Mixtape Assignment: Drugs and their Increasing Influence on Hip-Hop and the American Youth Over Time

Every genre of music has its trends and themes that come to help define the genre as unique. While some of these have come and gone with the passage of time, there are others that have become immutable within the genre and begin to influence the direction it takes in the future. In the genre of hip-hop, one of the most influential trends on the music, and therefore society as a whole, can be attributed to drugs. The prevalence of drugs in rap lyrics can be ordered into two categories: its use and its distribution. From alcohol or crack, drugs have been in raps almost since the inception of hip-hop. To some this may not mean very much, but to an involved parent this is very alarming. Children and teenagers are quite possibly the most impressionable market in the music industry so they are the most susceptible to imitating the acts of artists they look up to. Throughout this writing, I plan to point out some of the most frequently mentioned drugs in hip-hop from the early 1980s until now, address various drug trends started or sustained by various artists and highlight some of the societal impacts that they had.

When hip-hop began, it was not a widely commercialized market so rappers wrote their lyrics with more substance and positive messages in order to be remembered by their audience. This is why most of the classic examples of early rap songs seem to heed a warning (“The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5 is an archetypal example of this). This is especially due to the fact that hip-hop music began to emerge around the same time that the crack epidemic did in African-American communities. Because of the ill-effects witnessed to people who became addicted to the drug (popularly called “Baseheads” at the time since another name for crack is freebase cocaine), its use was never condoned in hip-hop because of conspiracies regarding the government’s role in introducing crack into African-American neighborhoods.

The use of cocaine and crack has never been accepted in the realm of hip-hop, however, its distribution has become a major theme in the subject matter of today. With many rappers coming from disenfranchised neighborhoods, one way to earn a lot of money quickly was to sell drugs. While this theme has always been in the background, it did not become a substantial trend in hip-hop music until about the mid-1990s, where it was common subject matter in the raps of artists like Nas, Biggie Smalls, various members of the Wu-Tang Clan, Young Jeezy, N.W.A, and many others. Now that hip-hop has become a much more commoditized genre, more and more rappers base much of their subject matter on either selling drugs or buying lavish possessions with their drug money. Below is a music video released within the past year entitled “Move That Dope” by Future. As the name implies, the song is entirely focused on selling cocaine and talking about the expensive things it’s gotten the rapper, such as a Maserati vehicle (which starts at about $120,000).

In hip-hop, appearing as a renegade on the wrong side of the law has been known to boost one’s image greatly. The irony of this is that some rappers who boast this lifestyle, such as Rick Ross, are not speaking from experience so when teens here them talk about selling drugs and desire to do the same, they risk serious federal charges all because of a false image they wanted to emulate.

Two drugs that have always been generally approved of in hip-hop are alcohol and marijuana. This is most likely due to the fact that these two drugs are the least lethal of those mentioned throughout rap. It generally seems that alcohol has been written about from the earliest years of hip-hop’s popularity. Its approval can be attributed to the fact that it’s legal, meaning that there will be little to no negativity regarding it. Marijuana itself has shown a form of growth since its earliest mentions in hip-hop. The quality of weed has increased greatly since hip-hop began and lyrics have begun to reflect this. When listening to “How to Roll a Blunt” by Redman, he never refers to the weed by any particular name. Also, he mentions picking the seeds out of the mix. Nowadays, weed and weed culture has become much more official and regulated so now it’s likely to know the name of what you’re smoking and know that if it has seeds or stems that it’s not very high quality. As seen in Ludacris’ “Blueberry Yum Yum” video, the marijuana is being grown in a greenhouse, demonstrating a much higher control in the process.

Many sources blame the high use among teenagers on the rap industry for the way the drug gets portrayed in such a positive manner. Fortunately, the side effects of marijuana are not very severe and not at all lethal, so the use of this drug amongst the youth is the least distressing.

