Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Conscious Storytelling

At the beginning of this class, we talked about how hip-hop artists like Slick Rick often incorporate storytelling in their music. Many artists use this technique simply to entertain their listeners through narrative, but this is not always the case. In the song “Children’s Story,” Slick Rick uses storytelling to address various social problems, thus creating a conscious hip-hop track. In the song, Slick Rick uses the story of a young boy to show how one bad decision can send a person’s life down the wrong path.
In “Children’s Story,” Slick Rick tells the story of a young boy whose life spirals downhill after his friend influences him to start robbing people. Slick Rick describes the boy as “lil’” and “misled,” depicting the boy as a na├»ve and innocent figure. He also explains how the boy can’t stop robbing people and how it is “like he [has] a disease,” thus placing the boy’s bad decisions beyond his power. As the boy’s life escalates out of his control, Slick Rick shows the boy struggle with his conscience. For example, when the kid puts his gun up to a pregnant lady, he realizes that “deep in his heart he knew he was wrong/so he let the lady go and he starts to run on.” Throughout the song, Slick Rick portrays the main character as an innocent boy to make it clear that he is not a bad person but rather “just another case about the wrong path.” Representing the boy in this way helps Slick Rick ultimately deliver his message that just one wrong choice can lead a person’s life in a bad direction.

While sending this message to his listeners, Slick Rick also addresses many social issues such as poverty, burglary, violence, and drugs. Although he doesn’t discuss these issues directly, he weaves them into his storyline and displays them in his narrative. In my opinion, combining storytelling with social issues is an interesting yet successful approach that strays away from most conscious hip-hop. This new approach shows that conscious hip-hop does not always need to be solemn or personal, address real life events, or rally a call to action. Conscious rap comes in various forms and, as demonstrated in this song, can present social issues in creative ways. One of these creative ways is through storytelling, which Slick Rick proves to be an important tool in hip-hop. Storytelling is an easy way for artists to create visuals that can connect to their listeners, and I believe that using this method can be a very effective way to stress the messages and the issues presented in conscious rap.

Here’s one question to think about: What do you think is more effective—Slick Rick’s use of storytelling to present social issues or the traditional approach used in most conscious hip-hop tracks? 


  1. It is very interesting how Slick Rick does portray a message through the use of a story, and I do believe that because children relate to stories, it is very effective. Children are taught lessons through the use of nursery rhymes and fables, most of which are less realistic than Slim Rick's story. The story is quite plausible, as many children in the ghetto are exposed to drugs and guns, which is why I'm not in total agreement with your statement that "conscious hip-hop does not always need to be solemn or personal, address real life events, or rally a call to action." In my opinion, conscious hip hop is a result of real life societal issues. But I do agree that storytelling is a creative way to convey a conscious message, something that Slick Rick does very well.

  2. I believe story telling has an extremely strong effect in rap because a lot of rap doesn't tell a story. Therefore, I believe the method of telling a story, like Slick Rick does in Children's Story (as well as other songs of his), does a good job of making the reader make causal relationships between events. I think it allows the reader to see into the insight and experiences of a narrator, something that raps about getting laid, making money, and being tough don't necessarily give us.


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