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The roots of hip hop music as a recognized musical phenomenon have continued to provoke diverse responses from various reviewers who have also commented about the validity and importance of the genre as a global and recognizable style of music (Kubrin, 2015). Modern analysts continue to cast aspersions on the new and past lyrical quality of hip hop music, claiming that the genre has given rise to the spread of the gangsta stereotype that would have attracted the interest of culture over the last four decades. In the sense of cultural diversity, hip hop has become a powerful cultural instrument and a communicative force, especially in its political orientation. Political, social life, Politics, social life, justice, and equality have often been highlighted as the primary thematic concerns in various lyrics. The 2000’s hip-hop was regarded as the begging of a social movement that focused on socio-economic aspects of the modern American society. Song lyrics and various forms of activism and black politics would then become the hallmark of the contemporary hip-hop culture with rap music one more cementing its place in black culture as the voice of the marginalized while also depicting the subjects addressed as the victims of the cultural creation of negative stereotypes (Smith, 2016).
The usage of obscene language and other forms of profanities as the major language of communication have been the trademark of hip-hop music. The vulgar nature of the hip hop language serves to underline the social and political strife that the society has been through in their struggle for emancipation. For instance, Jay-Z, one of the most popular artists of the hip hop genre has repeatedly used vile and acidic language in most of his songs. In his 2001 song “the renegade” Jay-Z is continuously heard using profanities and foul language especially the f-word which is repeatedly referenced in their entire lyrics. The same temperament is witnessed in his 2003 song called “Problems.” The same can be said about the current crop of contemporary artists like Lil Wayne, Meek Mill, Rick Ross, Rich Homie Quan and even Future. Most of these artists use words like “bitch”, “nigga”, the f-word and other forms of expletives. This form of communication can be viewed as an outright defiance stance and a sign of a rebellious attitude towards those perceived as the most privileged in the society and who are also seen as limiting the progress of the black community in an oppressive way (Smith, 2016).
Politics of Blackness
The politics of blackness have been entrenched in rap music since its inception. The black community has often struggled for equal rights as their white counterparts hence the incessant race relation problems often witnessed by the black community. As a means to communicate and express this displeasure, rap music became the most effective communication tool to convey the message of cultural diversity with an aim to highlight the problems that racism always brought along including constant police harassment and extrajudicial killings of unarmed black individuals by white law enforcers (Stoia, Adams, & Drakulich, 2017). Politically, as also highlighted by Hip Hop artist called India.Arie, who is a Grammy award-winning artist in her song “Am not my hair,” she effectively weaved around the delicate issue of race. India.Arie used poignantly inspiring lyrics which would soon become part of a national discourse on race, vicious language and the hip hop culture in totality. Kanye West highlighted the same issue of race when a category 5 hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Mississippi gulf in 2005. The disaster raised the profile of race in the country. African American and other minorities were erroneously called refugees instead of evacuees by the media and as such did not consider the minority groups as part of the American citizenry. The politics of race, blackness and the need for representation in opposing the dominant culture has always been expressed in the most vocal way through political rap music and through grassroots political activities in the hip hop culture. Below are some of the research questions that emanate from the research study:
How has the message of gangster rap music managed to influence sociopolitical and cultural diversity from when it first started gaining mainstream popularity in the late 70’s to where it is today?
What are the ways in which the genre of gangster rap music has advanced the course of black emancipation on the politics of race to become as a massive communication tool?
Why is gangster rap music considered as critical in conveying contemporary social and political issues regarding the black popular culture?
Definition of the Universe in Question
The current paper’s objectives are to analyze the history of rap gangster music and how its message managed to influence sociopolitical and cultural diversity from when it first started. From 1979 when the first commercially acclaimed rap music was released, the genre has undergone numerous changes as part of its evolution towards a more street conscious awakening initiative based on the communicated messages contained in the lyrics (Marino, 2016). Hip-hop has more than attained global audiences and in the 1980’s, it became apparent that Hip Hop music did not only appeal to the black community but also consumed in the white suburbia. Another objective of this study was to examine the ways in which the genre of gangster rap music has advanced the course of black emancipation on the politics of race to become a massive communication tool. The scope of this study is therefore focused on the use of the Hip Hop language to highlight race conflict socio-economic oppression and verbal artistry to explain the communication style of rap gangster music. The evolution of rap music as a communication tool emanates strongly from the social consciousness resulting from the criminalization of male African Americans and the subsequent police brutality. For instance, the criminalization of black males would result in the formation of the west coast gangsta rap which directly responded to the grievances experienced by the community.
