If you’ve paid any attention to the news at all lately, you’ve probably seen or heard about a ton of violence at some kind of rap show.
It’s gotten to the point where people are losing their lives for wearing a pair of pants.
If you’re not able to stomach the violence that goes on in rap concerts, you might be looking to one of these simple guides to explain the historical foundation of the whole genre. As it turns out, this never quite ended.
As it turns out, this never quite ended.
Rap music can be found in our very own rap
Despite the violent, often racist lyrics, one of the largest counterarguments to these “anti-rap” crusades is that rap music often tells good stories about actual people from ordinary lives.
The lyrics, or the story, not necessarily the person. While this is undoubtedly true, it doesn’t explain the casual racism in some of the lyrics.
For one example, consider the following lyrics by a young, black rapper named XXXTentacion, who committed suicide recently.
Rappers are saying I’m just like Hitler, not in a good way though
Everybody knows I’m the most real nigga that came through since Biggie and Pac
And if I’m an evil Nigga I’m the evilest Nigga ever
I’m the true nigga, I’m the nigga the world can’t relate to
Rap music must have always been racist? Not quite.
In the ’60s and ’70s, the classic drum beats and horns filled radio airwaves in some cities
What they often lacked were songs with lyrics you could actually understand.
Although some did exist, black music had absolutely nothing in the way of political power during this period.
The only respectable performer to make it onto the charts was James Brown.
And while the world was all about the Free Speech Movement, the politically active soul group Sly and the Family Stone’s Bob Marley seemed to be drowned out by Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, the preeminent stars of the period.
And of course, when Otis Redding died, the entire world broke down and cried.
Thankfully, this was all coming to an end. In the ’80s, a new genre of musicians such as Run DMC, LL Cool J, and Public Enemy came out with lyrics they understood and audiences embraced.
By the ’90s, rap music was officially a part of the cultural landscape, and politics and racial tension were no longer taboo topics for performers.
There was an unprecedented focus on musicians and their music and not the endless mindless repetition of history.
Despite this cultural history of racism, rap music has become a cornerstone of American culture.
Not every hip-hop song is about slavery or beating your wife, but those songs exist too.
Not every rap artist’s “street credibility” is based on his or her political lyrics or the fact that he or she was once a gang member, but many of them are. Rap is not an inherently violent genre.
But what about today?
Rap music has a long and bad history. And it seems that violence is now everywhere in rap music.
From just looking at the media we consume, the violent themes are hard to miss. Fans of the Philadelphia Eagles have probably heard the song “Stand Up,” sung by rapper Meek Mill.
It starts with the sound of a gunshot and shows fans “standing their ground” even in the face of police brutality. It’s hardly the sort of thing that the Eagles would want to be associated with their team.
In the middle of all this insanity, however, there is a rapper who is unabashedly performing with lyrics that literally say “fuck your ghetto ass.” And he’s a sensation.
A Harlem-based rapper, Earl Sweatshirt, won a Grammy for Best Rap Album for his 2013 album “Doris.”
The sweatshirt has also written some of the most aggressive political rap lyrics in hip-hop, including “Gangster Life,” which has been called “the most explicit political rap since Ice Cube’s ‘Airplane.’
While it’s doubtful the white audience listening to hip-hop on the radio understands every word that Sweatshirt raps about, his lyrics often feel designed to put them in a position where they either have to accept him as a political leader or despise him as a fascist.
This is not how it works. You have to be serious
You have to be wise. You have to be kind. You have to engage, understand, and respect the intelligence of those you are talking to, not just put your message in people’s faces and expect them to react to it.
And you have to love the people you are talking to.
If you don’t, then you are not even truly participating in the conversation. You are simply making a statement.
Once you start to notice the extent of the white supremacist nonsense that now surrounds hip-hop, it can be hard to believe that it hasn’t always been this way.
It’s not that rap music has always been anti-black; it’s that rap music is now (partially) dominated by white people.
The truth is that violence and misogyny are no more acceptable in rap music than it is in any other genre of music.
But rap music isn’t just about men and women. Rap music is about culture. Rap is about hip-hop.