I really think rap and hip-hop gets a lot of its bad... rap...
Please excuse me while I reprise my role in corpse disposal.
... ... ...
Alright. Aesthemic is right, the biggest problem with rap music is not the music itself, it is what is presented from the genre by record labels. First of all, the drugs/sex/alcohol party sells, but not because of the drugs/sex/alcohol. Even the rappers that I revile the most all seem to rap their hardest on their braggadocio tracks. Braggadocio is, by definition, aggressive bragging, which means that the lyrics are written to be spoken roughly.
I happen to love the braggadocio sub-genre because it can get very cheesy, but it's easy to see why it alienates people from rap music as a whole. So the criticism from outsiders mainly comes from a perspective of disliking hedonism or gangstahood, which is often present in braggadocio rap. I can hate those songs for their lyrical content, but I can enjoy them for their style.
But music is, and historically has been, capable of being used to tell stories or inform. Just think back the Vietnam era, where Edwin Starr's War
appeared. It can be used to inform, inspire, and entertain, and rap music isn't an exception. It can cause emotion just as it comes from a place of emotion.
In the greater hip-hop and rap culture, the mainstream are often seen as sellouts. There's a lot of anger in it at times. Most often I see braggadocio rap being used as a "fuck you" to a rap artist's or group's detractors, but it is also from a place of insecurity. They have to justify to themselves where they've come from and where they're going.
I'm gonna drop this here.
El-P's Last Good Sleep
, a song he wrote and rapped with Company Flo, from the album Fun Crusher Plus. This is not him bragging, this is not about drugs or sex. This is about when he was growing up with an abusive alcoholic stepfather. It's very depressing! It's also an example of what Aesthemic said he liked, music that tells stories or stimulates his mind, but it's not the best example of what you'll find when you try to get into rap music.
More often than not, when you try to get into rap music, you either have to ask around or just dive into the shit and hope you find something you like. I started with House of Pain, because Top O' The Morning To Ya
is a fun song and I liked the beats. Now, I can't go back to House of Pain like I can with El-P, because House of Pain has maybe two or their thought provoking, narrative heavy songs to El-P's entire albums of them. There's a backdrop to House of Pain- that is, it's based on the Irish crime families in New York- but it's hard to see by the lyrical content.
And actually, House of Pain was the only group I listened to for a long while, until La Coka Nostra, a sort of reunion project for most of the members of La Coka Nostra appeared. I don't even like La Coka Nostra for the most part, except for two songs
, because La Coka Nostra exemplifies the greatest problem people have with rap music- every song really is about drugs and sex in some way. I like the rappers- I mean, Everlast did an interesting solo country-rock stint for several years after House of Pain broke up in '96- I just don't like the project. A Brand You Can Trust
is worth listening to because it's sharp lyrically, but it is also alienating all at once. I think my point there is that I can acknowledge that there might be some rap music that is unpleasant, but it falls down to taste. I don't like rap music that glorifies junkie/pusher life, and I think thug life rap is generally pretty silly.
What really got me into rap music was Killer Mike with Ric Flair
. It has this mix of cheesiness and motivation, and the beat is catchy enough to make you nod your head incessantly to it. It's easy listening. That's good rap music, and I don't think most people will argue it.