Yesterday, hip-hop maintained the image of big chains, gold teeth, licentious ladies, and the discussion of drug sells popped up on songs, which tells us as listeners what coast or portion of America has the cheapest drugs. But today, change has come. Rappers do not live the lifestyle their lyrics concoct; however, the new emerging class of rappers is not only conscious in thought, but give you pure emotion, dubbing the term emo-rap.
At Loyola University Maryland this past Wednesday, famous African-American director, Spike Lee gave a comedic speech at the Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation. The one thing I walked away with from his speech was, “All young people need encouragement.”
Besides the two most notable institutions- school and church- how can we reach the younger generation and encourage them? That encouragement can be found in hip-hop music.
Encouragement can birth from many different lyrics. Names like Jay-Z, Nas, Common, Talib Kweli, Kanye, and Lupe are the most known of the encouragement speakers known as conscious rappers. However, all these rappers, just because they encourage, do not get the label conscious rapper.
You have to be cultured, conscious about the world around you. For example, how many rap songs have you heard lately dedicated to the victims of Haiti? Hip-Hop has done nothing lately to encourage the youth by educating them.
The song “Some How Some Way” by Jay-Z is a song of encouragement. “Some how, some way/ we gotta make it up out the hood some day.” This doesn’t just have to pertain to living in the hood, but for anybody who has a struggle, one day they will be relieved. This is a positive message that hip-hop encourages, but we need more it.
Nas also tries to encourage the youth. With his song, “I Can.” Children do the chorus and the use of kids emphasizes the effect of his message. “I know I can (I know I can)/ Be what I wanna be (be what I wanna be)/ If I work hard at it (If I work hard at it)/ I’ll be where I wanna be (I’ll be where I wanna be).”
Aside from the lyrics in the song and chorus, Nas ends the song repeating the phrase “Save the music y’all.” As a culture, we rely on certain things for information, the media, advertisements, and music. If we save the music, we can save ourselves.
There are plenty of positive rappers; however, we must not forget that they are also entertainers, so when they do talk about living the life of lust and materialism, we can’t fault them. That is what the people want to hear.
Lupe Fiasco is a rapper who tries to encourage. On the song “Hip-Hop Saved My Life,” Lupe raps about the experience of a rapper whose life has been preserved because of rap music. “Cryin’ from the next room, a baby in need/ Of some pampers and some food and place to sleep/ That, plus a black Cadillac on D’s/ Is what keep ‘em on track to be a great Emcee, yea.” This entire song explains the struggle of an upcoming hip-hop superstar, leaving the listener with a message of encouragement.
Even one of the more hardcore, so-called thug rappers have conscious thoughts in their raps; for example, Tupac Shakur. He has multiple records that give us a positive message such as “Dear Mama” and “Changes.”
One disappointment to the positive and encouraging messages we hear from the songs talked about in this article is the date. The last of the aforementioned songs was released in 2007. Today our mainstream hip-hop culture is misrepresented.
Turn to any hip-hop radio station in your dorm room. There are about three. I promise you the songs you hear will be the similar rotation of making your significant other’s bed rock and songs about the invention of doing the “grown-up.” Nonetheless, they do represent a part of the music culture, but not as a whole.
In order to be educated on the positive messages in hip-hop we must buy albums. Singles are normally songs that everyone can dance to in the club, but the music needs to make us think sometimes instead of moving our feet.
Please, let’s keep hip-hop alive.