Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Thank you rap music!

I have in the last several years thought that there was absolutely nothing positive I could attribute to rap music.

But I was wrong.

Rap music has forced me to do something that in my life I have rarely done. And that is to actually listen to the lyrics of songs. When I was growing up and then into adulthood I never really paid much attention to the lyrics of songs. I listened to the music and my only thought was; is it danceable? If so then that was enough for me.

The only part of the lyrics that I usually knew was the hook. You know, the part of the song that catches your attention. Like Karyn White's song Superwoman; the only thing I really remember is the hook, "I'm not your super woman". The rest of the lyrics are a blur.

But in the early 90's that all changed. At a certain point I found myself buying and dancing to songs that if they had been written and performed by the Ku Klux Klan they would have caused an uproar in Black America. But those songs, with the racist and misogynist lyrics, performed by Black artists seemed to skate by without much notice.

I remember when C. Delores Tucker was campaigning against rap music lyrics in the early 90's. Her protests got a lot of media coverage. I however didn't really pay attention to what she was saying until one day when I really heard a rap song. I don't remember what song it was but I do remember having a sudden realization that rap had changed.

Rap music had transformed from pro-Black groups like Public Enemy (before Flava lost his mind) and X-Clan to NWA and Biggie Smalls. Instead of hearing about the plight of African Americans and what we needed to do to make changes rap became about wallowing in the mire.

It, rap music, became about the names Black people can be called. It became about celebrating the things that plagued Black America; drugs, prostitution, unbridled consumerism, the N word, the B word, the H word and anything else that many African Americans suffered from.

So that's when I began to pay attention to lyrics. It was really a self-defense mechanism. I didn't want to feel like a fool jamming to a song that was calling me a whore or a bitch. So no longer was it okay for me to ignore the lyrics and dance to the beat. I had to grow up musically and pay attention.

Now as I dig deep into the oldies bin over at YouTube I am hearing the lyrics of my favorite songs for the first time. I must say that I am mostly pleasantly surprised. That's because I am finding out that most of the songs I love from "Back in the day" were about love or being hurt or looking for love or just having fun.

I am really proud to hear the lyrics of these songs and to know that the music of my youth was mostly uplifting. I feel so sorry for kids who are growing up on rap music which is about hating woman and Black people.

What are they going to think years from now when they start to really listen to the music of their youth? Will they feel betrayed? Will they feel sad to know that their innocence was corrupted by rap music and the big corporations that produce it?

Yep I definitely owe rap a big thank you.

Do you think kids growing up now will feel cheated in 10 or 15 years by the corporate rap music they're growing up listening to?


clnmike said...

I think you maybe generalizing the art form.

While no doubt the media force feeds us a lot of bad music there are more than enough quality artist out there.

I do not think the kids have anything to be ashamed about when they look back and see Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, Dead Prez, Outkast, Wyclef, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common and a host of others.

clnmike said...

Hold up I just noticed that was a all male list I gave.

I guess there will be questions about that.

focusedpurpose said...

beautiful blog!

not sure if our children will feel cheated. without hesitation, i can say we are all being disrespected and misrepresented. globally.

jjbrock said...

MDC great question and I will answer with a yes. They are being cheated in more ways than one. Alot of rap artists don't play instruments.

Most of the back in the day artist could play different musical instruments, drums,guitar,horn ,and ect.. So they don't know how to appreciate the gift of music.

Baby Please said...

Hiya MDC:

In recent years, I've moved away from rap and r&b. I dig other genres these days.

I do like some rap; prefereably east coast underground stuff. Now that I live in the south all there is is that dreadful, God-awful, assinine southern rap (I must be getting old). Even with that said, once in a blue moon (I mean really blue), I'll listen to southern rap (if you could call it that) songs. Why?

Well, for one thing, it's impossible to avoid, here. But the reason -- Beats.

I have not yet evolved. I never really have tuned into the lyrics much of any rap song. I still don't. When I listen to hip hop, it's all about the track, for me. I probably won't ever evolve unless hip hop changes cuz I ain't feelin' it these days. And yes, hip hop is very commercial now. It ain't like it used to be in the old days.

Cheated in 10 or 15 years?! Chile, these youngins these days are already cheated.

It seems that hip hops best days are behind it. But I don't really know, cuz I don't listen to it much. I could be very wrong.

I've never really much "danced" to it. I only dance "exclusively" to...

well... you know, MDC.

