The Power of Hip-Hop

Many people think hip-hop, and automatically think about bad language, money, mackin, and murder.  Clearly not a full description of the art, because there is more to hip hop/rap than that. There is culture, there is story telling, there is a mix of rhythm and lyrical achievement that has yet to be matched since its creation. People want to call it poetry – sure its poetry, but its not poetry like Shakespeare, or Maya Angelou.


Imagine the great novel Manchild in the Promised Land, or anything written by Donald Goines,  only add decades of intense violence, drugs, and people living on top of each other in environments that give credence to the phrase, the real world is in many cases more interesting and even crazier than reality. Stories you couldn’t make up occurred in these environments. It’s clear that art comes from all types of places, periods, and cultures, this particular art form happened to come from the hood.

In most cases its not the actual content that invigorates and pushes my intellectual curiosity to its summit. Its the fact that this music is not just music, its a narrative that is intricately composed and mixed, and has the ability to stir even the youngest of us from a the deepest of slumbers.

I think most importantly is its fun and entertaining music (if you know what the hell they are rapping about obviously – you don’t have to relate but you have to be able to follow). And even if you can understand English fully – or at all – your body will inevitably start to move to the beat.

Artist like Nas, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne – just to name a few prolific and extremely successful rappers with longevity in a business where longevity is as rare as a Kanye West track being played in a country music bar.

The remarkable and often weighty genre of music we call rap or hip-hop has had a profound influence on society. It has reached literally every continent and inspired people to create their own music. It gives people an outlet and provides a platform from which to deliver a message –if that is your goal.

It has seeped into countless different aspects of our lives, and I love to see and hear its influence as I maneuver through various settings. Not to mention how it’s the only genre that crosses cultures (with the exception of jazz for example and some pop music like Michael Jackson). This is music you will hear at a wedding in New England, a grocery store in the south or even a bar mitzvah – yea that’s right, a bar mitzvah.

For the sake of all mankind please checkout one of my favorite MC’s, Drake dancing at his Bar Mitzvah, followed by a prodigious track from his sophomore album ‘Take Care’.

Depending on the climate I encounter hip-hop in, be it the ‘corporate world’, at sporting events, miscellaneous celebrations, and a vast number of random backdrops. I even go as far to point it out to those around when I notice it.

Other art forms like photography give you a visual that is straightforward. You find beauty or entertainment in it or you don’t. The same can be said for a great rap song. Take what you want from it. The beat that makes you dance. The lyrics that encourage and INSPIRE you. The story telling that entertains as well as any Martin Scorsese movie. Or just fun background music.

“I’m sorry y’all I often drift, I’m talkin’ gift, so when it comes you never look the horse inside it’s grill” – Andre 3000

Where was I… Believe it or not, this music called hip-hop has probably inspired you before, and on many occasions. Maybe not to the level it inspires me, nevertheless it Mos Def has inspired you before too. Think of that time you were in rush hour traffic and you felt like you might just ram your Kia into the back of the Ford F-150 that keeps weaving in and out of traffic like a maniac, but y’all end up at the same light at every intersection. Right on cue, one of your favorite Pharrell songs comes on and you find yourself entering a “Happy” stage

Suddenly your murderous rage has been channeled to a more docile state. It’s a good thing your song came on. That longing to hurl pennies from your change tray like a copper laced grenade at the old guy in the BMW who just nonchalantly flipped you off, while mean mugging harder than Ice Cube had reached its limit.

For those of you who are hip-hop vernacular challenged, mean muggin is a verb. To mugg someone is an offense that is typically not tolerated and derives from the earliest times of hip-hop. It translates as giving someone a hard look, staring, gawking, or looking at someone intensely. In the 80’s and early 90’s muggin could spark an eruption of dance battles on cardboard with a boom box quicker than a seasoned squirrel dodging traffic during rush hour.

Just consider this. The subculture that Hip-hop has created can inspire at many different levels. In my case it stirs up ideas having nothing to do with hip-hop. Even in while driving a good song can trigger my muscle memory, causing my left hand to turn my turn signal on. I find myself pulling over, to start writing away on my iPhone.

Smashing down on the touchscreen keys with a vigor that allows the words to flow from my mind, emancipating whatever concept or idea was rooted in my subconscious. I’m mesmerized with the idea that sixteen bars from Andre 3000 on the track – a linchpin of hip-hop.

The fact that his exceptionally smooth tonality, his influx, and his uncanny ability to assemble fantastical story telling sentences, has the ability to jolt thoughts, dreams, and passions from my brain.

Shout out to the Pusha T who is the at the pinnacle of rap with his ability to make you sink into his music. It’s music likes his that essentially galvanized me to share my random insights on how hip-hop has influenced pop-culture and inspires me. Those songs were followed by a steady flood of other artist, from Juicy J to Rick Ross and Kendrick Lamar.

Remember to take into account its not always the lyrics that inspire me or the beat, but the fact he is able to create something that millions of people find entertainment and joy in. “Own It” is a track by Drake that gives you a little bit of everything, while “305 To My City” is a anthem and if you “don’t get it” then it probably wasn’t for you.

—Z.D. Boss

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