When most people think of hip-hop or rap their minds automatically envision scandalous clothing, sex, drugs and money, which, in their defense, are aspects of hip-hop and rap that overshadow its identity. However, hip-hop and rap are social movements that identify key moments in history, economical trends in society and embody the culture of the majority of our youth and young adults. If you’re wondering why I am separating hip-hop and rap instead of using them interchangeably, it’s because they are not the same. Hip-hop is the expression of a culture and rap is an element of that culture that began by bringing awareness to people living in poverty.
Hip hop is said to have originated in the Bronx, New York, in the mid 1970s and was created to uplift, empower and give a voice to people living in impoverished neighborhoods. Rap music specifically allowed them to express how they felt about politics as well. For example, hip-hop started during the time of a black nationalism movement and played a part in political protests happening during that time. According to Britannica, hip-hop culture consists of four elements: rap, graffiti, tableturning and dance. Pioneers of “mcing” created beats from older songs to complement their style of music and dance. Out of the four elements, rap was the one that became more prominent for everybody. Today rap is a billion-dollar industry and is more popular than hip-hop dance, mcing and grafitti.
For someone who has grasped a deeper understanding and appreciation for rap and hip-hop culture, I know its foundation has been lost in the greed for money and fame. The most popular rap songs today are very vulgar and explicit and lack any deep meaning. Not all of rap is like this, but it is what gets all the attention. Today, people from all different backgrounds identify with rap music and hip-hop culture. However, it is not what it once was and it’s up to us to change the narrative and bring significance and meaning back into hip-hop and rap. If our generation and the ones after us can learn about what hip-hop really is, then it can serve it’s purpose and change things for the better in society.
The people behind the music are lyrical and creative artists but sometimes, because of the things they rap about, we don’t pay attention to it. It’s important to clarify that there are a few rappers in today’s time who seem to possess the lyrical and musical talent that hip-hop and rap originated in. Rappers such as J Cole, Chance The Rapper, Eminem, Kanye, Drake, Jay Z are some of the most popular rappers to rap about more than just sex, money and drugs. Some people would argue that rap didn’t change for the worse, but that it only progressed with the time. However, over time hip-hop culture has been overshadowed by rap music, which takes away from the creativity of its expression and purpose.
The love of music can not be taught, but appreciation and recognition for it can be. Music changes things, inspires people, advises people and even comforts people. In every genre of music, there is some type of movement associated with it. For example, blues music was associated with the start of the Civil Rights Movement and gave people a voice to speak out and voice their trials. I believe that if music was one of the things to unite people all over the world then rap music can too, but only if we get in front of it now and bring back its importance in our society.