Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Conscious Hip-Hop

It could be argued that conscious hip-hop is on the rise, and is the most common segment of new rap. It is difficult to listen to a new track in rap that does not present a social or political issue, even if it is a reference. Gangster rap of the previous years seems to be on the decline, being replaced with "more meaningful" music, or conscious hip-hop.

However, despite the general good intentions of conscious rap, there is not an apparent active influence of the music. Conscious artists rap about making changes and doing good, but are they? In my opinion, the new generation of rappers are not from the ghetto who grew up dealing drugs and living  a life in poverty and crime. Therefore, without having such a background, they turn to conscious rap. Thus, these artists arguably do not actually care about these conscious issues, but it is rather a way to sell albums and make money. Generally, we feel better about ourselves listening to conscious hip-hop which references making positive changes than we do when listening to gangster rap about crime. It could be argued that even some of the gangster rappers of the previous years have changed their styles to become more conscious to keep up with the market. This demonstrates that their true motives are questionable; either they want to make a change in the world, or they just want to make more money.

 It is not common that we see these artists who rap about social and political issues in the community actively taking it upon themselves to make the changes they rap about. So the question I present is, does conscious hip-hop actually have an influence in the community, or is it simply a way for such artists to make money?


  1. Obviously, I cannot speak for the entire community, but I would like to think that it makes some sort of difference. However, it may not, unfortunately.

    If I think about how I react to conscious rap, it usually makes me think about the issues they rap about, but I don't think I go out of my way to make any changes because of it. For example, when Macklemore raps about the cough syrup epidemic, I think that it is a problem, but I'm not going out and trying to protest it. Maybe I'm different than other listeners, but I do not think I am.

    I agree with your assertion that conscious rap makes us feel better but I do not think it inspires the listeners to do something about those issues.

    In regards to the rappers writing conscious raps only for money, I would disagree. I do not think the conscious rap industry is as big as you make it out to be. The most popular songs are about partying, having a good time, violence, and drugs. The more socially conscious raps are the songs on albums that do not make it big. For example, in Kanye West's album "The College Dropout," the song "Jesus Walks" was a conscious rap about religion, but I have never heard that song on the radio, or on the Top 100.

  2. I don't believe you have to grow up a gangster in order for you to make a song that can reach the gangster audience. You don't have to be from the hood, to know the problems that take place there you just have to spend enough time there to help you develop a sense of whats going on in those neighborhoods. With this said, I believe conscious rap can make an impact and influence a community. And I disagree with your point about conscious rap becoming more popular. I actually see the opposite. There is a lack of conscious rap in Hip Hop today, with more and more artist like Waka Flacka, Rick Ross, and 2 Chainz becoming more popular. Even some of the potentially conscious rappers are not making conscious songs anymore like Kanye West who is becoming more famous because he is "Balling so hard" with Jay Z. The conscious rappers of today like Childish Gambino, Kendrick Lamar, and a few others are still over looked in the music industry today and their music is not heard all over the world like those of non conscious rappers.

    While some 'conscious rappers' do need to practice what they preach, others rap about things they see that they can't necessarily change their selves. For instance, Talib Kweli raps about prostitution,which is something he has no control over since he is not a pimp or a prostitute. He can only bring up the issue with the hopes that his music falls into the right hands and ears, in order to provoke a change in those types of life styles.

    I think music's impact is more of a mental thing vs. a physical one. Meaning, artist influence and impact communities with their words and not necessarily with their actions. They serve as 'motivational speakers'.

    And to answer your question about money being the motivation for Conscious rap, I would say yes and no. I believe that every song is put out with intentions of gaining some type of profit from it, because that is how artist make their living, but I don't believe it is their main motivation. I say this because, I feel that if artists wanted to make more money, they would be better off rapping about songs that has little lyrical content but a nice beat, rather than songs that are conscious because that is what seems to be selling nowadays.

  3. Personally, I tend to believe that all hip-hop has an impact on the community. Today a majority of the songs are about drugs, violence, sex, and partying. Therefore, Macklemore, in his song "Otherside," links more excessive drug use to the glamorizing of drugs by rappers. While gangster rap may not influence everyone to follow the rappers proposed actions, the songs influence at least a few people. Furthermore, these influences tend to be gradual, in a three step process. (1) People hear the references. (2) The references become engrained in their minds to the point of acceptability. (3) People perform the actions.

    However, if the original post is correct in assessing that "Conscious rap is on the rise, and is the most common segment of new rap," a very debatable assessment which I am not convinced I agree with, but will accept for the purposes of this post, then conscious rap will, in time, impact the community. This impact may be gradual, but as conscious rap becomes the dominant form, the listeners will go through the three step progression, and eventually, some will take action. Naturally, many people will sit back and accept that these events are occurring. However, if one person rises to action, conscious rap has had an impact.

  4. It's extremely difficult to pinpoint an artist's reasons for rapping about what they rap about, and it may be even harder to figure out whether their conscious rap is just a fake facade or not. Ultimately, I would like to think that artists rap about conscious issues because they care, not because of money. I mean, remember, "2pac cares, if don't nobody else cares." I believe the majority of rappers point out injustices, but to actually make a see-able, tangible difference is difficult. The main conscious purpose of the raps is awareness, and I personally think this is enough since there is BOUND to be someone that is moved so much by the song as to do something about the issue (my inner optimist coming out).

    Another potential reason why rappers rap about conscious issues is that it raises reputation. It's a very easy way to differentiate themselves from others by rapping about conscious issues that other rappers don't rap about. I mean, it's much more reputable in higher society to say that you rap about societal issues rather than, you know, having sexual relations with females, obtaining currency, and acquiring illegal substances.

  5. While it's almost impossible to really know the intentions of an artist, I tend to lean toward a more optimistic view of why a hip-hop artist may choose to have music with conscious rap. Like mentioned earlier, the top hip-hop songs today are far from being conscious, and if an artist wanted to produce a song merely to make money, I doubt they would choose the route of conscious rap. Despite conscious hip-hop's moderate success, songs about women, violence, drugs, etc. are much more prominent in the mainstream music industry. I like to think that when an artist does release a song exposing social or economic problems in society, it's an attempt at betterment. Moreover, I agree with Tia on the idea that an artist obviously expects some sort of profit because it's how they make their living, but I doubt it's their primary goal when releasing a conscious rap track.

  6. I totally disagree with your argument. I think that most rap that exists is "conscious" and these rappers can rap about whatever suits them. I think that you defined "conscious" rap too specifically and even incorrectly. Conscious rap can be about the ghetto and experiences in the ghetto; it does not matter what they are speaking about, because conscious rap simply means rap that is "aware" and is "real". Conscious rap is from the heart and can pertain to a variety of subjects.

    Also, conscious rap can have an influence on a group of people, who can relate to the subject matter. I feel that (although I cannot validate this without knowing the artist's intent) rappers are not as greedy as you make them out to be in your argument. Rappers are artists and most of them recognize that.

    All in all, I think we need to stop categorizing rap. Mainstream vs. gangsta vs. conscious vs etc.


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