But they’re gonna have to take my life before they take my drive
’cause when I was barely living, that’s what kept me alive
Just the thought that maybe it could be better than what we at at this time
Make it out of this grind, before I’m out of my mind.
-Kanye West, Bring Me Down
There’s a huge stigma with being a fan of rap music. It seems all everybody knows about it is the lasting misogyny and violence that NWA and Boogie Down Productions gave the genre in the early ’90s. Thanks to them (specifically NWA’s “Fuck the Police”), we now have the PARENTAL ADVISORY EXPLICIT LYRICS sticker and a millions that want to run it into a tower engulfed in flames with their pitchforks.
And of course, we have an industry that caters to males 13-21 and their hunger for gun-toting, egos, female objectification and drugs. It sells, so they make it. That’s commercial rap. That’s what the public knows.
So, I find myself always educating people when I tell them I love rap. If I don’t,
I remain a sucked-in kid with a love for bullshit that really doesn’t deserve a place in the world, even if the “artist” defends their song on the grounds that their music is pulled from real life on the streets. Well, that doesn’t mean you should tell us about your condition. DO something about it. (I’m looking at you, 50 Cent.)
Here’s a short lesson to clear things up. Hip hop is the culture – which includes the five pillars: DJing, rapping, graffiti, breakdancing and beatboxing. The hip hop philosopher, KRS-One, tells us that if you love hip hip, you ARE hip hop. You aren’t just part of the culture, you are the culture. This is why hip hop will never die.
So, I say: I love rap music, I am hip hop.
Hip hop started in the Bronx in ’79. The lyrics were all about partying and dealing with day-to-day shit. That got lost in the 90s when rap became flooded by gang mentality and paper chasing, AKA: an obsession with getting rich and living extravagantly.
Cue Kanye West. Kanye has really brought rap back to where it should be, partying and dealing with the day-to-day real life bullshit, like paying bills and getting out of a dead end job. He also writes lyrics that motivate listeners to get out there and make a change to better themselves. He never drowns in the ghetto, realizing that we need to rise from the struggle and make something of ourselves and our art, what we do.
“Y’all don’t know my struggle
Y’all can’t match my hustle
You can’t catch my hustle
You can’t fathom my love dude
Lock yourself in a room doin’ five beats a day for three summers
That’s a different world like Cree Summers
I deserve to do these numbers”
As an artist, I respect Kanye because of that drive. Five beats a day for three summers is amazing. He has a vision and he sticks to it all the way. His Glow-in-the-Dark Tour was one of the most imaginative and entertaining concerts ever (including collaborations with the greatest lighting designers in Germany, Hype Williams, Spike Jonze and the Jim Henson Company.) K was nearly killed in a car accident, and his mom died in a shocking and horrible situation surrounding recent surgery. We continually see K dealing with what life throws at him and watch as he consistently beats it, creates something new and succeeds, while remaining humble.
I have major respect for that.
But, there is another side we see, a side that’s hypocritical. He gets drunk at video awards and storms the stage when he loses, shouting about how he’s the shit and so on and so on while the poor winner stands there feeling like a mutt at the Westminster Dog Show. K can be an idiot. He has a drinking problem, as well as what seems to be major insecurity issues.
But, you know, it’s good to know he’s human. Any artist or hero that I look up to, it’s important to know they have flaws and what flaws those are. Learn from the best, they say. Show me an artist, a real talent, who doesn’t war with themselves.
But, please, Mr. West, do your fans a favor and get help. Hip hop needs a humble hero. The future needs a respectable icon from this form of art, and you’re so close.