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Whether it be your uncle, a teacher, or most likely, your dad, you’ve probably heard someone over the age of 40 talk badly about rap music. They often discredit it, acting like it’s a genre so disgusting and volatile that it’s not even worth having as a musical classification, implying that the world would be better off without it.
Rap seems to carry around this negative stigma with people who don’t really listen to it, and this has always been a source of confusion for me. I’ve always viewed rap as a very impressive art form, something that I love to immerse myself in, so when I hear middle-aged adults slander it over and over without any real justification, I find myself very perplexed. People who don’t like the genre never even really give it a chance, and sometimes just disrespect it with no justifiable rationale. While I do understand that people don’t like new trends and that it’s a relatively new genre as it was spawned in the late 1970’s and didn’t pick up in the mainstream until a little while after, outside of this I don’t get why it’s so often neglected and disrespected. So, I’m here to explain the real reasons why rap has such a negative connotation floating around it.
For one, mainstream rap is extremely unintelligible. People who don’t like rap or don’t even give it a chance aren’t going to dig into the underground rap scene to unearth some of the poetic and clever artists who are out there, so instead all they get is what they hear on the radio. These days, what’s trending is trap music, which is often dark, muddy, and increasingly lyrically simplistic . The subject matter usually consists of guns, women, and drugs, and many people don’t enjoy this too much. This is completely fair. The problem here isn’t the listener, but rather, what’s popular and playing on the radio. The point is, if the only rap you hear is mainstream rap, you most likely aren’t going to like the genre very much. To assume that all rap is like what you hear on the radio is very ignorant, but this is what many people do.
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Another reason rap gets a bad name is they only choose to hear the lyrics on the surface value. The genre historically does talk about growing up in grim situations, and while it has varied some as it’s grown as an art form, a large portion of rap still sticks to this today. Just because this is the subject matter, though, doesn’t mean it’s music not worth listening to. While more than a few trap and mumble rappers discuss these situations without much wit, plenty of less heard-of artists discuss their adolescence in an incredibly intelligent way.
That being said, many people will still sway on the side of ignorance, and instead of trying to hear what the rapper is actually saying or appreciating a very complex rhyme scheme, they will hear one reference to drugs or crime and immediately dismiss the music. To be frank, this is amazingly ignorant behavior. Even though the subject matter may be illegal activities, it doesn’t mean the rapper is discussing it in a way that leads a bad example for children or turns off listeners who are peace-loving citizens. For example, the rapper Ka’s songs are often about his severe and perilous life growing up (“Committed grimy street crimes” from Finer Things / Tamahagene), and while the music is about drugs and crime, the way he talks about it is consistently perspicacious and always done in good taste. He tends to discuss his dangerous younger days in a reminiscent fashion, and says how he never wanted to live life the way he did [“I wish, we ain’t have to live like this” from I Wish (Death Poem)], but was forced to due to the circumstances he was dealt (“To get what we need, we did what we must” from Just). The subject matter is unholy things, but he isn’t discussing them in a silly or reckless way.
Ka is just one example, but there are plenty of rappers who do the same thing he does (although he is definitely one of the best at it). If people would just listen to what rappers are saying instead of being too eager to disregard it once they hear the slightest reference to something they don’t approve of, they would see how intricate and impressive an art form it is.
While that is why rap seems to get this unfair negative stigma, here is why rap deserves to be viewed in a positive light. It contains all of the same literary devices poetry has, while also maintaining rhyme schemes that are far more complex than poetry. This isn’t a knock against poetry, but rap uses very complex imagery, symbolism, and other literary tools while also incorporating rhyme schemes that can reach up to five or six syllable rhymes, which can be mind boggling.
Another thing rap does great is it can deliver a great message to people while also being catchy. While many hardcore rap fans may not like these artists, they can’t deny the happiness and encouraging nature that rappers like J. Cole and Chance the Rapper bring to rap while also being catchy enough to get radio play. Their songs contain lyrics praising God and being thankful for everything they have, and this is something evolutionary in rap that has changed its tide a bit. All in all, rap is a fantastic form of self-expression, and rather than dismiss it out of pure ignorance, more people should give it a try and look at it for what it really is, a first-rate art form.