The Fade of Creativity in Modern Rap
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Rap music’s evolution from the late 1970s to 2016 has been quite a journey. Iconic hit rap songs such as “Rapper’s Delight” by Sugarhill Gang, “I Need Love” by LL Cool J, and “California Love” by Tupac define what is now known as the golden age of rap, according to Sam Rakoczy’s article “Why Rap is Going Down, Down, Down, Down, Down” on mhlearningsolutions.com. However, the meaningful lyrics of rap that dominated the genre three decades ago have faded – quickly.
Rap music from the golden age focused on life in an urban setting. The lyrics spoke of the challenges faced by African-American’s growing up in the ghetto and how they had to work hard in order to be successful in life. Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day” tells of Ice Cube’s daily struggle of living life on the streets. Yet, in one instance, he just happened to have a good day in areas of his life that were normally troublesome. The lyrics were not only limited to urban life, however; rappers were also very personal in their music. One of the most noted rappers of all time, Tupac Shakur, released a song titled “Dear Mama” in 1995. In the song, each verse is a testament of the trials faced by Tupac’s mom. The hook’s lyrics “Lady, don’t you know we love you sweet lady,” convey a message of endearment toward the lady who raised Tupac. Great creativity is shown when someone, who holds the stereotype of a tough persona, can show warmth and vulnerability in their craft.
Sadly, however, the rich lyrics of rap’s past are a memory. Today’s rap music focuses too much on sex. Most of the rap songs that are played on the radio today feature explicit lyrics referring to the act of sex or talk about body parts in the most vulgar way possible. Yo Gotti’s song, “Down in the DM,” which speaks of a man who is talking to a woman in her instant messages on Facebook, has lyrics that tell a story of trying to get her to send pictures of her private area. Jeremih’s 2015 song, “All The Time” speaks of a couple waking up in the morning and wanting to have sex the entire day. With the amount of radio listeners who are teenagers and younger, constantly promoting sex leads to teenage pregnancy, which is another issue entirely. Although the talk about sexual desire is part of the freedom of expression, the lyrics could be stated more subtly. It would be even better, and probably more beneficial, to rap about subjects other than sex. There are lots of problems in the world such as police violence terrorism, drug killings, corrupt governments, and other social issues. Sexual desires are minute compared to problems that actually affect the wellbeing of others.
Some make the argument that rap is still as creative and meaningful as it was 30 years ago, and perhaps sex is current rappers’ way of telling their stories. This could be true, considering most authentic rappers come from the environments presented in their songs. However, in my opinion, it would be better for them to try and find better ways to express themselves in a cleaner style. Some also argue that rap was as vulgar 20 years ago as it is now. Yes, there was vulgarity in the golden age of rap. However, that trait has grown exponentially within the recent decade. Rap music needs a reform. Not a wipe out of creativity altogether, simply a reversal of the current structure.