Tuesday, June 26, 2007

My Perspective on Rap Music as an Art Form

Earlier today, I got into a rather big argument about Rap music as an art form. Personally, I appreciate rap and enjoy it greatly. There are some aspects of the genre that I dislike, such as the myriad of songs made about dances, songs that feature the prolific use of the word "nigga" and songs that recycle the same generic themes (I have more money than you, I'm gonna shoot you, I'm going to f*** your girlfriend, etc.) over and over again. But as a whole I like it. I tend to like rap from underground artists and old school more than mainstream artists because a lot of mainstream artists use the repetitive themes I mentioned above exclusively and often have very poor lyrical ability.

With that said, I present to you the argument the other guy posted in response to an earlier claim:

"First off you entered this concersation out of context, would you like to explain to me why people study music, if it´s all opinion based, or maybe explain why rap in general is good? What is it exactly that makes it good? The singing? (or lack of) The beat down message (which is pretty much the only thing that is opinion in music), The intrumental? (yay pc samples ftw) what makes it good muscially?"

And here's what I responded with.

Music can illicit certain feelings from people. People study music and determine what feelings it elicits and dissects the track from there on. There are certainly other factors and variables in music study, but this is one of the main recurring themes. Rap music is no different. It can illicit feelings from someone as well as any other genre of music. The lyrics in combination with the music behind it can bring about significant emotional response.

Oftentimes, singing isn't present in rap, but then again, there doesn't always have to be. Although, there are some MC's who incorporate singing into their rhymes and do a very good job of it. A skilled lyricist can write and say their lines to the beat, timing their words precisely with the tempo to make things flow smoothly, to the point where there is no disconnect between the music and the lyrics.

You say the message is always the same and spout off generic themes that permeate mainstream rap. Well, I'll give you that one. Mainstream rap is often tied down by the same generic themes you mentioned. But, if you go beneath the surface to the underground, old school and true hip hop, you don't find these repetitive themes. What you find are real lyricists with real messages to say. It is here that you find deep messages, well thought out rhymes, and often well done storytelling. Rappers can tell a story or convey a message just as well as any rocker can. If you really listened to rap, you'd know this.

Again, you say rappers always sample other tracks. Well, some do, and most don't. The majority of tracks use entirely original beats. If you listen closely, they are just as deep and well formed as any other form of music. Hell, even some of the sampled tracks improve on the original, adapting them to a new style, and work wonders. The sound quality is great, but only if you really listen for it.

These are all valid reasons why Rap is good musically. As I stated before (in a post you conveniently ignored by the way) there is no such thing as good or bad music. It's all based on perception, that's why its opinion based. The feeling a certain song elicits from you is universal, but the song itself isn't. There are songs I flat out despise that others like. Does that mean that they're bad musically? No. That's just my perception. How is your opinion on rap music somehow better than mine on this issue? Bottom line is, it isn't. Rap isn't worse than any other genre of music, no matter how bad you think it is.

And there you have it folks, but I'm not done yet. I have some additional views I'd like to express.

A wise man once told me that there is no good or bad music and that it is only good or bad in the realm of human perception. No matter what anyone says about any genre of music, there is no genre that is better or worse than all the others. All of them can be appreciated in some way or another by different people.

People criticize rap for repeating the same generic themes over and over, well I could easily say the same thing about rock music. Commonly used themes in rock music are hatred towards society and crying over a lost love. Same themes, different lyrics. So this can' be used against rap. Almost all forms of music are repetitive in some form or another. It's what the artist does with that theme that makes each song special.

In closing, Rap music is just as good musically as any other form of music. As with all forms of music, there's plenty to appreciate about rap. I hope that those of you out there who read this come away from it enlightened, particularly if you've taken up a stance against rap music in the past.