An Analysis of Rap Music as the Voice of Todayís Black Youth.
A Paper submitted to the Department of Theatre and
Communication Arts of Gannon University.
HB 400 Senior Seminar & Thesis
Marc T. Parker
Presentation- April 23, 1999 1:00 Palumbo Center
An Analysis of Rap Music as the Voice of Todayís Black Youth.
For the Negro, expression through the use of voice and instruments or both has provided him with the means to release joy, pain, hurt and agony, while at the same time becoming a powerful medium which is heard by both those who can identify with it and those who arenít willing to, but are quick to judge and condemn it.
For todayís Black youth, rap music is this medium. It is a musical voice and expression of the unjust and violent society in which they live. Is rap music a trend that has never been witnessed in America before? No, rap music is a continuing line of Negro expressions including; Spirituals, Blues, and Soul, all of which were inspired in trying times in our society, even more so than that of todayís. However, because of rapís much more violent and explicit content, it isnít viewed in the same sense of its predecessors nor is it taken in the serious manner that it should be.
"Rappers and hip-hop music have been getting a bad rap. This music is no different from the many other forms of expression used by Blacks of a different generation. The blues, jazz or even spirituals reflect the concerns of Black people as a whole. To devaluate this form of expression is to miss the point, the point being our youth's way of telling us the kinds of things that amuse and anger, and the experiences they go through in todayís world. To ignore these feelings would be to deny their very existence" (Federic 94).
Thereís much more to rap music than just beats and rhymes. After two decades of ridicule and criticism, rap music has emerged as the voice of todayís black youth while
also transforming the culture of America . To understand rap music you must first understand the culture from which it comes. From the beginning of the century Black music has been a form of expression that has impacted not only the Black community but America as a whole. Negro spirituals laid the foundation for what has continued to be a way for its people to express the pain and hurt that could not other wise be expressed without physical violence. These songs played a crucial role in the development of the blues and soul music which continued to voice the social problems, personal problems, and injustice of their times. Not being able to voice their opinions and feelings in any other ways without being threatened or allowed by laws, forced Blacks to create ways to express themselves legally and in a language that they understood.
Every form of Black music from spirituals to rap has a melody, a rhythm, and a sound track. From the early blues with artists such as Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil at the "Crossroads." Leading up to jazz and then soul with artists such as Areatha Franklin and James Brown who played major roles in the fight for social equality during this time. It was then in the mid 1970ís that rap music was served up by artists such as Kool Herc, Sugar Hill Gang, and Grandmaster Flash.
What is rap and why is it said to be the voice of todayís Black youth? Simple, even if weíre not into rap, the hip-hop culture it speaks of is all around us. It stems from the films we watch, for an example, have you seen a Will Smith movie lately? It stems from the commercials we see, for an example, have you seen a Sprite commercial lately?
Rap music was once called a fad, however, it now celebrates its 20th anniversary of actually being recorded in 1979, although Kool Herc had started rapping
in parties eight years earlier. Today, many people say that rap has changed in its message from being one form of music that is creative and expressive of society to another form of music that is too violent and explicit. In considering this view held by many, one must realize and remember that rap music is a reflection of society and its problems. We live in a much more violent and immoral society than twenty years ago when rap music first began. The feelings expressed in the form of rap music may not be done in a way that pleases most of us, but rap artist arenít the first generation to use music and lyrics as an artful form and way of expression. "Black people have always used music as a conduit for expression" (Nelson 11). Recall the music of the Caribbean. Artists like Sparrow, of calypso fame, and Bob Marley, the reggae king, used their music to give us their observations of the world in which they lived. Calypso, with its driving beat, often criticized for its subject matter, made fun of the colonial powers who inhabited the land. Reggae, like spirituals, blues, and soul, talks about the never-ending struggle and fight for
opportunity and equality of our time, and now although its not the first, so too does rap music.
