Denouncing Hip-Hop Criticism


Illustration by Elie Flanagan

Rina Cakrani, Opinion Columnist

The current state of hip-hop is often criticized by the American public due to a more explicit use of language that glorifies drugs and violence. Although it is certain that the message of mainstream rap music has changed from the previous generations, it is not fair for a black form of artistry to receive such a high degree of criticism from white people or white audiences who want the ‘real hip-hop’ back.

It is true that old-school hip-hop used to be more focused on several issues that affected the black community specifically and had a more significant message, but there is a certain problem to the fact that this is considered as the only valid form of hip hop. It shows a particular interest of the white community in the black struggle, which means deriving enjoyment from hearing about the issues that affect black people without actually making an effort to resolve these issues when they arise outside music. What I mean by this is that old school hip-hop was consumed by white audiences in a selfish way, because in the end society didn’t care about taking on these issues outside music. As long as the aesthetic of hip hop as a form of black protest and storytelling was maintained in their eyes, that was enough.

Illustration by Elie Flanagan

This is a quite hypocritical stance and nowadays it is usually observed in the criticism towards trap music, which is a form of hip hop that has evolved throughout the past decade. The message is not a conscious one any longer as it is music for the masses, mainly played in clubs. I am not necessarily the biggest fan of this new music, but it is not fair that an evolving form of black music that is geared towards the party scene is being used as justification for discrediting hip hop and as an excuse to ask for the ‘real’ hip hop back.

At the end of the day, hip hop is a form of expression that was never meant to cater to white audiences anyway. Therefore, I find it interesting that whenever hip hop evolves, there are white critics in the music industry who profess to want the old one back, as if they have a particular admiration for hearing about black protest and pain. I have noticed this quite a lot when it comes to Kendrick Lamar’s music, one of the few artists nowadays that center their art around conscious rap. Lamar has a big white audience who truly enjoy hearing songs such as “Maad City” or “Money Trees” that criticize American society and its establishment, but many of whom don’t care about black people and voted for Donald Trump.

Unfortunately, this new wave of trap music is being blamed in a very wrongful way. This musical form is being blamed for the glorification of drugs and violence when in fact the real problems in American society lie outside music and are caused by the politics of this country.

Yes, it is not a music to celebrate or to push forward, but I highly doubt that it would be so criticized and blamed for the problems of youth in America if it wasn’t for the demographics that dominate it. The mainstream media such as Fox News even dare to say that hip hop today is the biggest threat to African American youth, a threat even greater than racism.

Of course, I am not saying that hip hop shouldn’t be criticized by white people, especially considering its wide audience and the fact that it is the most listened-to genre in US. However, it is always in the critical spotlight when in fact other genres such as country music send misogynistic messages and are not under fire as much as a genre that is dominated by Black artists and is part of Black culture.