It’s human nature to make assumptions about people solely based on their physical appearance…. I know this because I unwittingly do it all the time. For example, if I encountered someone who was exceptionally well-spoken, wearing a three-piece-suit and spectacles and holding a walking cane, I’d probably be surprised to discover that they were also a professional street-fighter by night or a part time tattoo artist! In a similar way people look at me and see a petite ‘girly-girl’, who must be just as dainty and innocent as she looks on the exterior. However, the people that truly know me, know that I’m anything but these things. Such preconceived notions also sometimes extend to my music taste. For some reason, even my closest friends get shocked on occasions when I’ve blasted Hip Hop classics like:
- Wu-Tang Clan– Protect Ya Neck
- Run DMC– It’s Tricky
- DMX– X Gon’ Give It To Ya
- LL Cool J– Mama Said Knock You Out.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of a variety of music genres, like Reggaeton, Afro-Beats, Indie, Pop, Hindi and Bhangra; and of course I LOVE my smooth 90’s and Contemporary R’n’B tunes, but Hip Hop appeals to a different side of me.
Yes, a lot of the songs of this genre are often filled with swear words and crude language, but these are minor technicalities to me. I focus on the artists’ passion and view them as poets and storytellers who communicate episodes of their lives to listeners like myself, through their lyrically immaculate verses. Eminem frequently tells stories of his troubled childhood and daughter Hailie in his songs. Drake describes the trials and tribulations that he has faced whilst achieving fame; and T.I often pays tribute to the friends that he lost in unnecessary gang warfare. Such artists have thereby inspired me to use and manipulate language to express myself since before I can remember which is why I constantly rhyme and write poems about random things!
Now, of course these same artists simultaneously generate much controversy by objectifying women through their lyrics. And rapping about how they advocate the use of illegal drugs and practice violence, makes it so easy to criticise the Hip Hop industry for its promotion of sexism and the thug-life mentality. However, beneath the superficiality and controversy, Hip Hop music ultimately encourages people to strive to fulfill their dreams. A large majority of the most successful American Hip Hop rappers, come from ‘the streets’, aka deprived neighbourhoods, where they either fell into the wrong crowds as youths, or had to make ends meet by selling drugs at some point in their lives, such as Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent. As we can see now however, these same artists possess inspirational success stories, because they are making money by doing what they love every day of their lives, something that few people can say nowadays.Therefore, such artists should be viewed as positive role-models, encouraging their fans to work hard and aspire to emulate their success, because none of them achieved stardom over- night!
Moreover, many critics maintain that rappers are largely uneducated, but in actuality one of the biggest contemporary rappers, Kanye West, was a straight-A student who received a scholarship to study the arts at a Chicago based University. Similarly, Tupac Shakur attended a Performing Arts School in Baltimore where he excelled in ballet, poetry and Shakespeare. And how do you think that artists like Jay Z got to where they are today? By chance? He maintains a successful rap career, whilst juggling being a top record producer, entrepreneur, and investor, so surely he must be slightly intelligent. Thus, as I established at the start of this post, however easy it may be, you CANNOT judge a book by its cover… take it from someone who knows what it feels like to be ‘put in a box’ as Ryan Leslie says. So don’t hate, appreciate.
Hip Hop is raw and boundless and I love to watch rappers battle it out and freestyle rhymes and lyrics, because I think that this is when they are able to fully showcase their talents. Hip hop caters to a lot of my moods, happy/angry/reflective…so I will continue to listen to it as long as it remains meaningful to me. And unless you can spit as many words in a minute as Twista or Busta Rhymes, you cannot judge Hip Hop artists without at least knowing their backgrounds and capabilities. Instead I advise you to take a seat alongside the rest of us and sit in awe of them.