Negro spirituals are the earliest form of song expression by African Americans. Negro spirituals are defined as, "Black religious songs that possess a lyrical quality and express a wide range of emotions including; hope, pain, fear, and joy" (Brooks 32).
Examples of some Negro spiritual titles include; "Nobodyís Fault But Mine," "Precious Lord," and "Trouble In My Way" (Brooks 34). There are three types of songs usually included to form spirituals and they are "jubilees, shouts, and spirituals themselves,
though it is difficult to distinguish one from another with any degree of precision" (Brooks 32).
"Spiritual" was used as a term to describe the relationship between the song and the "Holy Spirit." The jubilee was a song described to come from the heart of that person, causing them to sing to God of their happiness. The shout is described to be either of the other two forms when it was used as a dance song. "Since it was often too difficult to distinguish one of these forms from another, and because the terms seem to be used interchangeably, all the religious songs are referred to as spirituals" (Brooks 32).
There has been a great amount of discussion as to the origin of the Negro spirituals as to if they originated in Africa or if they had been taken from the context of religious songs practiced by white Americans. However, James Weldon Johnson, Alain
Locke, and John Lovell, all of whom are writers and historians, have concluded that Negro spirituals had indeed originated in Africa where they were thought to have began.
"The African Slaves came from a strong tradition of vigorous singing and continued to sing once they were brought to these shores, the only change being the language and conditions, which now were enslavement" (Brooks 33).
As for the content of the spiritual and how it was expressed, spirituals consisted only of voice. This held true in that the use of any type of instrument was forbidden by
slavemasters, who believed and viewed the use of instruments as means of inciting a revolt against them and their families. "The experiences of the African in the New World milieu did not drive out of existence the musical tradition that he brought with him from Africa, but it did change some of the meaning for which it was now used. Blacks lived in
a society in which separation of the races was at least the custom if not always the law, which minimized the outside musical influences and perpetuated the survival of African musical characteristics" (Brooks 33).
Most importantly, the spiritual songs themselves reflected the relationship to God and the source of strength that enabled Negro slaves to continue living for the hope and promise of a better day. The spiritual connection of the songs provided hope in conditions that were inhumane. "It is obvious that working oneís own field in his own land is quite different from forced labor in a foreign land. Thus, the references in the songs and there meanings changed dramatically" (Brooks 43).
After the Emancipation Proclamation, which set the slaves free, a new form of musical expression called the blues, was created by the Negro. Blues is defined as being "a form of song and music derived from spirituals which focused on personal pain and struggle, which now could be and was accompanied by music, usually a guitar" (Davis 2). Some famous blues artists were; Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Robert Nighthawk, and B.B King. Examples of some blues song titles include: "St. James Infirmary," "Cold in Hand Blues," and "Thrill is Gone" (Davis 3).
The blues was a continuing musical expression of the earlier spirituals and was created in the early 1900ís. "The blues has its origins in field hollers and work songs(spirituals)"(Davis 2). The first blues performers were Negroes who were exempted from picking cotton by virtue of blindness or some other physical handicap, or those for whom music served as a way of avoiding backbreaking labor. However, not only was the blues a musical expression of oneís self, but like the spirituals before it, the blues also served as a social expression. During this time in which slavery had just been abolished, Negroes continued to be greatly oppressed and discriminated against by people and laws. "Blues is a reflection of the isolation of the Negro in American society, who forced to live outside of the dominant culture, developed his own culture and found within the difficulties and pain of his experiences the materials for a rich and vital music"(Brooks 52). With the Emancipation Proclamation, Negroes were promised the kind of freedom enjoyed by other Americans. However, due to prejudice and injustice, the failure of Negroes to gain true freedom and equality created the psychological milieu in which the blues were created and expressed.
As a form of expression, the blues are a statement of personal misery. These were feelings that included love and heartache in relationships in which the blues artists would open their hearts and relate the deep feelings of pain to a partner that wasnít present. "The blues may be said to be an expression of criticism or complaint that serves as a relief from the troubles being experienced by the musician"(Brooks 53).
