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Ignorance is Bliss: Messages in Music

How does music play as the voice of the unheard despite it's mainstreamist qualities and how does neglecting it's symbolism affect communities?

Some people remain ignorant to the situations they listen to within rap. They try to defend themselves by saying that rap shouldn’t be centered around politics. Rap has always been about dealing with societal and political issues. Not only is it used as a way to get messages out to politicians, but rappers also use rap as a way to vocalize the struggles of young Americans.

Photograph of Kendrick Lamar

Political hip hop is a subgenre of hip hop music developed in the 1980s to turn hip hop into a call for political and social action. Artists such as Tupac Shakur, Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Kanye West, N.W.A., and more have centered their music around spreading political and social issues.


Race, politics, and rap are all centered around one another other. Many Black Americans are trapped in a cycle of violence, destruction, drug abuse, poverty, and more. The government has continuously ignored their pleas for help and calls for change. Many people also ignore the messages that many rappers portray within their lyrics. Influenced by oral historical civil rights activists —such as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Gil Scott, and so forth—, young black cultural and civil rights activists have long revolved their messages around them.


Photograph of Gil Scott

Many of these young artists use their music to voice circumstances spanning economic inequalities and unequal employment rates to communist, anarchist, and anti-capitalist views. Young women within the scene voice their opinions on the dehumanizing and degrading tones held towards women. The words “b*tch” and “hoe” used to describe women within lyrics are often called out by renowned artists like Queen Latifa and Lauryn Hill.


Although we talk about conscious rap and its shape in politics, there is also a style of rap known as "gangsta rap". This style is used by Tupac Shakur, 50 Cent, Eazy E, Ice Cube, etc., who all use their rap to criticize the government. The use of profound language to analyze criminal activity and increased use of profanities is meant to show the embrace of the ‘villian’ image.

Photograph of Lauryn Hill

However, many parents view rap and hip hop in a negative light because of its explicit profanity. In reality, for Black American youth growing up in the inner city, conscious rap has provided a constructive response to the crime, substance use, and gang activity within their discriminatory environment. Rap music has political and personal views within it; it is hardly as harmful as people make it out to be. It allows for inner-city youth to relate and listen to reflective and relatable struggles. We, as a society, need to pay attention to the message portrayed in the lyrics.


 

Artists Worth Listening To:

Joey Bada$$

His album “All-Amerikkkan Bada$$” is jam-packed with straight-to-the-point lyrics of the struggles of black Americans. The song “Land of the Free” shows the corruption of the government; The song was seen as a political statement by Bada$$ on Donald Trump, as one of the lines in the lyrics contained:

Photgraph of Joey Bada$$
“Sorry, America, but I will not be your soldier. Obama just wasn’t enough — I need some more closure.”

His view on Trump is also addressed more directly through the following lyric:

“And Donald Trump is not equipped to take this country over.”





Kendrick Lamar

He has continuously used his music to spread awareness on political and social issues. “good kid, m.A.A.d city” is an album that talks about the struggles of racial profiling, stereotypes, poverty, gang and drug violence, and even the lack of care for black Americans within the government. His music has been used as a representation of the BLM movement.

“It was a heavy moment. News was spreading about Sandra Bland —the newswoman who was found dead in a Texas jail cell after being arrested at a traffic stop—, the latest in a long list of names that had become synonymous with police violence against black people."

Along with all the darkness, moments of joy were found within Kendrick’s music. During a protest break, the song “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar was played, met with a celebration of people and culture, which went to show the full range of emotions rap music can be used to portray.

 

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