Though one may hear about marijuana, alcohol, and the various forms of cocaine the most in hip-hop, there are still other drugs that get mentioned. As of late, the trend of abusing prescription drugs has permeated hip-hop culture, more specifically pain relievers. Possibly the most popular of these would be codeine. Codeine (with promethazine) is a sleep-inducing cough syrup that doubles as a pain reliever. Its abuse originated in Houston, Texas, where individuals would mix the drug with Sprite and Jolly Ranchers for flavor then drink the mix recreationally. It then began to spread throughout the rest of the country when it was popularized by Three 6 Mafia and UGK in 2000 with their hit “Sippin’ on Some Syrup”.

However, Codeine is derived from morphine and is an opiate, meaning it is highly addictive, difficult to quit, and comes with severe withdrawal symptoms. Some rappers, like Schoolboy Q, have admitted to struggles with addiction, while others have been seriously injured or killed by the drug. In fact, it’s been determined that one half of the rap duo UGK, Pimp C, died due to an overdose. With the rise in its approval, many rappers made songs praising the drug, while few to none would talk about its dangers; that is until Macklemore released “Otherside” in 2010.

The song actually begins with an interview with the other half of UGK, Bun B, talking about how he’s changed his subject matter regarding the drug since Pimp C’s death. Macklemore goes on to talk about how “violence, drugs, and sex sells” and talks first-hand how his battle with drug addiction almost led him to throw away his potential in the rap industry. While this song is not very popular within hip-hop, it should be an anthem in drug awareness programs for its realistic stance on recreational drug use; educating the youth about the less appealing other side of drugs.

Other than Codeine, the next most popular prescription drugs would be Oxycodone. Also an opioid in nature, Oxycodone is essentially Codeine in pill for except it’s used exclusively for pain. Around the early to mid-2000s, Schoolboy Q named his third studio album Oxymoron, partly because of the irony in being a gangster in order to provide for his daughter, but also because he used to sell Oxycodone. On the album’s 7th track entitled “Prescription/Oxymoron”, the rapper talks about his arduous battle with prescription painkillers in the first half while reflecting on when he stopped selling crack to start selling these same drugs he battled with in the second half.

The drug ecstasy used to only be associated with electronic music and underground rave scenes, but in recent times it’s crossed over into hip-hop. Through this crossover, its name changed to Molly and its formula became a bit modified but, it’s still ecstasy. The reason its named Molly now is because ecstasy is derived from the chemical compound MDMA. Molly is much purer and more potent than ecstasy because it’s MDMA on a molecular level, as opposed to being cut with whatever the dealer sees fit. Molly broke into the hip-hop scene in 2012 mostly due to rapper, Trinidad James. His breakout hit entitled “All Gold Everything” has an iconic line at 1:52, where he exclaims “Popped a Molly, I’m sweating. Woo!”

Since then, Molly has become commonplace in hip-hop music, being solidified later that year by more popular artist Tyga’s song named after the drug. Now, it’s become widely popular among college students, who commonly take it before a concert to heighten the experience. The danger of Molly is that it severely dehydrates anyone who takes it. When it just started to circulate, many were not aware of this so they would take it before a concert (an already hot place that is sure to cause much sweating) and pass out later in the night because they failed to keep hydrated.

While, much less popular than these other drugs due to its scarcity, acid has also found its way into the rap industry. In 2013, Chicago-based artist, Chance the Rapper, released a mixtape entitled Acid Rap. In the past, he’d made it clear that LSD had a favorable impact on his life so for this project, he apparently recorded a good portion of the tape while tripping. “[There] was a lot of acid involved in Acid Rap. I mean, it wasn’t too much –I’d say it was about 30 to 40 percent acid…” The interviewer later asked Chance how his particular rap style (or “flow”) has developed over the years. He remarked “I used to sound just like Kanye when I rapped because that was all I listened to. I went through my Kanye phase, went through my Eminem phase, my Lil Wayne phase, my Andre [3000] phase. I listened to a lot of different music, and when you listen to something, it’s not really a choice of yours on whether the influence will come through – it’s inevitable”. Even an artist of the genre recognizes how, not just hip-hop but, music in general has a very persuasive nature. This poses the question: if every artist were made aware of the incredibly influential nature of their music, would they be more careful about their subject matter for the kids’ sake?

