Art by Mya Carmichael

Rap gets so much flak. Ever since NWA, and even before, rap has just been incriminated constantly as something that’s so negative for society. It’s been seen as a main and even sole contributor to gang violence, promiscuity, vulgarity, etc. All rap isn’t the same, and everyone knows that, however it’s still looked down upon the same by most of society. All of this is to try to knock rap off its pole position.

In its humble beginnings, rap was more of a party music. After that, though, it evolved to a conscious and political style of music, and has remained so since. Rap has subjects about literally everything, good or bad. Things like police brutality, gang violence, drugs, urban struggles/oppression, and so on do not get talked about in other genres as much. In [roots] reggae you get a lot of religious and government critical lyrics, but that doesn’t add up to the widespread consciousness of rap. Despite this, rap has been painted as such a negative thoughtless, violent, and negative culture of music. Even now you’ll have people talk about how “everyone listens” to Gucci Mane, Chief Keef, etc. even though Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore (both conscious rappers) are some of the highest selling recording artists in the game right now. The “nobody wants to hear that type of stuff” excuse isn’t applicable anymore, and hasn’t been in about a good decade.

As Jermaine Dupri said, rap songs have more lyrics than other songs. Rap songs have floods of literary devices, poetic techniques, and figures of speech. In fact, some rappers abilities rival those of major poets. A naysayer would love to mention songs that have repetitive lyrics or simple and vulgar lyrics (that are debatably not even rap songs) and say that is the norm for the genre.

One of the main premises of rap is “who is the best MC?” The culture of rap is so competitive. Being the most clever with your wordplay or rhythmic and intricate with your flow is the most ideal things in this genre. In other genres where two singers may collaborate with one another, the reaction would be “oh what a pleasant sounding duet.” Whereas in rap it’s “this guy had the better verse, he killed that track.” Though these are generalizations, you don’t really find the latter situation in an R&B or pop or rock song. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is ones opinion, but as far as its impact on culture, it shows that having real thought and effort behind a rap artist’s music is important to the listeners as well as fellow artists.  The hip-hop culture is very critical, and (barring few situations) we hold artists very responsible for everything they say and do. For recent example, the situation with J. Cole making a comment about mental retardation in his rhymes.

Stop trying to ostracize and incriminate something that you are ignorant to. We are so passionate and hardworking over this, why try to break us down. If you don’t like it, don’t listen, and as Kanye said, “don’t talk.”

For another look on the hip-hop culture, check out this Emmy-nominated documentary by Byron Hurt:

Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes


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