Sorry for this long ramble. Oops.

Lady Di said...

Well MDC you threw some confusion into the mix. You placed a pic of The Deele and mention Karyn White who are not "rap" related people of music, if you ask me. But... I can certainly understand where the sentiment is coming from to some degree.

First off, there's a difference between hip hop and rap. And people like Erik B & Rakin, LL Cool J, Kool Moe Dee, KRS-One and yes... Run DMC epitomized HIP HOP as the culture it was back then. The stuff NWA (extended music too), Xzibit, Tupac, etc. - they are of rap as my definition of it. WHY? Because those people started glorifying the streets more into a very inescapable but real grit way.

Hip Hop was not as gritty as the music is now as Grand Masterflash can be hear don the radio - today - with literally no bleeps in any of their songs. Sorry, I can not say the same for Ye (Kanye). And yes, now it is MORE about the jewelry, houses, cars and chicks that these so called "artist(s)" are renting, abusing, misusing and using. Oh we can not forget the alcohol/drug infestation in the work now can we?

But, people want to argue about creativity and blah, blah, blah which is getting more publicity than Country music which has it's own sadness to it too. When was the last tie anyone bleeped a Country tune??? I don't listen to loads of it so feel free to educate this one.

I realized I no longer liked public radio when one song was more bleeps than tune. I have not had the radio on in any means (car, house, etc) for over 3 or more years. I grew real tired real quick. Even the light jazz station bored me with 50 million commercials, ok.

And here Katt Williams has tried to break into the "rap" music scene by releasing an album on Dipset. We know the D (rymes with ick) mentality and his music although comical at best, it does the same thing as his label mates. His album is more for hEGO than for anything else if you ask me. Same ish, different person. I am so glad I was able to get it FOR FREE. Like I said in my Blog. He might have 8 kids to feed but I have a BMW to buy on a section 8 mentale right now. Hey, he bragging about owning a Purple Phantom and I'm still bragging about purple dream car. You do the math.

Deidra said...

I think they are being cheated already. Unfortunately in 10-15 years, they are probably going to just think it's the "norm" to listen to stuff like this and not think twice about it. I even hear people of the older generation going "Oh that's just how they do nowadays" and brushing it off like it's nothing.

Anyways, nice post. I wish people actually listen to the lyrics. I remember printing out lyrics in high school (it was a big thing back then to have a binder full of lyrics to the latest songs), and because of that I learned early on what I was listening to a bunch of CRAP.

From that point on I never owned a rap album again. I just stuck to the old R&B/Soul music.

Blu Jewel said...

it's a double edged sword because there are some rappers/mc's who are producing songs with decent lyrics and positive messages while there are those who vehemently rap about money, bling, women, etc. I've noticed that the latter seems to win the attention of most teens with their catchy hooks and nonsensical lyrics.

I prefer the old school rap, which I know is different to hip hop (which rules supreme at present) where they actually spoke of things I cared about and wanted to listen to.

Even the R&B we listen to is crap for the most part. The singers are no longer talking about making love; it's freakin/sexin/*uckin. Music seems to have lost its soul and is dying a slow death.

PCD (Pretty Circle Drawer) said...

i would say yes. rap/hip-hop...just don't feel it. a precious few get play in my ears...not enough to feel like it's a good thing anymore. (such a general statement!!!-LOL!!)

Don said...

Yes, I think the ones who focus simply on the corporate rap music lyrics will feel cheated...but the ones who listen to the Lupe Fiasco, J Dilla, Mos Def, Common, The Roots, etc. will probably be just as enlightened as we were in listening to the artist who spit powerful lyrics.

SheCodes said...

Absolutely, they will feel cheated for a lot of reasons.

First of all, they will learn that 95% of the music of their time was done by a computer programmer, and the other 5% would have been musical ripoffs from the 80's and 90's.

This music does not have 'legs'. The commercial stuff never speaks about universal truths that makes a song 'forever'.

I loved rap when it first came out (Public Enemy, LL Cool J, etc) but now, I have been so turned off by the misogyny and minstrelsy of it all, that I don't even like old skool rap anymore. (Except for alternative rap types like Jamiroquai and PM Dawn)

Exquisitely Black said...

I think they are cheated and will continue to be. The thing is, I know there are still positive rappers out there, but I don't think you can argue that overall, the quality of music has suffered. And as usually happens, the bad always seems to outshine and outsell the good.

