By Dylan Conner
Photo by Ari Marcopoulos
I couldn’t tell you how many times I have told people I like hip hop only to be asked, “even with what It promotes?” I’ve racked my brain trying to figure out what that means. What “message” does it promote? I lost count of the people who I’ve talked to who are so quick to close the entire genre into a box with descriptions such as “misogynistic” and “supportive of drug culture”. Like every other genre of music, there is a culture that surrounds it, why is hip-hop so quick to be demonized?
In it’s short 30 years of existence, it has moved in waves from the streets of south-central Los Angeles to New York, and eventually, to the entire world. Think about it, that is a LOT of listeners. Hopefully, a majority of you have some knowledge on the background of hip hop and how it became. You know, block parties in the 70’s, free styling over percussive beats and yadda yadda. I didn’t write this to give you the full run-down on Hip Hop history, however we’re talking about a genre that formed with the mentality of bringing attention to the violent and unstable conditions of inner-city youth. (Shout out to the work of N.W.A. and others of their time for that). Blending music with social commentary, sounds scary and offensive right?
(Andre 3000 on the Outkast Reunion Tour)
Now, I get it, you probably listened to a lot of Tyga or something and thought “where has REAL hip hop gone?” The point is, it didn’t go anywhere, you just aren’t listening. Today we’re seeing more and more well-known Hip Hop artists bringing attention to social issues, and whether you agree or not, people are listening. Macklemore, just for example, raps about the destructive nature of prescription drugs, Joey Bada$$ sheds light on police brutality. Personally, the best example of social activism in Hip Hop today can be granted to Kendrick Lamar. Your homework following this article is to go sit down and listen to “to Pimp A Butterfly”. Start to finish. Oh, and read the lyrics. One particular track, “Alright”, has become a- excuse my language- fucking power song for the Black Lives Matter movement. What we associate “We Shall Overcome” to in terms of historical context, is hopefully what this song will be to our generation’s children, and their children as well. “if God’s got us then we gon’ be alright” has become a literal statement of unity and hope for people of color in this day an age where we are seeing an epidemic of violence towards their community.
So, please, enjoy your hip hop. Or don’t, we all have music preference but please recognize that it is more than “drug promotion and misogyny”. Real hip hop is still around, and I urge you to give it a chance.