Hip Hop Changed My Life

When I was about 13, I faintly remembering listening to A Tribe Called Quest. It was in middle school and my friend Troy kept telling me to check them out, and that they were “real hip hop”. To be honest, that shit was weird. I didn’t understand the sounds, the horns, and the crazy mixture of instruments that were being thrown together. I didn’t know why artists were talking so fast, and how people could even understand them. I also didn’t know what the fuck it meant to be considered “real hip hop”, nor do I stil understand that term today. Frankly, I didn’t like it — and I promptly proceeded to go back and listen to Silverstein, All-American Rejects, and Fall Out Boys, which arguably aren’t that bad either.

It took a little bit of getting used to, and mostly, a lot of what I considered shitty pop on the radio at the time, to finally push me to start exploring the realms of YouTube. Maybe it was the rebellious feeling I’d get whenever my relatives would tell me, “Daniel, that’s so awful! Do you not hear what he’s saying? You’re going to start doing that too.” Luckily I was privileged enough to be in Sugar Land, a place that certainly lives up to its exciting name. Regardless, fast forward to high school, which was was a time of experimentation with music. I explored random artists/groups like ATCQ, Luchini, Little Brother, The Coup, and many more. To say that it had an effect on me is a little understated.

When looking back I never knew it, but after listening to so much types of different music I’ve realized a lot of things:

  • Hip hop has spread my awareness. I’m more aware of the world, in terms of pop culture, politics, and general injustices. It might seem a little ludicrous at first, but hip hop has truly informed me more than any news outlet nowadays.

  • It’s enjoyable. Let’s be honest, if you can’t groove out to the beat, drums, horns, whatever it may be, I’m going to question your ability to recognize music (Just kidding, music is subjective… I guess).

  • Like any music, hip hop is art. Listen to Illmatic and tell me that shit is not something worth going crazy about. Nas captures the struggles of living in the concrete jungles of New York perfectly, telling a tale that still resonates to this day. Or listen to something new, like Pusha T, and you’ll instantly want to become a drug lord making cocaine in a lab.

  • Hip hop is a movement. Ever heard of Kendrick Lamar? You probably have. And if not, listen to his song “Alright”. Oh hey look, it also was the anthem behind a protest, so that’s kind of cool I guess.

  • Hip hop has broken a lot of molds. Look at Jay Z’s “Song Cry”. He emulates the struggle behind a “hustler crying” and the general negativity towards males crying. Or Frank Ocean, and how he proclaimed his sexuality, which was promptly defended by many large names (Kanye West, Jay-Z, Tyler the Creator, etc.)

That is to say, hip hop still has many problems. Its constant issue with drugs, sexual discrimination, and racism aren’t necessarily its selling points. In fact, it’s a main deterrant which is quite understandable. But then again, it’s still a movement and an art, so it’s consistently changing every day, hopefully paving towards a better direction.

I want to end it with this. It’s not like I don’t appreciate other genres of music. I listen to Rock, Jazz, Blues, etc. whatever I think is pleasing to my ears. But at the end of the day, I love hip hop, for what it’s done for the world, and for me.

Where I Am

A casual update on my life, for whoever’s interested. I’ve been super busy now, ever since that I started work at Civitas Learning.

My life has been a lot more time consuming than usual, however I wanted to note, that I’ve:

  • Met some really amazing people.
  • Am working on something I am extremely passionate about.
  • Learned an extraodinary amount, contrary to what I originally believed would happen.
  • Have been slowly focusing more on tennis, and applying what I learn to my every day routine.
  • And have been more ingrossed in my friendships.

Of course there are many problems that I’m currently facing:

  • My dilemna with my mentality in tennis, I tend to falter a lot under high stress situations.
  • My slow thought process, I process things very slowly, and as a result, many problems can go over my head when I push myself.
  • Moving out – as stupid as this sounds, I’ve been very stressed about fully moving out of my old apartment.
  • My fitness, it was one of my top focuses, and now I have to admit, I’ve been slowly declining on my dietary habits and fitness goals.

