Dr. Wesley’s interview with hosts O’God and SamAnt was interesting. It was evident that Dr. Wesley was knowledgeable about rap music and its culture.
Did hip hop go from consciousness rap to materialism rap?
Let’s define conscious rap, as stated by Hip Hop Music History. Conscious Rap or sometimes referred to as Political Rap is a style/sub-genre of hip hop characterized by content that addresses social issues and calls for political and/or social action. There is no all-encompassing political hip-hop ideology; rather, there are multiple perspectives that range anywhere from Marxism to the values of the Five Percent Nation.
Keep in mind, Conscious Rap is characterized more by the songs than the artists. Most rappers do not limit themselves to only making “conscious” music. Also, many artists that primarily do not make conscious music may come out with a conscious song. Due to this the label of “conscious rapper” is often rejected by artists. In other words, conscious rap can consist of anti-racism, black liberation, anti-poverty, class struggle, socialism, feminism, religion, police brutality, and other socioeconomic issues.
Common themes in conscious hip hop include Afrocentricity, religion, aversion to crime and violence, culture, the economy, or depictions of the struggles of ordinary people. Some conscious rap seeks to raise awareness of social issues, leaving the listeners to form their own opinions while other styles aggressively advocate for certain ideas and demanding actions.
There are several names and songs that come to mind when I think of conscious rap.
- KRS One – Why Is That? – 1989
- Public Enemy – Fight the Power – 1989
- N.W.W. – F*** Tha Police – 1988
- Tupac – White Manz World – 1996
- Queen Latifah – U.N.I.T.Y. – 1993
- Common – Black America Again – 2016
- Nas – Cops Shot The Kid – 2018
- The Roots – Understand – 2014
- Kendrick Lamar – How Much A Dollar Cost – 2015
- Talib Kweli – 2000 Seasons – 2015
More important note, conscious music did not start with rappers. We can go as far back as “Negro Spirituals” and find songs that spoke to the condition of Blacks. In like manner, Jazz, Blues, and R&B all are relevant, as it relates to the evolution of conscious rap. Some of the singers and their songs helped to shape the consciousness of their generations As well as, ours.
- Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit, 1937
- Nina Simone – Mississippi Goddam – 1964
- James Brown – Say It Loud: I’m Black and I’m Proud – 1968
- Gil Scott – Herron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – 1971
- Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On? – 1971
Each of these music artists has contributed to the consciousness of music regarding Blacks in America. As a black female in America, my understanding of struggle is real. I have been around long enough to see the evolution of rap. After hearing Dr. Wesley, I thought this conversation is necessary.
With that said, let us explore Dr. Wesley’s assumptions. Dr. Wesley shared with hosts O’God and SamAnt of hip hop uncensored. When we look at the current state of rap music, we see major changes. Is conscious rap a thing of the past? Has materialism and sexual overtones taken over rap music and culture?
Of course, we expected rap music to evolve. Like most other genres of music, this is a given. And, it is not surprising that the study of rap music and its culture have become topics in colleges and universities. And that is not a bad thing. Although, the direction rap has taken does not celebrate who we have evolved as black people. Certainly, there are those who will disagree. Surely, we are all entitled to our own opinion.
Although this may be true, gone are the days, when rap was only celebrated by young black youth in the inner cities across America.
Rap music seems to have transformed the lives of many in America. Television commercials, advertisements, styles, and vernacular have all been influenced by rap. You do not have to take my word for it, just turn on your TV. Even, as I speak, rap music is blaring in automobiles. Being viewed via video on YouTube and other social media outlets.
But where are rap music and its culture taking us as black people? Dr. Wesley makes some particularly good points worth pondering. He talks about rap artists such as Lil Kim, Cardi B, and Megan Thee Stallion. The three black female rappers’ characters were molded by music executives. In other words, music executives like Lyor Cohen, Bernie Weiss, and Clive Davis created a persona for each rapper, including Young Thug, Frank Ocean, and Lil Nas X. Of course, there are others, however, Dr. Wesley talked specifically about those names I have mentioned.
After hearing what Dr. Wesley Did rap music take a negative turn? Probably so.
According to an article on Inquiries Journal. com
“After the major labels bought out the smaller independent companies, there was a noticeable shift in the lyrical content of hip-hop. (Hurt, 2006) Whereas, previously the lyrics focused on social, political, and cultural issues, the lyrics now we’re becoming more hyper-violent and hyper-masculine, eventually coming together as a new genre is known as “Gangsta Rap” which rose in popularity and sales while being heavily promoted by the major labels. (Hurt, 2006)”
Dr. Wesley referred to Gangsta rap as “nigga killing nigga rap.” If you really think about it, Gangsta rap has been blamed for some of the crimes in inner cities. While some agree that it was the influence of Gangsta rap that caused an increase in gun violence, it is not the only culprit. The disparities that exist in inner cities such as poverty, lack of quality education, and lack of employment must be considered, as well.
Without going into a lot of detail, Dr. Wesley then talked about the “get the bag slut” persona. Dr. Wesley gave more insight into how music executives deliberately and carefully orchestrated the narrative in rap. Which in turn, shifted rap music in the direction of materialism, sexual and gender fluidity.
Today, almost all rap music has evolved into something some of us do not recognize. On the other hand, does rap music and culture mimic what people believe? Or have people been conditioned to accept the evolution of rap music and culture, in terms of changing their own lives to fit its model? What do you all think?
Check out the video above for more details.