It's also not just rap, us old schoolers remember a time when our listening wasn't quite so limited. We had more variety. I've interviewed great artists who get no radio play and I think it's a shame that the industry is driven more by dollars and looks than talent.

Los Angelista said...

Like other forms of music, there are so many different genres of hip hop. I don't think all hip-hop is bad and I don't think our youth are just wholesale swallowing everything the record companies shovel their way. I do think it takes more effort for them to find alternative hip hop. But if I look at rock music, the same rock fans that are listening to the White Stripes aren't listening to craptastic Hawthorne Heights.

It does bug me that kids of all colors are being deprived of seeing black artists in significant numbers doing any other music other than formulaic rap and r&b. We invented house music, we invented techno, we invented jazz, we invented rock. We probably invented country too. But unless we dig deeper, all we get to see is a rapper talking about Moet, sex and bling. Yawn.

These rappers have no longevity. No one's gonna be playing Gucci Mane in 20 years.

New Black Woman said...

Hip-hop has definitely changed in the past 10 to 15 years ago. Even though I'm nearly 24, I can hear the difference.

As far as kids feeling cheated, I don't know. I think they will wonder why they even listened to the music they play today. They will probably why they thought it was cool.

With me, I remember when I thought Bone Thugs 'N Harmony was cool (mostly I had a crush on one of the guys in the group). I can't even listen to their music now.

I look back and I wonder why did I think rapping about weed and murder was so hip.

What's ironic is that I still have their CDs!

Lisa said...

Yes, MDC, rap music is much different and kids are going to feel cheated. Amber and I were in the kitchen one day doing whatever and I heard her say,"She go down on me homey and she ain't trippin' at all."

I yelled. She jumped. Then I gave her the moma look and was about to throw something at her when I realized that if she knew what she was saying, she wouldn't have said it in front of me.

She very innocently asked, "What's wrong moma? What does that mean?"

Boy, did a conversation transpire after that!!!. . .

Mes Deux Cents said...


People always say that there are conscience rappers and that's true; but they are not the ones that get the most radio and video play.

Most kids listen to whatever is hot and it’s isn't usually Common and those like him. And quiet as it's kept Kanyes lyrics aren't very conscience.


They are definitely being disrespected and one day they will realize that.

And thanks. :)


Very true; they are missing out on hearing live music.


Baby Please,

I just can't listen to southern rap, it's just to base.

Yep I really liked the ol skool rap.

Oh really; do you listen to dance? Lol!

Lady Di,

I placed The Deele and Karyn White to reference music that was really about something.

Yep modern rap is about bling and everything negative.


I thin a lot of people have an awakening about rap and then stop listening to it.

Blu Jewel,

Oh my; today's R&B is really bad! I agree that it's all about the act of sex, not love.


It's not really such a general statement because 99% of rap is about nothing.


That's true but I bet Soulja Boy gets played 100 to one more than those artists you mention.


You are right about rap not having legs. Who is going to want to listen to that crap now and in the future too? No one!

Exquisitely Black,

Big corporations control rap and they make sure the songs with the least socially conscience lyrics get the most play.


You're right Black music has now been pigeon holed as just being rap.


You probably were just not really listening to the lyrics back then.



Oh MY! Those songs are just so gutter and most kids have no clue. Make sure you keep Amber away from Soulja Boy’s music.


Monica Roberts said...

being the child of a DJ who was also the program director of a station, one of my duyties as the eldest child was to listen to the new albums that got mailed to to house or that Dad tossed into my room.

I basically develoved the habit of listeing to a song like a radio programmer would. Not only listeing for a catchy beat and slamming musicianship, but also listening to the lyrics.

It a major reason to this day that I'm very picky about what I buy or listen to, and the only new artists that make the cut are onse who are throwbacks to our R&B tradition like the Eyrkah Badus, Jill Scotts, India Aries, Alicia Keys' and John Legends.

Most of the time I'm scooping up the music I grew up listening to in the 70's and the radio station I listen to here in Da Ville Magic 101.1 plays 'Classic Soul' music from that era

Mes Deux Cents said...


I will check out Magic 101.1 online. WDAS in PHL is pretty good too.

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About Me

West Coast, United States
African American, Poet?, Vegetarian, Music lover, Agoraphobic, Social Phobic

My Favorite Poet

My Favorite Poet
Staceyann Chin

My Favorite Track Athlete

My Favorite Track Athlete
Christine Arron