Hello, Truthful Realists!
I come to you with a moral dilemma that I have been having lately. It’s not a dilemma that plagues me like if I should burn down my house for insurance money or if I should call in sick to go party. It’s more trivial than that, but still a problem. That problem is Rap music. To be more specific, current day rap music. You see, I’ve been a fan of rap music for the majority of my life. I remember bobbing my head to Dr. Dre in the 90s all the way up to border-line dancing in my car on my drive home today while bumping Gucci Mane. The reason it is a problem to me now though is that I actually started paying attention to the lyrics more closely. Now I am debating if what I’ve been mindlessly repeating is actually healthy for me as a human being. Let me explain. I’d suggest you find a nice quiet place to ignore those around you and pick a good snack to munch on while we take a little ride.
It all started when I was listening to a 21 Savage song today. You might have heard of it. It is a hit song he has called “No Heart”. Now, mentally, I was pretty sure I knew what the lyrics were, seeing as how I’ve rapped along with this song several times during long drives to random places. It’s safe to say that this is my ish. I walk around my house singing the hook randomly without even thinking. That’s about how much I like this song. Well, I never actually saw the video until today. Now that I have I can’t really listen to that song the same way as I did before. Seeing visuals put to all of those words really made this song much more real then it was in my mind. As I watched it I started thinking to myself “Is this really what I’ve been repeating over and over again?”. The fact that I said yes shocked me.
Hear me out. I understand it is just music. I understand it is just a music video. I understand that it is not telling me to do what I see in the video or hear in the song. I understand that these are just expressions of how he feels, experiences he’s gone through and things that he’s had to watch or hear about. I’m not as dumb as my other posts would lead you to think. The man makes music. He makes what sells. I can’t knock him for that. The dilemma comes when I look at those around me who don’t quite understand that this is music. I’ll attempt to elaborate.
When I look at the current state of rap music, I get mortified. I know this is something that happens every few years. I remember reading an article that featured Lupe Fiasco where he was discussing Chief Keef and what he brought to the music scene but also what his music inspires in the current generation of young teens. I agreed with a lot that he said in that article but still listened to Love Sosa the same day. I didn’t pay attention to it because I just liked how catchy it was. That was a mistake. Now I realize that this really is a problem. I look in the news, look at the kids walking down the streets as I drive through them and look at the kids hanging out in front of the liquor stores and start to wonder if this is really what is becoming of the genre I love so much.
This is by no means meant to bash any artist specifically. It is meant to bash what they are promoting. This culture of gang life, drug dealing, misogyny, drug abuse, domestic violence, and murder is not acceptable. It wasn’t acceptable in the 80s, wasn’t acceptable in the 90s, wasn’t acceptable in the 2000s and still isn’t acceptable now. We are seeing rappers die and be incarcerated at alarming rates now. What happens when your favorite rapper ends up in jail? The teens that follow them think that it is okay. Yes, I understand that some people are just stupid and would probably end up there without the help of a catchy melody telling them what to do with their Draco, but that still doesn’t negate the fact that these artists need to take more personal responsibility for the culture they are creating amongst their fans. KRS One fans learned to question authority, express individuality and take on alternative forms of protest. Busta Rhymes fans learned to make your own style, eschew the fear of not fitting in and break the norms. These new songs? They encourage the same thing the record executives have wanted from the beginning. In the words of Wyclef Jean, “More gangster, more blood, more gun talk, more people dying, more hardcore”. Here’s where I kind of go off the rails with my opinions so bear with me.
Have you not found it funny that music that promotes such negativity in the rap community is so widely acceptable but that music that promotes positivity gets pushed by the wayside? What I find even funnier is the number of rappers who are no longer wanting to be labeled as a rapper due to the negative connotations that come along with it. I saw recently that some of these newer artists want to be considered as just that. Artists. Why is that an issue you ask? It isn’t one in my book. If you look at the traditional way things have been done though, you’ll see that the powers that be don’t want rappers to be more than that. Labeling someone as a rapper is a way to pigeon-hole an artist into one category and limit not only their fan base but their earning potential, affect how they are treated outside of the rap community and bury possibilities of them being able to transition to other sectors of business outside of the music industry.
To make things even stranger, now I’ve been introduced to new genres that I wasn’t really aware of in the rap genre. “Alternative Rap”. Now maybe I’m a bit dim when it comes to knowing about subsets of genres but from what I’ve been noticing, it would seem as though this subset was created as an “Alternative” to “Traditional” forms of rap such as “Gangsta Rap”, “Party Rap” and “Preaching Rap” to name a few. The issue I have with this new subset is that if you look closely, it would seem as though the artists of it tend to be a specific demographic that can magically transition to doing gangsta rap when collaborating with Gangsta Rappers but also slide right back into their subset again. That’s something for another article though.
The bottom line here is that someone is getting played to play their community so that another person can get paid. I know these catchy hooks, bass filled melodies and flashy lifestyles are hard to resist but we need to realize that just because the shit sounds good doesn’t mean it is good for you. Do we really need more kids with more guns selling and using more drugs in more neighborhoods? We aren’t educating these kids to understand that this is entertainment. We just let them listen and hope for the best and that is unacceptable. We need to inform these kids that all of this gunplay, drug talk, and hoe-this-hoe-that shit is all orchestrated by people who don’t even listen to it to plague communities for the sake of that all-mighty-dollar that makes the world go round. The sooner we can get our youth to understand this, the better.
The next time you think that this is normal, go listen to 10 songs from the Pop, Country, EDM, and Rock genres. Make a note of how many of the songs degrade women, talk about killing people from their own communities, taking ecstasy pills and spending exuberant amounts of money on jewelry and cars. You’ll be shocked at the results. ICP gave that shit a shot and now Juggalos are listed as a gang through the FBI. Don’t wonder how though. Wonder why. I’ll let you think about that on your own time.