Rap or Hip-Hop music has been around since the 1970s. It is a mesh of modern jazz, bass, and synthesized sounds mixed with melodic poetry. Black and Hispanic people from New York created the genre that would eventually sweep across the world. It is definitely an art form that has been refined over many decades. Here in the second decade of the twenty-first century, it is arguably the most popular music genre in America.
Gangsta Rap of the 1990s is when the world started paying attention.
Rappers like Ice Cube, Tupac, DMX, LL Cool J, and Biggie Smalls had everyone wearing baggie pants and flamboyant shoes, jackets, and hats. The entire world was copying the styles and personas of these talented black men. In a country where being black almost surely meant struggling, they were succeeding, even being seen as role models. And not just by black kids. Eminem and Vanilla ice having successful careers shows that this genre had crossed racial barriers. But why?
Rap lyrics are raw. Up to that point, rock and roll had been the most popular music among younger people. Youths were hypnotized by Nirvana and Pink Floyd narrating their long nights of dancing, drugs, and sex. Don’t get me wrong, the Beatles were also crowd favorites and very positive, but the surging popularity from younger people came from what their parents didn’t want them doing.
These rappers were speaking about various issues they face including racism and incarceration, but when the sounds changed, the profitable messages didn’t. Talking about loads of women, cars, and alcohol is so appealing to some people. The endless lavish trips and gluttonous spending is something most people couldn’t attest to and craved.
And it sounds really good. Rappers like Wale, Kendrick Lamar, Logic, and J. Cole have very unique styles that captivate listeners. Their genius alliteration, analogies, and aphorisms mixed with the jazz sounds (that eventually trace back to Africa) are the most popular music in the United States. Aubrey “Drake” Graham is one of the most popular artists worldwide. His rapping and singing on love and friendship are delivered over masterful beats and sit well with Sally in 2nd grade or Juan the 76-year-old. Rappers cater to everyone.
And the culture.
Rappers have a knack for conveying an indifferent persona that people flock too. “If it doesn’t make dollars it doesn’t make sense (cents)” or a variation is a common rap music theme and definitely revisits the monetary attraction to rappers. Their clothing and style choices are emulated by the masses in every country. The entire Kardashian family has maintained their popularity by appropriating the culture of rappers and black people in general. Kanye West has convinced people to pay thousands of dollars for puke-colored clothing with holes in it.
The phenomenon is global. European rappers like Booba from France or Kohh from Japan are taking the Internet by storm. Songs such as Move Lang and It G MA don’t have a word of English but are definitely rap songs. The clothes, attitudes, and culture of humble beginnings and loyalty remain the underlying themes. These rags to riches stories are what fuels rap and it has taken hold in every single country. As they say, those who struggled the most made it the best.
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