(General warning for language in the videos attached to this post)
A couple of weeks ago, a friend surprised me by referring to rap music as ‘disgusting’. Now, everybody is entitled to their opinion but the thought ground my gears. It’s not disgusting. It’s just music. I didn’t respond immediately because that’s not the hill I want to die on. I also knew that I wanted to write about it but I didn’t want to write angry and I wanted to think about it for a while. Hopefully I’ve let my emotions sift to the bottom and my thoughts to the top.
Now the track in question was this little ditty:
Nicki Minaj – Anaconda
Would you say that’s disgusting? I asked the question of myself and tried to stay objective. It’s very sexual and I guess somebody who wasn’t comfortable with that would have issues with that aspect. Still, it’s no worse than I’ve seen Madonna put out back in the day so I personally have no issues with it. It’s heavily sampled so from a musical standpoint it’s not entirely original which I guess irks me just a bit. Still, it’s different enough that I can let it slide. So what’s left? Is it just that it’s rap music? Is that such a bad thing?
Let me be perfectly honest. I railed against rap music when I was a teenager at a time when rap music was exploding in popularity. I wanted nothing to do with it but looking back I think that’s because as a middle class white kid I was supposed to not like it. I was a supposed to be a good boy and listen to rock and roll like my parents and authority figures would prefer. However, once rap and hip hop became more mainstream I actually gave it an honest try. I was hooked. I loved it. I went through a period where that’s all I listened to. Now I listen to it when I’m in the mood or when something new is released. I’m no expert but I know what I like.
NWA – Fuck Tha Police
Listening to this track again I have to admit it goes way overboard in some parts and I do not condone violence against law enforcement in any form. However, I wouldn’t even call that “disgusting” since the words are coming from a different perspective. I see the police in an entirely different light than a person of color might especially during a period following the LA riots where there was a lot of anger and frustration over police actions. The only experience I’ve had with the police are a few tickets and knowing my uncle who worked for law enforcement. The music and lyrics flow very well and if you listen there’s actually a fairly eloquent yet emotional indictment of police brutality/profiling if you get past the shock value of the name.
Kanye West – Jesus Walks
Now, this is one of the most political rap songs that I’ve heard (again, I’m no connoiseur) and it has a very high production quality. Of course, it comes from an artist who thinks he’s the second coming and a musical genius. All of that aside, it’s an interesting track about one man’s views on the world around him.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – Jimmy Iovine
This track comes off as violent and harsh at first because of the vocal effects and anger and some violent imagery. This is all apparent until you realize the artists are using the power of metaphor and symbolism. What they’re really talking about here is how the record companies give new artists a raw deal which is sometimes akin to indentured servitude. It’s a tirade against the current business structure that favors the record companies over the artists instead of a true partnership. It’s something they were obviously passionate about and it is a message I can get behind.
Trey Songz – Bottoms Up ft. Nicki Minaj
We finish off with the track that introduced me to Nicki Minaj in the first place. For the record, I was a fan of Nicki Minaj since the first time I heard this. The speed and accuracy that she achieves is amazing and I often find her funny and a little insane. Not all tracks are deep and meaningful. Sometimes you just want to party with a bouncy song about a night on the town. It’s like the difference between American Pie and Highway to Hell. Sometimes you just want to listen to fun music.
So those are a few rap songs that I like. I feel like I could go on like this for ages but I think a small sampling makes my point well enough. Obviously I’m not going to change everyone’s mind but I feel that cutting off a whole genre is unfair and close-minded. I always give everything a fair shake before I condemn it. I don’t put down movies I haven’t seen and I don’t condemn a whole genre of music because I don’t like a few artists. I went through the same thing with country music, pop music, disco and so many others. It just takes one good track to open your mind. Maybe you can go find your track.