Yo, I play my enemies like a game of chess ..
I must confess my destiny’s manifest.
I'm in the battling state, I can't concentrate I make a move like chess, and then I yell "checkmate."
Wait a minute .. Lauryn Hill plays chess? EPMD?
Rappers, better known for high-spending, lavish, even violent videos, extolling the virtues of chess? Next you'll tell me that Jay-Z, Public Enemy, and The Wu-Tang Clan are rapping about chess, too, right?
Turns out that buried inside albums full of conscious, boastful, often controversial lyrics, dozens of rappers have a soft spot for the 64 squares. RZA, mastermind of The Wu Tang Clan, even started a website devoted to the game, WuChess.com. If you look even a little closely, you'll find rap lyrics about chess everywhere.
How did this happen? How did rap become so fascinated with chess? Partly for the love of the game, and largely to help the kids who buy their albums. RZA himself explains that "in chess, you have to take a moment to think about your next move. If you do that in life, you're less likely to end up in jail."
Which brings us to the Hip-Hop Chess Federation, and its annual tournament, matching kids and rappers. On saturday October 10th, the HHCF will host its day-long West Coast Kings & Queens Tournament, at John O'Connell High School in San Francisco. You'll have rappers, like DLabrie, Traxxamillion, and Rakaa from Dilated Peoples. Young people, largely from disadvantaged areas of San Francisco and Oakland who look up to the rappers for their toughness, but who have also followed them to the chessboard. Throw in some DJs, even a little Mixed Martial Arts, and you've got a day you have to see to believe.
There are a lot of theories out there on how to turn young lives around. The HHCF doesn't preach, or claim to have all the answers. But when you see well-known rappers sitting down with teenagers to not only play chess, but to then explain how the lessons of the game can be used in their lives as well, it's inspiring. If you like hip-hop, or chess, or both, the Tournament is free, the music is good, and the chess is top-notch.
Spend some time with the young people, and you'll feel good about their futures. Spend some time with the rappers, and you'll be Googling their lyrics, with a big smile on your face.
For more information, check out www.hiphopchessfederation.org