent. When you think of someone who’s a parent, that kind of means they’ve given up, they’ve settled down and they’ve kind of quit the action part of their life. But parenting really changes—it doesn’t make you settle down, it really activates you to go harder and faster. Parenting is what sets you off and activates you to be more than you are. It gives you purpose.
I realized that the biggest stage I’ll ever be on, the most impactful place I’ll ever be, is in front of my family
Broadly speaking, what do you think hip-hop gets right and wrong about fatherhood?
Hip-hop basically started from adversity. The fact that you don’t have a father around puts you totally against all the odds and hip-hop is telling you beat the odds. And that’s kind of the phrase that everyone uses: “my dad wasn’t there.” It’s kind of a badge of honor or something to hold in high respect, that your dad isn’t around. And that’s just not the real narrative. Even if your dad wasn’t around, that probably activated you to be a better father. So if you have people like Rick Ross talking about how this Saturday he did this and this and this but he doesn’t mention that he took his daughter to the zoo, then there’s a problem.
One thing I think that hip-hop does glorify in the parental aspect is that a lot of people say, “I’m going to be a better father than I had.” And that’s awesome that people want to do better, they want to level up financially, level up experience-wise. But it does promote like a different lifestyle of, like, having a side chick, having multiple encounters with women, having this disrespect for women but always uplifting your daughter. Which really doesn’t make any sense.
In what other ways have you seen yourself change since you’ve become a dad? Other than rapping about changing diapers, of course.
It’s a lot — I’ve learned most of my lessons from being a father. Take fear—my son doesn’t like getting his hair washed, because he’s got long dreadlocks. So he has a fear of water just like I have stage fright. It’s crazy, I’m a rapper with stage fright. So I realized that if I don’t conquer the things I have in front of me, I’m giving him direct permission to be scared. So fear isn’t something that automatically comes and you’re like, “I’m supposed to be scared of you because you are water, or you are the stage.” Fear is a choice. I have the choice right now to choose to be scared of something or I can tell that thing what I’m here to do with it. And that’s activated me—when I’m stuck in adversity or I’m going through something, I have a choice: To be scared or to be a weapon.
One thing I think that hip-hop does glorify in the parental aspect is that a lot of people say, “I’m going to be a better father than I had.” And that’s awesome
If one of your kids came up to you tomorrow and said, “Hey, I’m gonna be a rapper,” what would you say?
Make sure you’re good! Be the best! Because rap is one of those things where you can tell who’s not good at it. And especially coming after me, I feel like they would have a lot of pressure. And that’s not me being boastful. I just know what it is.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.