I will admit it. I would love to live in denial, but I realize that I don’t understand everything.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand a lot of things. I would go as far as to say I understand at least as much as the average person. It’s not like I am living in a state of completely ignorance. At time, it may be partial ignorance, but usually a cup of coffee will snap me right out of that.
No, I’m talking about a different lack of understanding. No matter how hard I try, there will always be a few things that will be so perplexing and flummoxing that I can’t help but be confused and at the same time enthralled by them.
Hip hop is one of those things.
As a white male growing up in the suburbs, there were a few types of music that you could use to annoy adults and worry parents. There was your run of the mill hard rock full of muddy distorted guitars and men doing their best to channel Kurt Cobain’s angst and anger. The screaming anarchy of punk rock was always a good option, particularly if you were not too afraid to pierce your own body parts or worried about your personal appearance.
Nothing seemed to cause more worry, though, then these men telling stories of violence and drugs, using profanities in combinations that no one would have dreamed imaginable. Around 15, all of a sudden there were dozens of teenage boys walking around doing their best impression of an inner-city thug, completely ignoring the fact that their house had a three-car garage and an in-ground pool.
Maybe it’s because I never fell into the “terrible music makes my parents upset” trap that these lyrics seem to confuse me. These musicians spend a majority of their time talking about the type of clothing they have on or bragging about their ability to smoke pot. Then, randomly, they might brag about how they can shoot someone, actually quite a feat if you are incredibly high and concerned about keeping your new Gucci jeans clean.
Whenever I hear a rap song, I often think about the way a real conversation would go if people spoke this way in real life.
“Hi, how are you?” I would say.
“Oh, things were bumpin’ until this breezy burned me real good.” I would be staring intensely, as if I were trying to decipher a new language.
He would continue. “This cold shorty straight up walked in stuntin’…”
“That makes no sense.” I would say, mostly to myself.
“…and I was feeling bent, so I jumped in my AC and…”
This would be the point of the conversation where I would just stand up and leave.
Of course, these are generalizations. Not every rapper is this way. There are certainly a great number of musicians who pride themselves in avoiding these hip hop stereotypes. These rappers make me almost understand. There is an art form to what they do, poetry that some may not enjoy, but should at least be recognized as talented.
Just as quickly as I reach a near understanding, though, an award-winning rapper like Yung Joc (not an award-winning speller) will say something nonsensical like this:
“Verse number 2 do the … thang keeps on my neck pocket’s full of Ben Franks.”
Clearly this means nothing. There is something about how this is the second verse of the song and how he has apparently evolved to the point of having pockets on his neck. He also likes either money or tiny Benjamin Franklin figurines.
I guess the ball is in the rapper’s court. It is up to them to try to convince me that they are legitimate musicians. I believe they can do it. All they will have to do for me to appreciate the art is stop rapping about drugs, cars, women, sex, how good they are rapping, how bad other people are at rapping, money, guns, shoes, clothing, or any combination of the above subjects.
Uh… good luck with that, I guess.