Monday, October 12, 2009

Why do people hate rap?

The other day, my English class was having a discussion on illegal downloading and its impact on the music industry. During the class, someone asked what the landscape of popular music would look like if the commercial recording industry imploded. To this, one of my classmates responded, "rap music would die, and good music would come back". After hearing this, I was initially shocked and offended at such a blunt, baseless statement. However, upon further contemplation, I realized that this was a common opinion among my peers. During conversations about music tastes, I often hear people say, "I like anything, but rap" or "I like good music, but I hate rap". As a lover of all music, I can never fully understand these feelings. Although I may not enjoy listening to a particular song or artist, I feel that music styles and genres are too large and varied to dismiss any one as a whole.

It seems as if much of the criticism about rap music is based on the common belief that rap music is merely people with no musical talent who say rhyming words about women, material possessions and crime over a repetitive beat which was sampled from an older, better song. Although certain examples of rap music certainly fit some of these criteria, this is a narrow-minded view that does not take into account the entire spectrum of hip-hop or its origins and development.

While many rap musicians have little or no formal music training, a good rapper still needs an understanding of musical concepts such as timing and rhythm. Also, a well-written and performed rap verse often requires things such as breath control, rhyme, meter, metaphors and similes. All of these aspects certainly add to the artistic value of rap music. Furthermore, many rap groups such as The Roots incorporate live, original instrumental music into their work, and many producers including Pete Rock and Dr. Dre have an in-depth knowledge of classical composers and music theory. Often, sampling a song is more involved than simply finding a lesser known riff and passing it off as a new creation. A producer has to know which sounds from which songs would best complement the voice of the artist, the lyrics and the mood of the track. Also, sampling can often breathe new life into an older piece of music, and attract new fans to the original artist.

In terms of content, I don't accept the argument that rap is a bad music genre because of the current themes that popular artists of today talk about. In the same way that it would be foolish to say that all rock songs are about drug use and promiscuous sex, it is a broad generalization to say that all rap songs talk about gang violence and objectifying women. The term, "rap" is not synonymous with any of those things, and to identify it as such is to oversimplify something that is extremely diverse and complex.

Ultimately, the whole point of this post is to encourage people to open their minds and think before they speak. The mere fact that you dislike one example of something shouldn't be enough justification to dismiss that genre as a whole. Where would we be today if Lewis and Clark got to the great plains and concluded that the western half of America was nothing but grass? Where would the Lakers be if they decided that Kobe Bryant was worthless after he failed to get them out of the first round of the playoffs in his rookie season? Where would popular music be if fans assumed that all of their music sounded like "love me do"? Don't be afraid to listen to new and different things. Whether it be punk, country, classical music or hip-hop, there's a lot of good music out there, and you may never get to hear it if you conclude things before you've had a chance to explore.

In honor seeing the full spectrum of rap music, here's some videos that show some lesser known artists and themes in hip-hop.










p.s. I'm sorry if this is a crappy article. I don't have much experience in blogging or writing things like this. If you have any constructive criticism, I'd be happy to hear it. Also, feel free to share your thoughts on music in general.

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