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As many people know, rap or hip-hop is continuing its trend of being what is considered "hot" in music. From familiar names like Nas, Jay-Z, Drake, Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, Gucci Mane, Rick Ross, Chris Brown and Kanye holding down the throne, to the game-changers like J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Meek Mill, Travis Scott, A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg, PnB Rock, Bryson Tiller, and the late XXXtentacion, rap always seems to be one step ahead of the trend yet offers the comfort of the music's true essence. But, just what is the true essence of rap and hip-hop? It seems that in an ever-changing world, the definition of this music genre is being stretched every which way, fitting multiple meanings and transcending to any demographic. Frankly put, the essence, the pure art of rap and hip-hop is most definitely the lyrics. Without lyrics, there is no song, just a beautiful rendition of sounds. However, add these lyrics and one may find themselves lost in a world of feels, vibes, and connection. Behind every set of lyrics is a story, and there are many rappers and artists who can exhibit stories to quite an elaborate and poetic level, yet by being overshadowed through hype and fame, many listeners sadly do not truly understand the full meaning and message of a song.
My advice is to take a listen and focus on the words: Rap is a moving poetry filled with all sorts of emotions, backgrounds, and inspirations. If the words and lyrics are troubling to understand, there are many great ways to learn and comprehend a song. But, hands down the best is Genius. Genius is a website, featured on Spotify, that has elaborated on every song; the meaning of a word, bar, lyric or full verse. I, myself, use Genius a ton. As an aspiring rapper and hip-hop artist, I want to put my spitting and vocals to good use, writing lyrics that stroke deep and appeal to many demographics and emotions. My point here is, Genius helps add sense to music and essentially by reading and discovering lyrics on your own, can guide you in your aspirations, wants, needs, and even benefit your personal life. One of the largest misconceptions about rap and hip-hop is that it doesn't have a general meaning. Well, of course not, captain obvious, every song has a different meaning in and of itself, but the bigger picture is that rap and hip-hop may actually have more meaning and narrative than any other genre of music. Unlike jazz, country, rock, and other genres, rap and hip-hop are truly a melting pot. Rap and hip-hop sample so many different genres on instrumentals and vocals, that it is almost entirely comprised of outside genres, made into one.
The music reaches and connects to far more demographics than any of the previous genres I listed combined. If you do not believe me, take Drake as an example. The man has single-handedly been able to appeal to a handful of customers, most of which bound together by one aspect: the love of pure, sheer honesty. This is what rap and hip-hop offer that no other genre can: the idea of being pure and wholesome while maintaining a great sense of honesty. Every single act in this genre, every lyric, bar, verse, and chorus, is just flat out raw. Nevertheless, it has come from deep within the artist to share narratives, use their network as a platform for change, bring attention to anything, host numerous emotions, and truly, purely exhibit who they are.
As someone who suffers from chronic anxiety, I can tell you firsthand that rap and hip-hop lessen my mental problems just by taking a listen every day. It helps to know that the swaggy-est, coolest, and most popular music figures are actually ordinary people, just like me, suffering from the same things as me, going through the same things I do and having multiple common interests. In addition to this genre adding clarity and vision to my life, it also adds pure joy, happiness, motivation, and energy. I have always believed music is something that you feel on many levels: spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally. But, for some reason, rap and hip-hop continue to add balance to these levels, becoming an almost Ying-Yang factor. After all, rap and hip-hop are so pure because it appeals to a majority and has the power to change all. So, next time a song comes on listen to it, don't let it blare out of the speakers and let it sink in, let it affect you and see how you feel. You may be surprised, I know I was—since then, I haven't been able to get enough.