By Armand Manoukian
Tupac, Biggie, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole. All these rappers preach a message, advocating for social change and calling out inequality. This is the essence of rap, and its origin is simple. Rap, in its purest essence, is a form of rhyme and poetry; Rappers are poets, and their words have a message.
Some parents yell, from the back of the room, that the rappers’ message is to sag your pants. Some rap, admittedly, glorifies subjects that shouldn’t be glorified. However, other rappers have positive messages to spread. Tupac rapped about the flaws in both the justice and education systems At the age of 17, he called for a reevaluation of what is taught in school, saying there should be classes on police brutality, finance and “REAL” sex education.
J. Cole often discusses the presence of an empowered African American voice in the music industry. He once said, “I feel like, with rappers, there’s so much complacency...But there’s a lot of stuff going on in this world.”
Kendrick Lamar was considered an activist for racial equality in his second studio album, “To Pimp a Butterfly,” which calls out society for its treatment of African Americans. One of the songs on the album, “Mortal Man”, tells a story of migrating from the ghetto only to be “re-enslaved” by discrimination in the outside world. In fact, many hip hop fans have credited Lamar’s masterpiece, and rap in general, as a positive influence on their lives.
On Twitter , I asked my followers and friends to disclose some of the positive influences hip hop and rap has had on their lives. My old basketball coach, Michael Saint, said Kendrick Lamar’s music aided him throughout some of the hardest times in his life and helped him get over some personal issues. Nicholas Zakari, a close friend of mine, said, “It [rap] speaks to me like no other genre of music, and I feel it’s a form of music that genuinely improves lives....I have the utmost respect for rap, its roots, and its message.”
Rap is a vessel for social change. It’s more than music, and it always has been. Since Brooklyn and Compton were at odds with each other, rap has had a message, protesting social injustices. Kendrick Lamar said in his song “HiiiPower”, “Stand for something, or die in the morning.” Rappers constantly chime in on current events like the Trayvon Martin case, the death of Mike Brown, and the Rodney King riots in 1992.
So why do some parents still disapprove of rap? Those of the older generations claim it doesn’t involve the instruments their generation’s music did, but it's actually more or less the same. When the parents of kids in high school or college right now were listening to their loud rock music, their parents would tell them to turn it down and complain about the air of rebellion that rock music stirred up. The rock music faithfuls would then sigh and complain that their parents didn’t understand them.
It seems like history repeats itself, yet no one seems to realize this. In fact, rock music is acknowledged as having played an important role in criticizing society and the government. Didn’t Tupac spread the same message?
It seems that the issue with rap music is in its backgrounds. Rap music originates from the depths of underprivileged, usually African-American neighborhoods all over the country, from Compton to Chicago, to Brooklyn and to Queens. When rap music began to gain popularity, people were still hesitant to enjoy music that came from “thugs.” Those against this genre of music call rappers criminals and even hooligans.
This attitude towards rappers is an issue because they are messengers, not reckless thugs. They preach about their reality and if they had to deal drugs to pay for their mother to see a doctor, then so be it. What we can draw from these stories are the messages of overcoming obstacles, persevering through tough times, and defeating the odds to find success. That is the message of rap. No one is telling anyone to sag their pants.
We speak our mind in the Opinion Section, publishing our take on current events, school controversies, and anything else we think might pique your interest.