Music changes you and you have the power to change the world. Think about how you feel listening to Lil Baby or Megan Thee Stallion. You’re bad, right? You’re hard. You’re the greatest thing since sliced bread and if anyone tells you different they better not run up on you. But how did hip-hop music get this power? It got “ALL MIXED UP” with the right genres.
Blues grew out of Southern plantations in the 19th Century. Slaves sang for freedom as they worked the fields. This beat slowly evolved over the years, becoming popular among sharecroppers in the 1940’s until it finally left Mississippi and hit Chicago. The rest is history, or should I say… rock ‘n roll and R&B came from the OG.
R&B and rock ‘n roll shaped the 20th century, from Sam Cooke’s A Change Gonna Come (1964) all the way to For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield (1966). All of which happen to protest songs written about the struggles of a certain time. Music is born from people’s emotions – their sadness, anger, joy, and pleasure. Music’s purpose is to make us feel things. A reaction to the world around us in the form of a song. One reaction by African Americans and Latino Americans in the Bronx formed hip-hop in the 1970’s. Hip-hop is a mix of R&B and blues elements. The song Rapper’s Delight by The Sugarhill Gang made hip-hop mainstream music.
In 2018, according to Nielsen Music’s 2017 year-end report, hip-hop has surpassed rock and now in America it is the biggest genre in terms of consumption. That means hip-hop hits a larger audience than its predecessors. But what impact does hip-hop have that the blues, R&B, and rock ‘n roll doesn’t?
“Rap music is the CNN for the ghetto.”~Chuck D from Public Enemy (1989)
The quote is rightfully so controversial. But rap music has a big influence on our generation. Music changes the way people think. In 2020 the Washington Post did a poll that revealed that only 28% of black respondents trusted the police to treat all races equally. It’s not shocking how these numbers came to be and many hip-hop songs reference cops’ negative actions to bring attention to that matter.
Hip-hop has taken on a roll that all music has to serve – as a platform to promote change and bring awareness. In 2020 the main issue that artists addressed was the excessive use of force by police officers on black men and women.
Dababy with his song Rockstar (2020) ft Roddy Rich
Cops wanna pull me over, embarrass me Abusin' power, you never knew me, thought I was arrogant As a juvenile, police pulled their guns like they scared of me And we're used to how cr***** treat us, now that's the scary thing.
Megan Thee Stallion in her remix of Savage (2020) on Saturday Night Live
We need to protect our black women, and love our black women, ’cause at the end of the day, we need our black women. We need to protect our black men and stand up our black men, ’cause at the end of the day, we’re tired of seeing hashtags about black men.
H.E.R. with the song I can’t breathe (2020)
Trying times all the time Destruction of minds, bodies, and human rights Stripped of bloodlines, whipped and confined This is the American pride It's justifying a genocide Romanticizing the theft and bloodshed That made America the land of the free To take a black life, land of the free To bring a gun to a peaceful fight for civil rights You are desensitized to pulling triggers on innocent lives.
Lil Baby’s song The Big Picture (2020)
Corrupted police been the problem where I'm from But I'd be lyin' if I said it was all of them. I can't lie like I don't rap about killin' and dope, but I'm tellin' my youngins to vote I did what I did 'cause I didn't have no choice or no hope, I was forced to just jump in and go This bull***** is all that we know but it's time for a change
Lyrics have always been a message to the world about one’s personal feelings. The message might not always be agreed upon, but it’s there. People can receive it loud and clear. So how do those lyrics make you feel? Upset? Bothered? Sad? Did Lil Baby’s verse, “I’m tellin’ my youngins to vote,” explain how to make a change?
No song is written without feeling and the artist’s goal is to convey them to the audience. How people choose to act upon it is the question. It’s either a cry of freedom like the blues, a cry of civil rights like R&B, a cry of peace like rock ‘n roll, or a cry of justice like hip-hop; people are the ones that give music power and make change.
Photo credits: Getty Images