I’m just your average looking white girl who refuses to listen to anything besides rap. It’s one of those things that in part, I kind of can’t explain”¦ like, why do I like the color orange? Why do I like broccoli but not Brussels sprouts? It’s just a certain taste that I’ve come to acquire. On the other side of this reasoning, I’m really passionate about a lot of what hip hop music stands for, although the genre as a whole does tend to get dumped on a little excessively for being misogynistic and glorifying criminal lifestyles. But some of the things that hip-hop gets a bad rap for–no pun intended–are in fact some of the aspects I am absolutely in love with: the cockiness most rappers bring to their personas, the blunt, unforgiving nature of some songs, and just the fact that hip-hop uses a certain level of shock value to attract attention to the genre itself. Rap music is often rude, aggressive, and in-your-face and that’s the very reason I love it even when some songs are very problematic.
I would also have to say that I can relate to the notion of grinding and working hard, and pushing to be successful despite the odds. I admire that some rappers have made their way out of difficult circumstances to better themselves, and it’s inspiring to see somebody build up their own little empire. It gives me hope for my own goals and dreams, and enables me to keep fighting in the face of adversity.
I’m in a place in my life right now where I’m trying to find my true passion and how to really bring meaning to my life, and part of that for me is being in a position to build: to know that I can always work on something, that I can always make myself better. I get my little workouts on with the inspirational music, or I have certain playlists for when I’m writing papers (actually!). Music gets me through a lot of the day. But the history involved in rap music is also a big reason why I will always support many hip hop artists. Rap first evolved as social protest, and was a unique way of social and political expression for a minority population that faced oppression in North America for many years.
Rap music also redefined intelligence. In our society, our school system and distribution of social rewards fixate on a narrow range of accomplishments and talents which in turn comes to restrict what kinds of values we teach and how we socialize children to realize success. You have to go to school to get a good job, and you want a good job so you can make good money, and you want money so you can have the freedom to do and be who you want. Except you have to often conform to a certain standard to get the good grades and essentially kickstart the whole process.
What a world we live in.
I love rap because it pushes the boundaries of acceptability. Even at its worst, rap music is still garnering attention in the way that it demands attention for its unconventional content. It exposes what it’s like to grow up underprivileged without access to most resources that the average American citizen is supposed to be able to indulge in; hip hop provides a glimpse into lifestyles that most mainstream media and governments would like to cover up. Hip hop illustrates an alternative to the norm, and is a medium that makes manipulating language and one’s social location cool so to speak. Writing a rap song takes a lot of talent in the sense that it often involves thinking on the spot and re-inventing certain societal conventions to think in an alternative way.
A word on the problematic aspects of hip hop. I’m not trying to deflect from the issues involved in rap music but at the same time I feel like people are led to believe that most of these kinds of songs are very materialistic and sexist when it is just not the case. It’s also kind of ironic that many other kinds of mainstream songs are considered acceptable (Britney Spears’ song “Slave 4 U” and Beyonce’s “Naughty Girl” are a couple of examples that come to mind) when they are even worse than some rap songs, especially considering that they can hide behind the guise of empowerment simply because they are sung by women.
While some rap songs work to further stereotype groups of people, most songs function to disrupt the status quo and allow us to re-envision uses for the English language all the while providing a source of social cohesion. What’s your favorite genre of music and how do you think it works as a whole to challenge traditional frameworks of social oppression?