Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hip-Hop Don't Stop

I recently just finished reading a book by Jay-Z called Decoded. In it he breaks down the lyrics of many of his hit songs and his motivations for writing the rhymes he does. I absolutely flew through this book and it made me realize something. For as much as hip-hop music and culture is infused throughout American culture, it generally is ignored as an art form. The artists who perform are looked at as thugs who just throw words together that rhyme and typically are disrespectful to women. While there are some artists who use it irresponsibly, there are artists who are socially conscious and take great pride and painstaking detail to their craft.

I think what bothers me most with those who bash the entire culture is that other artistic expressions are given the benefit of doubt to use their art to maybe exaggerate to get a point across. In Robert Rodriguez films the protagonist usually lays a swath of destruction from here to Tijuana yet if one rapper makes an exaggerated claim it’s taken as one hundred percent truth. If Eminem says he’s going to kill someone he must be telling the truth, he can’t possibly be trying to convey a sense of anger that we all have had at one point in our lives right?

Classic literary figures have used profanity to get points across for years, yet once again rappers are held to such a high standard for some reason that they aren’t given the same luxury. It seems to me that people are so busy listening FOR words that they miss the point the overall piece is trying to make. For instance, I once played a song called ‘This can’t be life’ by Jay-Z and there is the use of violent imagery in the song. They used that to mean there can be no depth to the song at all. What they missed was it was the story of a young hustler looking at his options if he failed to make it in the music industry. As Jay-Z said: “It’s all white noise to them till they hear a ‘bitch’ or a ‘nigga’ and then they run off yelling ‘See!’ and feel vindicated in their narrow conception of what the music is all about. But that would be like listening to Maya Angelou and ignoring everything until you heard her drop a line about drinking or sleeping with someone’s husband and then dismissing her as an alcoholic adulterer.”

I’m not saying you have to love hip-hop, you have the right to dislike it as just not your taste. But to paint such a rich and ever changing culture as just pimping, thugging, and profanity is downright criminal. Do your homework, respect the culture. That’s all this hip-hop head is asking.

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