It was after the creation of the blues from the 1930ís to 1960ís that voiced expression from the Negro began to dwindle and die down. This was a period in which war was very prevalent in America. Negroes had began to enlist in the army and fight for America, while at the same time for the first time Negroes were allowed to play in such professional sports as baseball, football and basketball. Things seemed to be improving but nonetheless they were not good enough. In the early 1960ís, Blacks, as they were now referred, began to react to inequality and discrimination in ways that they had never practiced before and from these social happenings came the birth of soul music.
Soul music is defined as being a form of music derived from spirituals and blues, that spoke of and to the Black condition. Some of the most famous soul artist of this time were James Brown, Areatha Franklin, Ottis Redding, and Marvin Gaye. Examples of some of the soul song titles include; "Black and Proud," "Smiling Faces," "Respect," and "Whatís Going On."
A symbol of the Blackís effort to achieve cultural definition was the emergence of the term "soul" during the mid to late 1960ís. "Soul is the manifestation of the bittersweet Black experience and/or Black lifestyle"(Brooks 151). This was a critical period in American history in which Blacks struggled and fought for civil rights through marches, rallies, and other non-violent demonstrations that were almost always met with by violent opposition. However, it was also during this period that Blacks were concerned with defining their own culture and pride in its broadest terms. Blacks were good enough to
fight in wars and win gold medals for the United States, but they were not good enough to eat in the same restaurants nor attend the same schools as whites. Soul music addressed all these issues in more way than one. While expressing the dissatisfaction of the conditions for Blacks in America, soul also provided a sense of Black pride that had been lost in all the previous years of slavery and segregation. Now, there wasnít only talk about the problems in society for Blacks, but the much needed actions of the people as a whole, which certainly included some whites and establishment of the civil rights laws.
Soul music now was used increasingly as a forum for Black expression as well as to designate an entire field of Black music. " In the Black ghettoes, singers were referred to as "soul brothers" and "soul sisters"(Brooks 151). A precise, objective meaning of the
word "soul" in terms of music is almost impossible to isolate, since its use depends on personal responses. In the sixties, during these times of rebellion and uproar, soul emerged not only as a concept of Black identity, but also of black musical expressiveness and creativeness. "Black music gives the Black artist the vehicle by which he can express
that profound, religious feeling"(Brooks 152). Unlike any of the Black musical forms before it, soul music now used a variety of musical instruments and dubbing, to establish style and creativeness in itís message.
However, the kind of records that were most popular in the Black community at this time indicated that soul was more of a general feeling than it was a particular style. America could now relate to the Black condition which was expressed in the ever popular songs heard throughout the country. "Soul music actually became nationally popular and
commercially successful. For the first time, the music of Blacks was accepted on the Blackís terms and was not censored or modified to suit the musical taste of white audiences"(Brooks 152).
The majority of the music was designed principally for the black community and its movements by way of its loud down-to-earth messages. Even still, spiritual themes remained and soul music continued in the footsteps of the spirituals and blues it had been rooted in. "The Black performers, singers, and players, produced a music based in the gospel-blues tradition. Mowtown produced this style which provides much of the foundation for soul music as we know it today"(Broooks 153). Its no wonder why many of the songs from the soul era are almost always being sampled by todayís generation of rap music artists.
Thereís no question that like the soul, blues, and spirituals before it, rap music and communicative practices of hip-hop are rooted in the African American tradition of voiced expression. Rap music is defined as "a form of rhythmic speaking in rhyme, usually from its culture"(Basu 4). Some of rap musicís most successful and controversial artists include: Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G., Ice Cube, and Public Enemy. Examples of some rap song titles include; "Changes," "Warning," "Hard Knock Life," and "Fight The Power."
