December 2, 2007
Music is one of the most controversial issues discussed amongst any people in any part of the world. It is one of the few things that we all have in common, regardless of our race, gender, religion, economic status, location, ethnicity, and opinions. Why then is it one of the most common methods of discrimination? If we tolerate others, why can we not tolerate their music?

Music can only be defined as music. Nothing can be “almost-music,” which means every style is legitimate. Every genre deserves equal appreciation, because it takes an equal amount of passion and effort to create it. In spite of the sheer numbers of artists that make truly bad music in a genre, the genre could not be a genre unless there was something honestly substantial about the philosophy, the theory, of the music. The talented artists are always prominent, because anyone who dislikes the style itself can be convinced that they still have substance.

Rap music has been under fire since the dawn of its creation. As has jazz, rock, electronic, and every possible tiny subgenre anyone can think of. Because it is repetitive, because it requires no traditional singing talent, because it can have offensive lyrics. Electronic music, pop music, in fact any music that has ever been successful is insanely repetitive. We catch on to catchy things, things we can tap our feet to. Rap just accentuates that. How many hair metal artists can sing? How many rock artists of any kind can sing? Probably around 75 percent. But we like Metallica anyway. And M. Shadows can’t really sing, but those who love to listen to people scream love him like my grandma loves Michael Bublé for his smooth tone. Sure Pitbull wants to f*%# that h*. And Twista wants to help. But The Doors wanted you to love them two times, one for tomorrow, one just for today. And Queen says that fat bottom girls make the rockin’ world go round. And Meatloaf wanted you, needed you, but there was no way he was ever going to love you. Basically he needed to f*%# you and leave it at that, but if he had said that in 1978 then the Carter administration would have sued his a$#. Not that the current administration is too lax or anything…

Rap is formed around its beats. Beats that originated in rock music, and that translate to electronic quite smoothly, and that mean the basis of jazz. The beats make you feel the music on a deeper level; they are the parts that get the song stuck in your head, the parts that bump it up to number one, and the parts that make you feel better when you aren’t having the best day. The lyrics come after. This is a relatively unique aspect of rap, because in many other genres lyrics are written long before any musical components. Rap needs a beat to exist. Essentially, without the musical component, the genre can’t exist. Does that not make it music? Having lyrics without music in rap calls for respect towards the artist. The words themselves form music. They accomplish what the beats would, without the beats. The words alone make you feel the music on a deeper level, and they get stuck in your head-and actually mean something too.

Regardless of whether the beats exist, lyrics are as strong and meaningful in rap as they are in any other style. They represent a culture different from suburban emo kids, from urban private school rebels, from erudite middle aged rock stars, from repressed tech geeks. Just as all these people’s representations of themselves are diverse, rap is yet another diversification of the art of music. It is known as “black” music, because it is. Black people created it, from the music their African ancestors created, and from the experiences they had each and every day because they were black. As racial activist and writer James Baldwin wrote in his essay If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?, “It is not the black child’s language that is in question, it is not his language that is despised: it is his experience.” The uproar against rap seems to be centered upon the race that created it, the attempt that the race is making to fight back with its own originality through lyrics equal to ours. It is with their true language that they create the music that represents their own true culture and its jagged history.

Of course much of the successful rap music of today has lyrics that have probably made the old school originators of hip-hop like Master Gee and Grandmaster Flash turn in their graves millions of times. This is not particularly what I am defending. But all music has had its share of weaker artists. For every mundane and meaningless moneymaker, there is a thoroughly honest and talented award-winner still considered to be the king of rap. And if there are not enough of those, there are absolutely enough undiscovered talents that are probably far better off untouched by mass media. They are left unaccounted for in the great scramble to judge the genre as a whole.

The power that pushes every untalented one hit wonder to the top is the same power that could, if it chose to, push the truly talented people to the same levels. For some reason, the people choose to give their money to the untalented masses. This tarnishes the image of a genre that could otherwise fight its way to the top of many as-of-yet-unhooked people’s playlists. As with any music, we must learn to promote the cream of the crop-and accept nothing less. We must also learn that there is a cream of the crop at all. Because regardless of our opinions, rap is, by definition, on equal standings with every other genre out there. We cannot push it down much longer. Non-accepting generations will give way to the fully “hip-hop-ified” generations. These generations are the ones that rebel against other genres, in retaliation. And eventually, we will lose musical diversity-diversity in the one thing that unites us all.

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