Any Person Who Says Hip-Hop Isn't Music Deserves a Sackpunch
I'm probably going to step on the toes of a lot of friends and readers with this one, but it's got to be said. Rap, hip-hop, whatever you want to call it, is an entirely valid and artful genre of music. Yes, music. Read this definition carefully.
1 the art or science of combining vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion : he devoted his life to music.
Obviously, hip-hop combines vocals and instrumentals. "Beauty" is subjective, but rap definitely has form. In fact, most rap songs conform to a more stringent form than other genres – 16 bar verses, anyone? Harmony? Rap songs often have background singers or rappers weaving their own vocals around and with the main vocalist. Expression of emotion goes without saying. I could end this piece here. The dictionary entry alone proves my point. Some of you need a little more convincing though (not that the most persuasive argument ever written could change some minds).
I'm not somebody who ever plays the race card, but there's an undeniable racial component to some people's aversion to hip-hop. Black people came up with the first rap songs. So what? Black people came up with the first blues songs and the first rock n' roll songs. They also had a hand in inspiring the earliest country music. Another culture may have created the vehicle, but it's an art form that can translate across bodies of water and colors of skin. The most popular (and arguable most talented) rapper is white.
Beyond race, people have other reasons…
They're just talking, you say. Wrong. They are talking in rhythm, with carefully considered syllables and rhyme. They're talking in a way that fits the tone of the lyric. They're talking in a way that mirrors the background instrumentals. They're talking with well considered word choice, using metaphors and similes. They're using cadence to draw you in and emphasis to denote the important points and emotions. If they're just talking – most people can do so – you try it. Let me know how that turns out.
But they just use canned beats and samples, you say. Wrong. Okay, partially wrong. Many rappers these days are working with bands and musicians live and on record. Have you ever seen a hip-hop artist on Saturday Night Live just standing on the stage with a mic and some speakers? Even the most studio-produced music these days includes guitars or other instruments alongside the beats, scratches and whatnot. And who's to say canned beats aren't music? It takes a lot of musical skill to blend the right tracks together to come up with an ear-pleasing arrangement of drums and accompaniment.
Rap songs all sound alike. Nope. That's a cop-out. Country songs all sound the same to non-fans. To be fair, the most commercial music does tend to run together in a sea of familiarity and milquetoast, but that's true in any genre. Hip-hop runs the gambit, sound and content-wise.
K'naan blends pop and rock into his brand of hip-hop, and raps about love, politics and the problems of his home country, Somalia. He even has some singsongy tracks that most wouldn't even call rap. I dare you to listen to Wavin' Flag or Fatima and not nod your head.
Alabama's Yelawolf, newly signed to Eminem's record label, has a country and classic rock bent. Not hick-hop, mind you, straight up hip-hop that sounds authentically countrified. He talks about the problems of the rural south, broken relationships and economic hardships. Gone will grab your ear from the start.
Cypress Hill, still around, mixes Latino and rock music into their signature sound. Crime and drugs are the focus of their lyrics, but usually in a personal and often humorous manner.
Notice I didn't say any of these artists rapped about bling and booty. Sure, they all get into sex and materialism, but they don't linger on these cliched subjects, like the most visible and commercially viable rappers tend to do.
Like any style of music, you've got to dig around a little to find the best and most creative of the bunch, but it's always worth the effort. Surface is surface. The deeper artists are below the water level.
Yeah, I get that hip-hop just isn't for everybody. That's understandable; everybody's got their own preferences in life and music. But if you're an open-minded fan of art and music, there is some hip-hop that will appeal to you.
For those with a realized or subconscious racial reasoning behind their dislike of rap, or those who won't even give it a chance or those who still say it's not music… you should pull up your Dickies and get ready. My fingers are clinched, my knuckles are white (my soul is colorblind), and a house of pain is coming your way… boom, sackpunch!