Rap music and hip-hop cultureís on-going and bewildering love/hate relationship with the American society requires a fresh evaluation of the role Black culture plays in the continuing evolution of American popular culture. Rap music has been subjected to lawsuits and criticism before courts, a topic of harsh sermons by preachers, and even as political stands for presidents and presidential candidates. Rap has transformed America not only with its message, but with dress, language, and all the culture that comes with it. While rap is said to be the voice of todayís Black youth, it has also help fuel the African American cinema resurgence in Hollywood, while also providing opportunities of leading roles in film(Will Smith in "Men In Black") and television series(LL Cool Jís "In The House"). Even still, rap musicís hyped commercialization canít dampen its tough, raw, hard-core street essence. Rap musicís most powerful tool in remaining this way has been its ability to "keep it real," in the words of one of Tupac Shakurís most important rhymes.
Rap music and its hip-hop culture have not been the subject of much serious study or scholarship. Therefore, it needs a broad-based historical account as the form continues
to grow and becomes more complicated in both music and style in its message to mainstream America as well as its own community.
"Rap in general dates all the way back to the motherland, where tribes would use the call-and-response chants. In the 1930ís you had Cab Calloway pioneering his style of jazz rhyming. In the 1960ís you had the love style of rapping, with Isaac Hayes, Barry White, and the poetry style of rapping with The Last Poets, The Watts Poets and the militant style of rapping with brothers like Malcom X and Minister Louis Farrakhan. In the sixties you also had "The Name Game," a funny rap by Shirley Ellis, and radio djís who would rhyme and rap before a song came on" ĖAfrika Bambaata, 1993(Perkins2).
Afrika Bambaata, one of rap musicís founders, alludes to several important roots of rap music. Without doubt the African elements are part of rapís foundation as it was in spirituals, blues, and soul alike. "It is at the level of interpersonal relationships and expressive behavior that the black American proletariat has preserved a large part of [its] African character. It is in this area, therefore, that we should expect the survival of African linguistic features. It is clear that rappers, like their ancestors, draw on the call-and Ėresponse form so common in the ritual chanting to the gods, ancestors, or both; and
the accumulated traditions of story telling are an essential element in rap musicís overall structure"(Perkins 2).
Just as their ancestors did in their forms of expressions, rappers invent and reinvent their own vocabulary, adjusting it as the moment may require for recording, seeing how most explicit forms of rap arenít given any radio airplay, or just the routines of everyday life. Just as the early Negroes adapted English to fit the rules and formal
structure of the language they carried with during enslavement, the rap artists of today have also adapted English to their own conventions and cultural style. When this verbal sorcery is fused with a beat, the resulting product becomes "very African"(Watts 4).
The first rappers who adapted this style and its knowledge have instructed the new-school rappers of today in the importance and historical significance of this verbal mastery, in order that rap can claim a place alongside spirituals, blues, and soul in the African cultural consciousness as well as paying homage to them as in the case of the legendary, Cab Calloway.
Afrika Bambaata, as well as other rappers, acknowledge Calloway as the grandfather of rap music. "I was rappiní 50 years ago, my rap lyrics were a lot more dirty than those in my songs. And I did the moonwalk 50 years ago too" ĖCab Callloway,1991(Perkins 1). Callowayís vocal style borrowed the smooth elegance of scat
singing(European vocal formalism joined to a distinctly African rhythm) and translated it into a street vernacular. Calloway called this early style of rap "jive scat," and it swept the country during the depression and lasted well into the 1940ís.
Calloway didnít merely invent a new vocal style but created an entire culture around jive, as hip-hop culture today is reflected from rap music. Jive scat features the improvisational style characteristic of much African music, but includes the call-and-response form. Callowayís signature tune, "Minnie the Moocher," is a well-formulated example of this ability to mix both vocal and music styles.
