RAP: Rhythm and Poetry

I see no changes,
Wake up in the morning and I ask myself,
Is life worth living should I blast myself?
I'm tired of being poor and even worse I'm black,
My stomach hurts so I'm looking for a purse to snatch

-2Pac, "Changes"

Is rap music really a threat to society? Are these lyrics laced with venom? Are they corrupting young minds? Perhaps... But in my opinion, rap is actually just as relevant a music genre as rock, reggae or anything else! Sure, most mainstream rap today is violent, drug-filled rants with an annoying voice to a beat more fit for pop or techno music, but back before I was born, and a little bit after that, rap music was something to be taken seriously.

When it first started, rap music was intelligent, thoughtful social commentary (like the stanza above, even though it was a posthumous 2Pac release). For young men, and sometimes women, rap told their stories and their music as an outpouring of emotion. Their "rap" consisted of their stories about poverty in the ghetto and frustration with discrimination -- it was an outlet of emotion against the ghetto, corrupt police and everything else that stood in the way of their ascent in society. The cursing and controversial lyrics to many people were just violent and rude ways to get attention; to me, they were trying to get their point across and show their true feelings. For example, would NWA's infamous song "F**k The Police" really have made such an impact if it were called "We Don't Like The Police"? I doubt it.

So analyze me, surprise me,
But can't magmatize me,
Scannin' while you're plannin' ways to sabotage me,
I leave 'em froze like heron in your nose,
Nas'll rock well, it ain't hard to tell
This rhythmatic explosion
Is what your frame of mind has chosen,
I'll leave your brain stimulated, n****s is frozen,
Speak with criminal slang, begin like a violin,
End like Leviathan,
It's deep, well, let me try again

-Nas, "It Ain't Hard To Tell"

Nas fills his stanza with creative metaphors, instantly quotable rhymes and interesting wordplay, all at breakneck speed! Rappers are, without a doubt, the fastest of all singers; another way that this form of music is unique. Most interesting though, is how they are able to "freestyle" -- that is, make up rhymes with a story, on a beat, on the spot. For those looking for a quick and catchy beat and creative lyrics sung at a brisk yet understandable pace, look no further than some rap music!

So far, I've only covered what's good about rap: the stunning wordplay, the masterful storytelling, the controversial lyrics, and the stuck-in-your-head-for-days beats. Unfortunately, all rap is not so wonderful, particularly present-day mainstream rap.

To those who value human intelligence and dignity, I hope you try your best to make it through this next stanza.

Rack city b***h, rack, rack city b***h
Ten ten ten twenties on ya t*****s b***h
100 deep V.I.P. no guest list
T-Raw you don't know who you f**king with?
Got my other b***h f**king with my other b***h,
F***ing all night n****a we ain't celibate,
Make it sound too dope I ain't selling it,
Bar fresher than a m*****f***king peppermint,
Gold Letterman last kings killing s**t,
Young money young money yeah we getting rich,
I got ya grandma on my d**k,
Girl you know what it is

-Tyga, "Rack City"

Want to hear something almost as horrible and disturbing as the stanza above? This song went double platinum in the United States. Why am I so negative against Tyga and his mainstream rap companions? After all, I was just praising 2Pac and Nas, and they curse about as much as Tyga. The difference is, there is not a single curse in Tyga's verse that somehow contributes to the song's message... Whatever that is! Below is another stanza from 2Pac, who instead of rapping about how much he loves these so-called b*****s (he does plenty of that, but counters his 'gangster' persona with songs like this), he raps about how they should change their lifestyle.

Keep your mind on your money,
Enroll in school,
And as the years pass by
You can show them fools.
But you ain't trying to hear me
Cuz you're stuck,
You're heading for the bathroom about to get tossed up.
Still looking for a rich man you dug a ditch,
Got your legs up trying to get rich.
I love you like a sister but you need to switch,
And that's why they called you b***h

-2Pac, "Wonder Why They Call You B***h"

In that one section, 2Pac only had to say the word b***h once, while Tyga, on the other hand, said the word five times. The difference is, 2Pac managed to speak a world more on the topic than Tyga did, despite both of them rapping about disrespected women.

Despite the immense talent and creativity of these rappers, there is no escaping the fact that they are disrespectful to mostly everyone. Because they are so popular, they can be bad influences to children who don't understand the messages behind the words. That means that whenever you listen to a rap, think about what goes on behind these words. Don't always listen to what they have to say, but don't unfairly criticize and ignore them either. Just remember that nothing is perfect, and that there's always going to be good with the bad. Like 2Pac himself said, "Through every dark night, there's a bright day after that."