The wide appeal ingrained in hip-hop is quite possibly its greatest and most dangerous feature. With the memorable vocals, and amazing instrumentals that it produces, it would be near impossible to find a person that doesn’t appreciate at least one hip-hop. In addition to the actual music, the extravagance displayed by some of the artists in public and in their videos makes the culture as a whole a near hypnotic display. Unfortunately, this inherent appeal makes hip-hop a popular genre amongst impressionable adolescents. When they hear their role models talking about drugs in a positive manner, it’s only a matter of time before they’ll get curious and want to experiment with such drugs for a point of reference. While it is the responsibility of the parents, and not the rappers, to ensure that their children are listening to age-appropriate music, in this day and age a parent can only do so much. Information has such a ubiquitous nature nowadays that children could get exposed to any topic, regardless of the filters set in place by guardians and caretakers. Moving forward, one way to better assure that the youth will make smart decisions about drugs, despite any song lyric, would be to educate them earlier about drug awareness and the consequences of use so that they may make have a quasi-point of reference without first-hand experience.

Tracklist:

Monster Crack by Kool Moe Dee

Dopeman by N.W.A

Gin & Juice by Snoop Dogg

I Wanna Get High by Cypress Hill

How to Roll a Blunt by Redman

Ten Crack Commandments by Biggie Smalls

Drug Ballad by Eminem

Sippin’ on Syrup by Three 6 Mafia feat. UGK

Blueberry Yum Yum by Ludacris

Otherside by Macklemore

Molly by Tyga feat. Wiz Khalifa & Mally Mall

Prescription/Oxymoron by Schoolboy Q

 

Works Consulted

  • http://www.drugs.com/mtm/codeine-and-promethazine.html
  • http://www.drugs.com/search.php?searchterm=oxycodone
  • http://www.mtv.com/news/1707187/chance-the-rapper-acid-rap-mixtape/
  • http://radio.com/2013/03/20/the-truth-about-lil-wayne-sizzurp-and-seizures/
  • http://www.mtv.com/news/1698675/trinidad-james-molly-drug-hip-hop/
  • http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=b7e7e1bc-d8db-4ccb-b951-ea4d2e0e0901%40sessionmgr113&vid=2&hid=125

Bonus:

  • This is a chart depicting rates of various drug trends throughout rap on a yearly basis. I found it interesting and relevant to the topic
    • http://goodmusicallday.com/music/drug-references-in-music-over-time/

Gospel too Secular?: The Changing Gospel Aesthetic

By: Jessica Hamilton, 0106

In early gospel practices, gospel music was virtually rejected and scorned by all black denominations, except Pentecostals, because of the delivery style being “closely paralleled to black secular musics” (Burnim). So, it is nothing new that gospel music has always been scorned in some way for sounding too secular. These criticisms still exist in the African-American community. The line between gospel music and mainstream secular music has become further blurred in distinguishing what is considered sacred and what is considered secular. The term “gospel” is used loosely in the sense that it can refer to the style of the song rather than the content of the song. Over the past century, gospel music has evolved into a hybrid between the sacred and secular space. These blurred lines can attract a younger crowd while simultaneously deterring the older, more traditional gospel consumers from the style of music. Drawing from contemporary gospel artists like Kirk Franklin, Mary Mary and Tye Tribbett, the criticism surrounding gospel music, and scholarly literature about the aesthetics of gospel music, I will argue that contemporary gospel artists have further blurred the lines between secular and gospel music by focusing on the aesthetics rather than the content in order market the genre to a different sector of the African-American community. If this “new” form of gospel music continues to grow and dominate the market, gospel may become endangered by losing credibility amongst current listeners at the risk of trying to reach a new audience. I will demonstrate this stylistic change in gospel music and its content through a progression of songs such as, “Old time Religion” by The Caravans, “I like me” by Kirk Franklin, and “Victory” by Tye Tribbett.