"During one show that was broadcast over the national radio in the spring of 1931, not long after we start using "Minnie the Moocher" as our theme song, I was
singing in the middle of a verse, as it happens sometimes, the damned lyrics went right out of my head. I forgot them completely. I couldnít leave a blank there as I might have done if we werenít on the air. I had to fill the space, so I just started to scat sing the first thing that came into my mind. "Hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-ho. Hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-ho. Oodlee- oodlee-oldyee-oodlee-doo. Hi-de-ho-de-ho-de-hee." The crowd went crazy. Then I asked the band to follow it with me and I sang, "Dwaa-de-dwaa-de-dwaa-de-doo." And the
band responded. By this time, whenever the band responded some of the people in the audience were beginning to chime as well. So I motioned to the band to hold up and I
asked the audience to join in. And as I sang the audience responded. They hollered back and nearly brought the roof down"(Perkins 3).
However, the message-oriented poetry of The Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron laid the groundwork for the majority of rap music as we know it today. The Last Poets set lyrics to the beat of a conga drum, Gil Scott Heron to the rhythms of a talented small band, to create a distinctive rap performance style that would have an almost infectious appeal for the masters of todayís rap and their successors. "What characterized this version of rap was its political and social commentary, which did not spare African Americans from criticism. Coming to the fore at the end of the Civil Rights/Black Power movements, these poets invoked the most accessible form of black cultural nationalism-message word play- to reeducate and awaken the masses from the numbering sleep of the Nixon era and the emergence of benign neglect"(Perkins 5). What makes Heronís and The Last Poetís style so important to the emergence of rap music is its orality. "The poetryís effectiveness comes through only when it is spoken, just like rap"(Perkins 5).
This brief overview of the sources of the rap tradition suggest the infinite complexity and variety of rapís origins, each of which deserves major research. However, one fact remains constant, and that being the fact that rap, as its predecessors before it, now serves as the voice of todayís Black youth in which the tradition has been nurtured on the accumulated and residual forms of African and African American music, verbal
art, and personal style as well as the constant process of self innovation within each of these elements. This cultural residue is the source of much of the strength and vitality of rap and its hip-hop culture.
"Rap music is not only a black expressive cultural phenomenon; it is, at the same time, a resisting discourse, a set of communicative practices that constitute a text of resistance against white Americaís racism and its Eurocentric cultural dominance"(Smitherman 3). Hip-hopís rappers are showcasing a culture in America which represents the case of Americaís still dispossessed slave descendants, people who forced against their will, were subject to a life of slavery and oppression. Then after 400 years, were let free only to be subject to the same cruelty and discrimination, and now some years later with more of the same, if not more problems, are expected to be happy with the situation that they are in. Except now, they express in explicit and violent terms and language, the unjust and violent society that still hasnít changed. Legendary entertainment artist Stevie Wonder stated, " I learn from rapÖ listen hard, and youíll hear the pain. Without feeling the pain yourself, youíll never understand. And what we donít understand, we canít change and canít heal. I hate it when the very folks who should be listening to rap are attacking it so hard they miss the point. The point is that
children and the neighborhoods-the whole countryÖ is drowning in violence"(Smitherman 12).
Even still, Black music has proved potent in American culture throughout history and will continue to do so through rap music. "Rap music and itís hip-hop culture are a part of this continuum-the voice of todayís Black urban America, born out of violence, and destitution and attrition that make up decaying inner-cities"(Basu 1). The cultural imperatives of Black music from spirituals, blues, and soul to rap, illustrate the historical contingencies upon which black music articulates race, gender, and class-related experiences. "Spirituals can be linked to slavery, blues to segregation, and soul to the inequalities that led to the civil rights movement"(Basu1).
Rap music itself consist of lyrically formed words that can be accompanied with or without music. "Rap music is performed verbally by a gifted storyteller and cultural historian. It is a Black rhetorical strategy to explain a point, for example, why selling drugs is genocide in the Black community, to persuade holderís of opposing points of views to oneís own point of view, and to create word pictures about general, abstract observations about life, love, and survival, For example, growing up in the ghetto"(Smitherman 6). With a blend of reality and fiction, rap music is a contemporary response from oneís spirit and heart to the conditions of joblessness, poverty, and disempowerment, which continues to be the norm for black Americans. "Rap music is petulant, raw, and screaming with vibrant and violent images. This music has become a-or, perhaps the principal medium for black youth to express their views of the world and to seek to create a sense of order out of the turbulence and chaos of their and our, lives"(Watts).
