As long as I can remember, music has always been a powerful influence in my life. Similar to any other type of art form, hip hop evolves personal struggles… from our fight for civil rights to our acceptance into society. The pioneers of this movement have strengthened, encouraged, and empowered my people with the positive messages communicated through lyrics. Critics of this movement believe that this type of music affects today's already troubled youth and that some rappers tends to deliver violent images and to depict women as sexual objects. I strongly believe that hip hop should be only recognized for what it is, an art form nothing more nothing less. Furthermore, we as individuals must keep open minds and realize that many artists of the past were ridiculed for their art. We now consider many of these people visionaries and their works, masterpieces. Once my uncle asked me why I listen to such a polluted music and I told him probably the same reason you watch action movies. What good is art if it can’t take you to a place that you haven’t been? In an article written by G.L. Wodlu, he defined hip hop as “a term used for urban-based creativity and expression of culture.” Thus hip hop is a unique blend of music and attitude. This attitude is usually positive, reflecting not only the feelings and beliefs of this generation but also a story-like expression about inner-city living experiences within some African-American communities. In addition, it is a voice in the community that glamorizes some negative actions and the consequences that go along with these actions. If one listens to rap, one acquires an accurate description of the experiences and realities of today's youth. Critics of hip hop should seek out the direct and indirect messages about the need for social programs in inner-city communities. Social injustice has contributed to self genocide, unemployment, police harassment, and crime. And Russell Simmons said it best in an interview with Paul Zahn: “We're a violent and oversexed country. That's our sad truth. And rappers are sometimes reflections of our sad truth”: Now the question we should asked ourselves: “Is rap a poisonous influence of our youth or is it an artistic way to describe what’s going on in our inner city?” Before you answer that question let me point out an interesting definition about poetry that I found on About.com: “Poetry is an imaginative awareness of experience expressed through meaning, sound, and rhythmic language choices so as to evoke an emotional response”. Furthermore, in Black Noise, Rose describes hip-hop’s beginnings in the urban context as propelled by Afrodiasporic traditions to later expand into more traditional form of art in dance, vocal articulations, and instrumentation between raps. With that being said, hip hop is an art that is based mostly on sounds. Because it is art, it is an expression of the self, and because it is poetry, the best expressions use sound to make clear what is being articulated. Many poems rhyme for this reason, but rhyme is not the only tool of sound that a poet can use; two other major tools are meter and stress. Let’s be honest the best poems are the one we can read out loud or hear in our heads, where the sound and meter create a definite, unique impression that communicates some of what the artist intended. Just because black African Americans are the majority of rappers does not mean it is raw vocabulary or slang and it does not mean rap is bad. If you like poetry you should be able to see the poems in hip hop. In the song, “You’re not like me,” 50 Cent’s lyrics can be broken down into various components, like content, flow and delivery: My mama always said death is part of God’s plan
So the nights I speak to him I got my gun in my hand
Don’t think I’m crazy ‘cause I don’t fear man
I fear when I kill a man God won’t understand
The lyrics in “Keep Your Head Up” by Tupac are about the art form itself. And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman
And our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women
Do we hate our women?
I think it’s time we kill for our women
Time to heal our women
Be real to our women
Even though hip hop can be offensive and violent to some, it is more honest than most of the media we read or watch on television. I would rather hear truths about life in their music than lies in literature. Hip-hop is a testimony of our freedom of speech. It enlightens us about a culture that we would rather disregard. We cannot ignore hip hop as an art form without also ignoring most of our present musical culture.
Rose, Tricia. Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Music/Culture. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1994. A Hip-Hop History Lesson. By: Garrity, Brian, Conception, Mariel, Billboard, 00062510, 5/5/2007, Vol. 119, Issue 18 Zahn P. (2007, February 21). Hip-Hop: Art or Poison? Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0702/21/pzn.01.html