Day 48: A Defense of Hip Hop

As you can tell through my post about Linkin Park, I’m in favor of openness to different genres of music. For music creators, it serves as a creative outlet and for listeners it serves as something that aurally pleasing, along with other elements that vary from genre to genre. For example, a genre like metal has a greater emphasis on guitar and drums with a specific sort of vocal, while country focuses on storytelling and jazz focuses on improvisation.

Hip hop as a genre is quite different from many other genres in its focus on lyrics and use of music (often referred to as “beats”) as a background. Beats are easily the most diverse portion of hip-hop, with everything from electronic influences to jazz as a part of the common practice of sampling. The idea of sampling frequently is called “unoriginal” for being derivative of other music; however, this argument fails to take into account the fact that nearly every genre does the same, with the similar guitar riffs in various rock songs to the constant borrowing of the same four chords in all pop music.

A major criticism of hip hop is aimed at how some songs fail to have much content, and the content is rather vapid and derogatory. However, critics fail to see that this is merely common among a specific subset of hip hop music known as “mood rap,” which aims to have a vibe of partying and dancing in the club. This idea is common among songs aiming to become mainstream hits and also is shared by many pop hits. Because of these high energy mood rap songs’ marketability, many young artists aiming to make it rich try to entire the genre. Because they have nothing to talk about except their lives, they often end up having misogynistic content that stems from their poor background since a huge amount of rappers grow up in impoverished areas. In addition, the level of insecurity coming from these rappers when they finally get money after living in terrible conditions makes them more likely to flaunt their money and lifestyles.

Beyond mood rap, there exists an enormous amount of hip hop music that can be compared to poetry in terms of literary merit, such as nearly everything from Kendrick Lamar’s last two albums and many other artists like Earl Sweatshirt and Lupe Fiasco. For example, in Earl’s song “Chum,” he dives into his past and struggles with his father leaving with various metaphors and literary devices while having a hook referencing Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum.”

Ultimately, these are all defining characteristics of the genre of hip hop, yet these aren’t what I think validate it as a musical genre. The fact that there is instrumentation that is aurally pleasurable and it serves as a creative outlet for the creators is the only thing I need to know that hip hop is music. I’m sure people don’t like it, but discounting its musicality is criminal.

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