Two decades ago when rap music was born, many wondered if it had a future. Today, tens of millions record sales later, surprisingly, some still wonder about the message, because rap music is definitely here to stay. Rap music has emerged as a way for our nationís black youth to express a voice about their feelings, problems and community, that otherwise wouldnít be heard at all. It also provides a way of living for young African Americans that otherwise would become victim to the unfortunate means of drug-selling and other crimes, but that is the ugly reality of life that is so often expressed in rap music. From the beginning of time, Blacks have expressed themselves in song and dance through such forms as spirituals, blues, and soul, with rap music continuing the tradition in being a musical expression for Blacks to convey the pain, hurt, and everyday life experiences they go through in America.
As previously stated, spirituals laid the groundwork for Negro expression in America, in being a form that was voiced to God for strength and relief of the evil slavery and bondage that they faced. These songs, not accompanied by any form of music, provided an outlet for the slaves to relate to one another, God, and to look forward to a day of freedom. Musical expression continued for Blacks in the early 1900ís with the birth of the blues. After having been freed by the emancipation proclamation, Blacks began to voice displeasure of being confined to the same conditions of injustice and discrimination, although slavery had ended. It was during this time in society that Negroes created the blues which had derived from spiritual songs, but could now be accompanied by musical instruments. We see that these conditions continued without much opposition until the 1960ís, in which through civil rights marches and protest, soul music was born. As we know, this music played a role as an musical expression derived from both spirituals and blues, which contributed to the uplifting of Black pride, love and power. Soul music continued the fight for the rights the had been promised to Negroes after the emancipation proclamation, along with rights of equality and opportunity. Soul music had also become unique because it began to cross-over to the previously white-dominated music industry and audience. Now all America became familiar with the songs that described the pain and struggles of Blacks in America, that now dominated the music scene.
However, we also see that during the mid 1970ís, soul music began to lose its "soul" during a time when Black pride began to die due to the rise of drugs and crime in the Black communities. When conditions began to worsen, a new form of Black expression called rap began to emerge, thus following previous forms of Black expression that related the Negroes hardships and struggles in society that America itself ignored. This is a music which began as a creative expression of joy and fun, but quickly turned into a way to also release pain and anger.
This so-called hip-hop culture began in the Bronx, NY in 1971. A girl named Cindy needed a little money to go back-to-school, so she asked her brother Clive to throw a party on her behalf. Clive, who loved reggae, use to watch dance-hall revelers back in his hometown of Kingston, Jamaica. He loved the deejays with their big sound systems, and the way theyíd "toast" in a singsong voice before each song.
The party Clive would throw for his sister was a success. After a while, Clive was asked to do more and more parties, and in 1973 he gave his first block party. Clive was now called Kool Herc and at the age of 18 he had become the first break-beat deejay, reciting rhymes over the "break," or instrumental part of the records he was spinning. Who knew that some 28 years later, that Clive would have started a form of music that now represents the voice of todayís Black youth.
However, this voice continues to be criticized by mainstream America and even some members of the African American community. All major modern musical forms with roots in Negro spirituals, blues, and jazz faced criticism early on. Langston Hughes, in 1926, defended the blues and jazz from cultural critics. "Hardcore rap triumphed commercially, in part, because rapís aesthetic of sampling connects it closely to what is musically palatable"(Farley 5).
"The underlying message is this: the violence and misogyny and lustful materialism that characterize some rap songs are as deeply American as the hokey music that rappers appropriate. The fact is, this country was in love with outlaws and crime and violence long before hip-hop. Think of Jesse James, and Bonnie and Clyde-and think of the movie Bonnie and Clyde, as well as Scarface and the Godfather saga"(Farley 6).
