The legacy and change in rap music

Coming from a punk-rock background the last genre of music I would expect to get into is rap. If you had told me when I was 13- rocking a mess of black hair, sloppily put on eyeliner and an MCR t-shirt- that I would, in 6 years time, have a Kanye playlist on Spotify and know who Ice-Cube, Dr-Dre and Eazy-E are…I would have probably said ‘No way I’m always going to listen to MCR and Fall Out Boy, nothing else!’

However, here I am indeed, 6 years later with not just a Kanye playlist, but two ‘I Feel Like Pablo’ t-shirts as well. Oh how times have changed.

I’ve gotten into rap music within the last year and a half, but I’m not gonna lie, I prefer the older style of rap rather than the newer style. By that I mean, not when ALL the rapper has to say is how many girls he’s screwed or the things he’d like to do to them (sometimes wayyy too much information is shared). I watched the film Straight Outta Compton recently and loved it. It was so cool seeing how the group formed, what inspired the lyrics Ice-Cube wrote, how they rose to fame so quickly and of course, the death of Eazy-E.

The lyrics that Ice-Cube wrote were so raw and so personal. The extreme police brutality that was happening against black people in the late 80/90’s in America was genuinely shocking and I feel that N.W.A had every right to make the song, ‘Fuck The Police’. Of course now it has improved somewhat, but this is my point: the origins of rap came from those who had dealt with and seen some tough shit. They used their voices and words to connect with others who could empathise, and to ultimately spread messages in hope that they will create change. Rap was a release. It released their anger and disgust through them telling stories, recalling events, and was non-violent. The rap that N.W.A produced, and that Eminem sometimes wrote- mainly with Dr Dre- was powerful and caught peoples attention.

Fast forward to rap in todays music industry aaaand…things are a little different.

Rap music is just 90% about sex and excess and it’s very rare you’ll come across an artist whose lyrics are about topics that matter or are raw and from the heart. That now kind of comes from the genre grime.

Let me give you a few examples. Take the song ‘Talk Dirty To Me’ by Jason Derulo: when 2Chainz has his little rap solo, his powerful message is ‘Sold out arena’s, you can suck my penis’. I’m not gonna lie mate, I’d rather not. Also in Pitbull’s song ‘Hotel Room Service’, the entire song is a very detailed description of things he wants to do to this girl- ‘She like that freaky stuff, 2 in the O, 1 in the eye, that kinky stuff, you nasty’.
Even Kanye has some questionable lyrics, especially in his new stuff like ‘Highlights’ where he shades his wife Kim Kardashians infamous past boyfriend, Ray J.

It’s gotten to the point where rappers such as Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent are actually taking the piss out of new rappers, saying how it just sounds like they are making noises in the same tones and pitch- like a constant drone, with nothing real to actually say, and it is so true! Take a look at this video and you’ll know what I mean: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMRkxidQO-M 

I just think its a shame that groups like N.W.A had to fight so much for their music to be heard as it was so controversial at the time, yet a rapper today can come out and say how he wants to fuck every girl on the planet and people will shower them with money and turn a blind-eye to the lyrics.
Rap, just like pop music, has become too commercialised and is being controlled too much by the ‘sex sells’ policy that managers force onto their musicians.

Studying Music

Coming to the end of my first year studying Music Journalism, FINALLY submitting all my assignments, it’s made me think back to when I first started studying music and realising that I wanted to take it seriously. I’ve studied 3 different areas of music over the course of my education and its actually quite cool to see how I progressed and what made me decide on studying those areas.

I’m not gonna lie I used to hate music lessons when I first started high school. I can’t exactly remember why but I just remember trying to get through those lessons was SO painful. It wasn’t the teachers fault, just the parts of music we were being taught were dire to sit through when you were an 11 year old. It was very theory based and we were always forced to do group projects which, lets be honest, always turned out shit because none of us had any sense of rhythm, pitch and there was always one group of people who all hated each other, so did no work. However, fast forward to the end of year 8, I started guitar lessons, mainly because I was going through my little emo phase and wanted to play all these All Time Low, My Chemical Romance songs and be a rockstar. Something then changed and I began to absolutely love music lessons, so chose it as a GCSE.

I swear down, that music GCSE was harder than this BA Hons Degree I’m doing.

All through my music GCSE I was still playing guitar and I also was singing a lot more. I had an alright voice, but it was more like Joan Jett’s and more deep because I used to sing along to Green Day, MCR and Fall Out Boy albums. One thing I could not do was play guitar AND sing, when I tried it was a shambles. I really loved the idea of performing. Again, GCSE music was so theory based, had to learn all these fancy terms and analyse pieces of classical music and then write 2 of our own pieces of music (either in 12 bar blues or another genre, classical possibly) ON SIBELIUS 4. THE GUITARS SOUNDED LIKE THEY WERE BEING MASSACRED. Writing and doing those pieces of music nearly did my head in, especially as I couldn’t read music for shit, so how on earth I got a B overall is a miracle.

My next experience of studying music was when I was in college. This time it was more practical as I was studying Music Performance buuuut…here’s the thing about the college I went to; most of the people who play instruments, or sing, are very pretentious people. They think they’re the next Ed Sheeran, but the metal guitarists were the worst. All they would to was sweep-pick (think that’s the term?), see who could play scales the fastest and just construct very generic riffs just abusing the top two or three strings. Due to one particular guitarist and, frankly, arsehole of a person, I lost the confidence to play guitar. So I began to sing more, which I had thankfully gotten better at, but not being able to feel like I was good enough to play guitar really took the shine out of studying Music Performance.

There wasn’t too much theory this time around, and most of the subjects I quite enjoyed, because they were creative and included a lot of writing. You can see where this is heading, can’t you.

Early in the second year of college I realised I wanted to study Music Journalism. I loved writing, I loved music, and I couldn’t see myself being a performer any time soon, soo…off I send my application to UCAS and WHEY-HEY ya girl had landed a place studying Music Journalism, in Manchester. I’ve already spoken in a previous post about what its like experiencing music in Manchester, so feel free to read that after this post.

As I said at the beginning, I’m now coming to the end of my first year here at uni in Manchester. I have absolutely loved studying Music Journalism so far. My uni is similar to my college in the sense that lessons/lectures feel informal. You’re able to relax, able to have a laugh and have in-depth conversations with tutors. You’re given loads of opportunities to be creative and they do encourage you to write and essentially begin your career as a music journalist. There was one drawback to this first year, and that was also having to attend Music Business lessons. Now, no shade or whatever to people who take Music Business, it’s just these lessons were a down-right waste of time for journalists. They also took place at 9am on a Tuesday so probably less than half the class ever turned up. It was quite funny because the tutor even declared that the lessons weren’t relevant to music journalism, so the few journalists who had turned up- including myself- were just like…so why the hell have we had to attend all these 9am lectures for the entire year.

(I’ve only been to one though this entire last term shh…Not because I can’t be arsed, there’s other reasons such as shitty neighbours I have to put up with)

Despite that, I’ve loved this, and I can’t wait for next year, and the year after, and finally getting a degree. I forced myself to move over 200 miles to do this, because I wanted to, I had to. I’ve had to put up with some shit whilst living here, but I am so determined to do this and to pass my degree. To feel genuinely proud of myself. I’m not sure what I’ll do after graduating, I have a few ideas but for now I’m just focusing on doing as well in this degree as I can.