Rap music is arguably the most influential genre of the last 30 years. This culture born from the slums of the South Bronx in the mid 70’s has transcended its original target demographic and is now pop culture to some instead of Hip-Hop culture. As everyone should know rap music started with the D.J. It was all about the D.J. that could make the crowd move during the park jams of the 70’s and 80’s. The M.C. which originally meant Master of Ceremonies would come about and their main purpose was to hype up the DJ and represent their crew. Over time the M.C.’s role would become more significant as competition arose between crews. Soon enough as we moved towards the mid to late 80’s and 90’s M.C.’s had obligations to write clever rhymes that entertained their audience. The standards were set and Lyricism was an integral part of being a rapper. Aspiring MC’s of eras in the past battled to see who would reign in lyrical supremacy.
Lyrics are more important in Rap music than any other Genre. Although a rapper’s voice is extremely important in engaging their audience, traditionally there is an emphasis on utilizing words to convey your message in rap. In rap music you are always listening for potential “jewels” definition that an M.C. may drop when he “spits”. Lyrics in rap have taken many forms and many different creative styles. From utilizing witty metaphors to convey your point commonly known as “punch lines, or using your storytelling abilities, or you might be extremely creative with innovating new multi-syllabic rhyme patterns (an ability that was mastered and fore-fathered by rap legends Rakim and Kool G Rap). A unique kind of style is when an artist is not lyrical in the traditional sense but can evoke emotions through their words i.e. Tupac. These different styles usually honed on a street corner resonated with an urban generation during the Golden Era of Hip-Hop then went on to be adored by the rest of the planet. These individuals served as news reporters for the rest of America and spoke on the realities that go on in poverty-stricken urban environments. It’s magnificent that during the late 80’s and 90’s individuals who were the uneducated, downtrodden and forgotten turned their negative surroundings into beautiful artwork through their use of nouns and verbs.
As the new millennium progressed, lyricism started to fade slowly from the genre. It seemed more apparent as time went on that it was actually not mandatory to be lyrically progressive to make hit records. Lyrics actually started to hinder a rapper getting a Number 1 hit so Simplicity became the phase. Towards the end of the decade though a new theory arose in rap music. This theory was spearheaded by Kanye West due to the fact that although he is a lyrical assassin in his own right he paid just as much if not more attention to overall production, melody, and experimentation on a body of work then he did lyrics. Kanye executed this to perfection but started a new trend in the process. Upcoming rappers no longer had to hone their skills on street corners,in battles, and cyphers in order to gain their respect. The emphasis became more on the “musicality of their work”. A new era of rappers started actually singing in order to get a more melodic feel on their records. Popularized by Drake, rappers no longer have to rap consistently for all the records on their album. Interludes have become love ballads, half of rappers albums are less lyrically inclined and more melodically inclined. Experimentation with EDM and other genres have become the standard in rap. Everyone is striving to be on a high level of “true artistry” as if rap prior to this innovation was not true artistry. The lyrical rapper is starting to be seen as an annoyance if he’s not experimenting with abstract sounds like a Kendrick Lamar. On an Interview at Power 105.1 published in July 2014 when discussing the state of New York Hip-Hop, rapper French Montana stated “all the lyrical rappers I know are broke”Link here.
This genre is rap MUSIC, so obviously melody and experimentation is extremely important. It’s actually Ironic that the early M.C. wasn’t the star of the show and was just a prop used to accompany the sounds of the DJ. During this era M.C.’s are accompanying the sounds of the producer more than they’re focused on being lyrically impressive. It’s almost like Rap went backwards in a sense. Artists like Future, Asap Mob, Travis Scott, Kanye (at times), Young Thug, and much more, serve as some of the current front men of this wave. Although at times they may have some bright spots, they are not necessarily trying to break new ground lyrically. This is a problem because we’re forgetting about the essence of this rap thing. In the past lives were changed from stories that were told “She’s 12 years old and she’s having a baby, in love with a molester who’s sexing her crazy”- 2Pac. Awareness was brought on the poverty-stricken conditions that was endured “ Because the streets is a short stop, either you slinging crack rock or you got a wicked jumpshot”-Biggie Smalls. We were impressed by a young fire spitter that spoke with wisdom well beyond his years “I switched my motto; instead of saying f**k tomorrow, that buck that bought a bottle could’ve struck the lotto”- Nas. We were in awe of the lyrical dexterity of a blonde kid with severe drugs and family issues “But I’m debated, disputed, hated, and viewed in America, as a mother f***in drug addict like you didn’t experiment?”- Eminem
While I also hate the rapper who’s all about technicality but has no creativity when it comes to songwriting and making music, I also love the rapper who captivates an audience with just their words. Rappers are today’s preachers, orators, poets, and motivational speakers. As Minister Louis Farrakhan stated in an interview with Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club “You rappers are the new leaders” “The biggest preachers don’t have as many followers as one rapper” link here.
We absolutely need our street poets in order to preserve our culture. The words are important!
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