However, While most of whatís seen on the big screen is fiction, the majority of rap is real. Most of the rap songs we listen to mirror the situations that exist in urban America. In rap music, the artists express and relate what they see and what they may have experienced. Whether these experiences are related in a bad or explicit way is not
the problem, the problems remains in these neighborhoods in our society where these problems are occurring and what isnít being done to help solve it.
Instead, there continues to be a concerted campaign against rap music despite its political and moral messages and its celebration of the Black oral tradition. On June 5, 1993, African American minister Reverend Calvin Butts held a "rap in" in Harlem, New York, to which he had invited participants to bring offensive tapes and CDís to be run over with a steamroller. However, the act was met with supporters of rap music who blocked off the steamroller. As a result, Reverend Butts and supporters took the pile of CDís and tapes to the Manhattan office of Sony and dumped them there. In 1994, Dr. C. Delores Tucker, head of the National Political Congress of Black Women, was successful in getting the U.S. Congress to hold hearings against rap music. She joined forces with a White male conservative, former Secretary of Education William Bennett, to mount an all-out campaign against rap music. By late September 1995, Tucker and Bennett had succeeded in forcing Time Warner to sell off their interest in Imterscope, the recording company for the most prominent of the so-called "gangsta" rappers.
"Admittedly, rap has its violence, its raw language, and its misogynistic lyrics. However, it is an art form that accurately reports "the nuances, pathology and most importantly, resilence of Americaís best kept secretÖ the black ghetto"(Smitherman 3).
The hip-hop and rap culture is a resistance culture. Rap music is a loaded gun of lyrics and language that used to shoot at and protect against White Americaís racism and cultural dominance. Through their bold and talented productions, rap artists are fulfilling the mission rap musicís mission of disturbing the peace. Only when this subject matter caught the ear of White Americaís youth, which accounted for 70% of all record sales in 1998, did mainstream America really start paying attention to rap music. Many people blame rap music for the way their children behave in society, when the fact is, society itself is to blame. Like any other form of media, rap music is entertainment first. It just so happens that the entertainment being provided in rap music is the harsh reality of people in our society who relate well to the music, but unfortunately for others, it serves as a fantasy world in which they have no real clue about, its just cool and intriguing.
In the history of music, no other form of music has been as ridiculed or criticized more than rap has. Many would have thought that after Senate hearings and lawsuits, rap would have just folded and given up, but isnít that the very same thing most of it conveys to fight against. It would be wonderful if the majority of rap music expressed good and positive things for black people, but although opportunities are better for Blacks today, prejudice and violence among other problems continue to plague the Black community. Rapping about their pain and the violence they live with has rescued several rappers from the "thug life" and given them legitimate, productive careers, while also sending a disturbing message to America about the state of its "forgotten communities."
America must realize that this is the voice of the Black youth today who stand up and say "this is whatís going on, and this is how we feel about it." This message isnít just for mainstream America, it also for the communities which it has derived from. Communities themselves need to also take responsibility for the chaos being revealed in these rap songs. In the absence of a national movement to provide a cohesive political framework, such as that which emerged during the 1960ís, the hip-hop nation today grapples with contradictions it lacks the political experience to resolve.
The hip-hop nation employs African American communicative traditions and discursive practices to convey the Black struggle for survival in the face of Americaís abandonment of the descendants of enslaved Africans. Rap music is and will continue to be the voice of todayís Black generation that simultaneously reflects the cultural evolution of the Black oral tradition.
Of course one might be moved to reflect the words of Maya Angelou, "My people had used music to soothe slaveryís torment or to propitiate God, or to describe the sweetness of love and the distress of lovelessness, but I knew no race could sing and dance its way to freedom. As a woman activist from back in the day, I applaud the hip-hop nation for seeking to disturb the peace lest the chain remain the same"(Smitherman 12).
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