Rap music is what-is-on-your-mind music; unlike EDM, and pop which somewhat have to stick to a certain formula of I-love-you. Rappers have a lot on their minds ranging from turf wars to obsessions of derrieres. While people may put it down and its listeners here in the Philippines since it may seem hard to relate to an African American speaking about his thug life, people that have never been in a relationship don’t seem to mind listening to Ed Sheeran or T-Swizzle. So while rap music is stereotypically black, here is a chance to see a lot more color in the history of music’s renegade genre.
Here I am from
Much like any human being, those who spit fire also had to come from somewhere, a hometown that must have had an influence, not only on their lives, but on their careers as rappers. Many a song have been devoted to talking about an artist’s home.
An example of such a song is that of rap group N.W.A’s “Straight Outta Compton”. This violent-sounding rap reflects the violence that happens in the city of Compton in LA county. From guns, drugs, and other things too graphic for this article, it is shown that this is where they came from. This makes sense as N.W.A are also known as the pioneers of “gangsta rap”.
One doesn’t have to leave the Los Angeles for a different example. The late 2pac’s (ft. Dr. Dre) California Love gives a much lighter look into a rapper’s life than gang violence. This particular anthem now talks about the good life living in the sunny state of California, with all the parties and booze.
Finally, Wiz Khalifa’s hit “Black & Yellow” is actually another example of this. For those that do not know, Wiz Khalifa is talking about the city of Pittsburgh. The reason for the song title is that the sports teams that are based in the city, the Steelers (American Football), Pirates (Baseball), and the Penguins (Hockey) all carry the same set of colors: Black and Yellow.
Whether it may be a violent history, partying at Long beach, or sports teams, many rappers don’t forget their roots. They also want to tell the world that though these places may not be on the top of their travel lists, these aren’t so bad.
305 to my city
Rappers’ addiction to numbers does not seem deliberate but it is still well executed. Just like in sports, certain numbers seem to stick, whether it is in the names of artists and producers like 50 Cent and Noah “40” Shebib, area codes of hometowns, or, more directly, the songs like 99. Ever since Jay-Z released a now classic 99 Problems, artists like Lil Wayne, Kid Cudi, and even Ariana Grande have been putting their twists on it.
The Dream even set out to prove that LL Cool J was right when he rapped saying “You want a hit, give me an hour plus and pen and a pad”. He then proceeded to video himself make two songs in the studio in the span of two hours.
But the greatest story of rap and numbers has to be the legend that is Ice Cube’s Good Day. Cube raps about his perfect day that he calmly calls good. Fans have since tried to determine what is the exact date to which he was referring to. The used clues from the song such as when the Lakers beat the Sonics, when there was not a cloud in the sky, and when pagers were beeping. This along with other clues lead them to believe that Ice Cube was referring to one January 20. It has since been known as International Good Day in rap and hip hop circles.
Rap is not exclusively rap. It borrows, steals, chops, and screws other genre’s sound to enhance that of their own. This is called sampling when a portion of a song is reused for a different one. Websites like Who Sampled exhibit the far reach of a producer’s music vocabulary. Just going through all the samples Kanye West used for his album, Graduation, would split your head from the shock and awe. The album borrowed from a range of artists that included Daft Punk and Steely Dan.
Other samples show the juxtaposition of input and output of these songs. One wouldn’t think classics like Lou Reed’s Walk on the wild side or Queen’s Under Pressure would ever be heard with some rhythm and poetry. Which starts to make us think that maybe one day, our modern songs now will return to our ears with a different BPM and a down-beat to follow.
Rap music has been around for a while now. Though it originated in the United States, this genre has evolved and migrated. Countries all over the world have adopted the art of spitting fire and are using their own langauges to rap. The Philippines is no exception, with the likes of Gloc-9, the late Francis Magalona, and Andrew E having made their names thru rap music. Clearly, this form has gone a long way.