So I can say that life is just how it’s mean to be, confusing, but fun. It’s been a hell of a ride ever since I got back from Europe. I’m hoping that things will still turn out better soon and that I’ll enjoy my life in Austin even more.

Rewards of Being a TA

When I was offered an opportunity to TA for the semester, I hesitated for a little bit. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to effectively contribute my time to being a great TA. Honestly, I still don’t know if I’m a good TA. But recently I was able to see the difference I’ve made in some students this past week. At the beginning of the semester there was a student who was struggling, and at the time, it seemed like they wouldn’t be able to keep up with the pace of the course. Throughout the class I’ve kept a close eye on them, and I’m happy to say they’ve come a long way from where they started.

I remember how tired I would get when I heard my teachers in high school tell me that they do it for us, and not for the money. I mean, given today’s society, how could things really not be somewhat for the money? But after this week, my thoughts changed a little bit. I guess you can say that I was able to empathize, rather than just sympathize. To be able to make an impact on someone’s life and watch them grow into something amazing is absolutely incredible. It’s a feeling that I can’t articulate very well, but I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to be a part of that person’s growth.

One of my life goals is to be able to volunteer as a TA/teacher once I start working full time. I’ve been looking at programs and have decided to settle in to work for a little bit, then take time to familiarize myself with Austin’s education community. Afterwards, I have a few programs I am looking to apply to. So hopefully my teaching aspirations won’t die here. I remember in high school I said something about wanting to be a teacher. Looking back, I don’t think I could’ve done it. My mindset was too immature, but I’m glad that now CS has given me another opportunity. Hopefully I get to experience this feeling again one day.


For people who have followed my blog since the beginning of time, y’all will have noticed a slight change over night. Other than the theme, I’ve decided to reword all of my blog to proper punctuation/capitalization. When I first started this blog, my main concern was sounding too professional, and that by focusing on capitalization and punctuation, I would focus too much on what other people thought – as opposed to how I generally write to my friends.

So to approach that reasoning, I wanted to say that nothing’s changed. I’m still the same old DVD, Daniel Vu Dao, danyuldow that many have known. In fact, the capitalization was mainly a stylistic choice. I’ve tried to approach things from a design perspective, so considering that the links on my navigation bar are properly formatted, I decided it was best to swap the whole blog over. I’m generally a messy person, but for some reason, I try to keep my digital footprint as organized as possible.

Where My Competitive Nature Comes From

I’d like to think tennis and games as the two largest sources of my competitive nature. Growing up, I was gifted a GameBoy from my parents (which, was probably given to make me talk less) and a few video games (go Pokemon!). From then on, I started my descent into video games. I played at least 2-4 hours daily when I was in elementary school. I would spend evenings trying to find that special rare pokemon, or grinding out levels to try to beat my friend in a battle the next day.

Cue middle school when I met a group of friends who had an ambitious love for Halo. I begged my parents for a Xbox 360, and next thing I knew, I was playing around 5-7 hours after school, depending on how much homework I had. Nights were spent yelling into a microphone, with emphasis on unrealistic call of duty military tactics.

Entering high school, I tried to make an oath to myself to stop playing video games, so I ended up picking up a sport which I did on the side during seventh and eighth grade, tennis.

Tennis is kind of an on and off game for me. I was driven by passion and would spend half of my day watching videos of professional players hitting, trying to copy their shots to no avail. At some points, I was burnt out, and as a result, would back away from playing for weeks, and up until recently, years. Needless to say, tennis and video games have contributed heavily to my competitive nature, and consequently, my willpower to grind through anything.

I’d say that it’s also caused me a lot of trouble, reuslting in so much time on multiple things, only to find it dentrimental to my well-being.

I want to say I’m glad that I’ve always committed myself to some form of competition. It’s a little bit overused, but video games and tennis lessons always come up in my life. Whether it be the problem-solving nature of a video game, or the mental focus of a tennis match, I’ve always found myself looking back at the teaching of my tennis coach, or my kill/death ratio (hello to my Call of Duty fans).