“The Blacker the Berry” by Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar one of the most successful contemporary rappers on the most recent times came up with the blacker the berry that focused on the conflict of cultural inclusivity of the black community. Lamar lambasts the social issues affecting the black population in his lyrics and how they are viewed at by the dominant majority (McCann, 2017). The song highlights racial prejudice and the difficulties experienced in an attempt towards cultural integration which is further curtailed by stereotyping. Lamar raps in the song that equality has been a playful word with no meaningful significance for many people across the world. In verse one of the song, Lamar raps about the hatred the black community faces and how they are never liked. He raps about his origins as an African American who is as black as the moon with a heritage from a small village. Such lyrics highlight the power of communication in gangsta rap music and how they inform opinion on cultural diversity.
“Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It” by Ice Cube
When sampling the contents of the song “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It” by Ice Cube, it becomes more apparent to take cognizance of the fact that some thematic concerns generally underscored by gangsta hip hop prevail across the broad spectrum of the genre. Ice Cube ironically blames the current social evils on gangsta rap music because of its perceived polarizing effect that makes cultural integration even more difficult. Ice Cube facetiously lays the blame for America’s problems such as violence, rape, murder and other forms of social injustices on gangsta rap music. It is a way through which Ice Cube depicts the hypocrisy that faces hip hop culture but saliently reinforcing the inherent challenges faced by the American community (Stoia, Adams, & Drakulich, 2017).
Unit of analysis
The most observable trend in gangster hip hop is the call for emancipation from oppression in all its forms with equality being the predominant theme. Most gangsta rap music addresses societal problems that affect the community and covers a wide range of areas including politics and the socio-economic set up that the rappers find themselves in most of the times. Some critics disagree with the specific agenda of hardcore or gangsta rap music in influencing hip hop culture. Some say that the agenda is lost on the gangsta rappers who rap about other unrelated issues such as wealth and superiority (Marino, 2016). However, the underlying fact is that whatever message conveyed by the gangsta rappers, the genesis of it all emanates from societal deprivation and other challenges that hip hop culture has endured over time. Crime and other forms of misdemeanors are also ways through which the oppressed communities respond to the hostile environment around them and in most instances, gangsta rap music becomes the tool to communicate these issues.
Gangsta rap music which began as a voice of the oppressed and marginalized was in essence, an artistic response to the societal decay that plagued New York City and Los Angeles, continue to undergo evolution global commodity (McCann, 2017). Hip-hop, therefore, is viewed as the de-facto voice of the contemporary hip-hop culture. Little attention has been given to the numerous factors that gave rise to hip-hop as a cultural tool through which the predominantly black community would voice their grievances hence the culmination of the factors that would eventually influence the evolution of the rap music as a formidable communication tool traversing every aspect of cultural diversity within the American. Rap music continues to elicit divergent opinions about the role and place of hip hop culture in American history. However, the contributions of rap music can never be gainsaid without understanding the very context under which the genre originated. Human communications continue to adopt various methods of expression and play a critical role in cultural integration. Through communication, inherent societal problems are highlighted effectively in a way that triggers public consciousness so that the public can seek solutions to their problems and address them comprehensively. Gangster rap music, therefore, provides an avenue through which the voices of the marginalized are heard.
Kubrin, C. E. (2015). “Come Along and Ride on a Fantastic Voyage” 1: My Journey Through Rap Music Lyrics. In Envisioning Criminology (pp. 77-87). Springer International Publishing.
Marino, M. P. (2016). Chicago Hustle and Flow: Gangs, Gangsta Rap, and Social Class.
McCann, B. J. (2017). The Mark of Criminality: Rhetoric, Race, and Gangsta Rap in the War-On-Crime ERA. University of Alabama Press.
Smith, C. W. (2016). Pulse of the People: Political Rap Music and Black Politics. Edited by Lakeyta M. Bonnette. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015. 219 pp., $49.95 (cloth). The Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics, 1-3.
Stoia, N., Adams, K., & Drakulich, K. (2017). Rap Lyrics as Evidence: What Can Music Theory Tell Us?. Race and Justice, 2153368716688739.
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