Categorized | Arts & Entertainment

Rethinking Hip-Hop

Kendrick Lamar’s new album DAMN. is now the number one album according to the Billboard Charts. Kendrick continued to impress with amazing instrumental production and thought-provoking verses for any listener. One verse in particular that I’ve been thinking over is on the song “DNA.” It is a sample of a FOX News clip in which commentator Geraldo Rivera criticizes lyrics from Kendrick’s 2015 song “Alright.” Rivera says in the clip, “This is why I say that hip-hop has done more damage to young African Americans than racism in recent years.”

Now some may find immediate fault with this statement. After all, racism is still found within the cracks and foundations of our society, there are a lot of hip-hop songs that contain no violence and it seems misguided to blame an entire race’s problem from the very thing it cultivated.

Growing up in a somewhat strict Christian household where Donnie McClurkin’s “Stand” and Fred Hammond’s “The Spirit of David” are the closest music to hip-hop, allows you to see the logic from the other side. I remember one time when I had friends over, while my godmother was visiting. The kids and I were in a room listening to Soulja Boy’s new hit song, “Donk.” My godmother walked in on us and you would’ve thought she caught us watching porn. She ran to the desk and kept fiddling with buttons on the speaker until she found the right one to mute it. She then decided to turn off the computer when the video continued to play on the screen with no sound. She then asked me if my mom knew what I was watching.

Along with my godmother’s paranoia of hip-hop, I also had the guidance of many people within my church. God did not want good Christians to listen to music that promotes a lavish lifestyle, fornication, violence and drug usage as cool. So when I heard Rivera’s critique of hip-hop it was nothing new to my ears.

I still believe his interpretation of hip-hop is wrong. Hip-hop is not the first and surely will not be the last musical genre to have a heightened affinity for lyrics that would seem immoral. While there are many hip hop songs that promote needless violence, most violent lyrics have some sort of meaning behind them. Similar to any art form, if we are to understand it, we have to go deeper than just the surface meaning.

Oftentimes people do not take the time or make the effort to listen to lyrics, often getting caught in the litty beats. If you listen closely, you can find small treasures like 21 Savage’s “No Heart,” “I grew up in the streets without no heart. I’m prayin’ to my Glock and my carbon.” While on the surface this verse seems to depict 21 Savage as nothing more than a thug, it is still talking about societal problems that are found in low income communities and how he would rather trust his gun than anyone else. Even Vince Staples’ “Norf Norf” contains meaning behind the lyrics “Hit the corner, make a dollar flippin’, split the dollars with my mama children.” Different hip-hop songs contain meaning ranging from talking about one’s past experiences to overall societal problems. Reducing the genre to a trap that only hurts without talking about it’s welcomed effects seems only disingenuous.

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