Opinion

What’s all the hubbub over hip-hop? Well . . .

White people don’t know anything about rap music, so forgive me for saying it – I know it’s hypocritical ‘-‘- but sometimes I wonder what all the fuss about hip-hop is over.
I know, I know. I hate me, too. I remember those glory days of middle school, on the way to the movies with a bunch of girl friends in the car ‘-‘- windows down, hair blowing, music blasting ‘-‘-‘- with my dad sitting in the driver’s seat as our reluctant chauffeur. And, as was inevitable on such occasions, in a desperate attempt to make our pre-pubescent trip to the movies feel the same as, say, one’s first real college party, we would tune to whatever station would play the loudest, most vulgar and ‘coolest’ rap of the day. (For those long-term Boston residents out there, you may be familiar with a charming station called ‘Jam’n’ 94.5.)’
My father, however, in his old age and therefore perpetual un-coolness, would only be able to stand a few minutes of this ‘noise,’ as he called it, before angrily turning down the volume and proclaiming that not only could he not stand it, he couldn’t understand it. And, perhaps like many of you out there, I would indignantly argue that he was simply uneducated: He was ignorant of my generation and of the whole subculture of rap-appreciation.
Much time has passed, however, and I have found myself biting the words that then came so fervently out of my 13-year-old mouth. I agree that when going out or preparing to do so ‘-‘- now to an actual party instead of a PG-13 movie ‘-‘- the beats can serve as an effective pump-up mechanism, and even perhaps can get you in the mood to go a little crazy that night ‘-‘- most likely in some way similar to the lyrics of the songs you’re listening to.’
But let’s set that circumstance aside for a moment ‘-‘- what I’m most concerned with here is real-life, legit musical value. I have never once found myself inclined to listen to those radio-frequenting rap songs on my own for sheer enjoyment. And ‘-‘- I know what you’re thinking ‘-‘- it’s not for a lack of trying. Many a time have I sat scrolling through my iTunes library, stumbled upon one of these songs, and played it aspiring to invoke some kind of rap-revelation. Maybe I can look past the recurrent grunting, I think. And those tone-deaf rap ‘artists’ who decide to sing their own choruses, too. While I’m at it, needless overuse of words like ‘bitch’ and ‘ho’ might just be OK ‘-‘- after all, it’s only generated out of the rappers’ need to prove their status as Alpha Male.
Sometimes I wonder if a rap artist could get away with releasing a song containing lyrics that actually made no grammatical sense, but simply dropped as many subjugating terms as possible, streaming curse words and maybe even adding some screaming woman or growling male ‘-‘- or dog? It can get ambiguous ‘-‘- in the background.
Maybe they could even just forget the beat altogether, and alternate between groans and screams instead. It would be an interesting sociological experiment; first of all, would people still like and listen to the song? And secondly, a question I’m not entirely sure I would want answered: Would they even notice? If there are any hot-shots out there, I encourage you to give it a try and get back to me.
Now, all of this is not to say that every rap song contains nothing more than a rudimentary set of beats and some talentless performer spitting out crap just to sell records to teeny-boppers and frat houses. I can appreciate the talent of some groups, especially those that mix genres ‘-‘- jazz, for example. My personal recommendation would be the Boston-based group The Eclectic Collective. So then, if I’m not bashing all rap but only the ‘popular’ stuff, does this mean I’m letting my opinion of the genre as a whole become tarnished by one sector, and am I therefore trying to bring down the entire rap-regime with my closed-minded ways?’
No, I assure you, this is not my intention. My motivation stems from a growing observation that more people seem to listen to these songs and genuinely mistake them as music with real value. My goal here is to keep our generation from falling into the rap gap. Go to the iTunes Store on your computer and pick out an album from a genre you’ve never listened to before. I’d put my money on betting it might open your mind, even broaden your perspective on music.
Who knows? You just might like it.

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