PU$$Y, MONEY, WEED: Is that YOUR
PERCEPTION of Hip Hop?
Why are we told to ‘turn that music off- it’s offensive!’ when we’re listening to what we
personally feel is soul speaking music, yet we are bombarded with pop music in all
social media platforms. It’s on the radio, TV advertisements, or shopping malls we are
forced to listen to mainstream music. What if we find that offensive? However, Hip
Hop is considered as being a ghetto and gangster genre, often being dismissed in
mainstream media because of this social construct. It’s often criticised within society as
people generally feel that the lyrics are explicit, misogynistic and derogative, giving it a
negative vibe. In truth, hip hop used to be a culture
where everything was aimed to create a counter voice to a dominant way of
thinking, where those who ever felt singled out were able to relate, which I too can relate.
N.W.A are arguably known as the ‘godfathers’ of political hip hop as they commonly rapped
about the problems young adults were facing due to the colour of their skin during the
1980’s in Compton. Similarly, Public Enemy started the same kind of revolution in New York.
Their most influential song, ‘Fight the Power’ really speaks for itself. The divisive lyrics both
groups used behind a rhythmic beat, let them break down the barriers between music and
youth culture, giving them an identity. Through their use of explicit lyrics, NWA
and Public Enemy told their listeners about the prejudice people like themselves faced in
society whilst narrating their personal experiences, like a story.
The slack lyrics they were using tried to delete the control they faced, due to stereotyping which unfortunately is
still common in today’s society, as people just assume that young people are obnoxious, lazy
and rude. However, young people could (and still can) relate to what NWA and Public
Enemy stood for, feeling a sense of social solidarity- they were not alone. Following their
footsteps, 2Pac and Biggie changed the game during the nineties (famous for being the
golden age of hip hop). 2pac is legendary for his conscious rap talent, which exceeded the
audiences’ expectations of Hip Hop. This is probably how young people feel today when
they’re listening to their favourite rappers like Kendrick Lamar, J- Cole and Kanye West who
are also narrating their experience.
Nowadays, artists have recreated the political agenda of hip hop, which rebels against
capitalist and dominant values, through the use of ambiguous content which doesn’t always
suffice with dominant values, attitudes and beliefs. Kanye West is always criticised within
the media but his music has a depth that doesn’t meet the eye. New Slaves refers to
modern day slavery and the legal system, but most people think it’s Kanye being Kanye. If
you listen to him, he isn’t a cocky narcissist, but instead has understood the
importance of loving, appreciating and believing in yourself which is something he is trying
to promote. He successfully extracted the poem ‘Bitter Sweet’ within his album which was
written as an expression against the lynching of innocent people executed by the KKK in the
1930’s so he sampled the song ‘Strange Fruit’ by Nina Simone into Blood on the Leaves. The
political agenda behind the song highlights how hip hop isn’t all about ‘pussy, money, weed’
but instead has a deeper contextual significance which should not be forgotten.
Kendrick Lamar is also a rapper who generally doesn’t rap about materialistic items, but
instead chooses to narrate his experience growing up, trying to relate to everyone else as a
means to escape normality. To Pimp a Butterfly discusses issues of race and masculinity
which could be argued as being controversial. Hood Politics discusses the politics behind
where he grew up, which many of his listeners have also experienced, coming from a similar
background. He also raps about his opinions on American politics and what happens behind
the rap scene where he is completely standing up for his own opinion against what is
considered as norm. What’s even more elevating, is that he discusses his depression and alcoholism which is kind of deep in
terms of being daring as he is going against what is considered as masculine in ‘da hood’.
Tyler the Creator has another approach to hip hop, and is highly controversial in terms of his
choice of topics as his lyrics convey messages of violence, sexuality, misogyny and
homophobia. This is done through his post-modern way of thinking as he has adjusted to
contemporary society, by learning that the fresh generation do have freedom to express
themselves and so they should, even if they’re not fitting in with what’s considered as being
normal. Tyler the Creator tries to use his lyrics to help these young people express their
freedom by feeling comfortable and rapping about subjects they may think or feel is frowned
upon he often talks about fapping which,can be considered as offensive.
So, is there more to Hip Hop than ‘pussy, money, weed’? People shouldn’t forget that Hip
Hop was established as a means to create a protest, as the music carries influential
messages but are delivered using a different approach to mainstream tracks. In the same
breathe, it is clear that many rappers in today’s hip hop culture do exceedingly well in terms
of addressing and encouraging serious social and political issues, letting the audience enjoy
their music and express themselves through music which isn’t in the popular domain. Artists
should be able to express their experiences and celebrate their success without the stigma
which may repress them. Music shouldn’t be disregarded because of its explicit content; it
only add to its excellence.
STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON – A story narrating the Hip-Hop culture through the eyes of NWA is out today in cinemas. I am extremely proud of this movie, and recommend everyone to watch it, as it may just change societies outlook on the music genre I love.