The black gospel music tradition draws heavily upon many different genres, in both sacred and secular spaces like early spirituals, blues, jazz, and recently, Hip Hop, R&B and rap. Some of the basic gospel aesthetics that have been around since the beginning include: call and response, diverse timbres, passionate vocal style, stock phrases, percussive nature, melisma, and inspirational text (Burnim). A traditional song that demonstrates the gospel aesthetic is “Old time Religion” by The Caravans.

This song demonstrates a passionate vocal style and call and response between the lead singer and the women in the background. This song characterizes a lot of early gospel music; however, gospel music has progressed in different stages in the past century. Gospel music has evolved through three different periods. The first period (1900-1929) gospel is seen as “a new sacred music” that gives a sense of hope to the African-American community (Jackson). The second period was the transitional period (1930-1945) which emphasized lead singers and in the final period (1946-present) the gospel aesthetic, the function of the performance, and gospel’s movements into mainstream contexts changed (Jackson).

“Oh Happy Day” by the Edwin Hawkins Singers was one of the first gospel songs to cross the charts into the mainstream sector in late 1960’s (Brown). This song, originally a hymn, was remade and became a hit. At this point, once artists saw the possibilities of crossing the charts, they began to mold and change the traditional gospel aesthetic to make it more contemporary and performance based. While most of the text and themes of gospel music are drawn from the Christian values and beliefs, today’s gospel music has taken a different approach to reach the mainstream audience by balancing the line between sacred and secular.

Kirk Franklin has been criticized in the African-American community for crossing the lines between being a sacred artist and secular artist even though his music is characterized as gospel (Daniels). Kirk Franklin can kind of be seen as the “hype man” of gospel music. His role is to lead the choir, rap in some cases, or speak parts but he isn’t the typical gospel artist who sings songs. Kirk Franklin operates at two different ends of the gospel spectrum. On one end, he has traditional or contemporary gospel songs that “fit” the gospel sound and on the other end he is dipping his toes into the secular world. For example, “Why we sing” can be seen as a standard gospel sound. In this song Kirk Franklin and his choir initiate a call and response pattern throughout the song. There are also stock phrases, a passionate vocal style and the text coincides with Christian ideals.

In contrast, his song “I like me” operates at the opposite end of the gospel spectrum. In this song, Kirk Franklin is talking about his imperfections and how he still likes himself because God likes him. While the lyrics are somewhat inspirational, this song is more focused on appealing to a secular audience than it is to uplift people. Also, when you listen to this song, you can’t help but think of Lil Mama’s song “Lip Gloss” which has a very similar beat. Even though Lil Mama’s song came later, this beat represents Hip Hop aesthetics. Franklin’s song “I like Me” sounding like “Lip Gloss” by Lil Mama and other Hip Hop songs demonstrates his lack of balance between the sacred and secular space. This is causing him to lose fan base from people who prefer his “true gospel” sound because he allowing the aesthetics of another genre be the forefront of his music.


Mary Mary, a sister duo in gospel, has also been criticized for some of their newer music sounding more secular than gospel (Essence Magazine). One of their recent songs “God in Me” has a heavy Hip Hop and R&B influence. You can clearly tell from the lyrics that the song can be categorized as a gospel song. “It’s the God in me,” is the response to every scenario they are describing throughout the song. However, while the content of the song is clear, the aesthetics of the music has overpowered the message. It’s almost as if they took a hip hop song and put gospel lyrics to it. Yes, the song is considered gospel, but when the song is remixed with Ne-Yo, a secular artist, it becomes questionable whether the song can be truly considered gospel. The song was able to cross the charts because of its hybrid nature, but at the expense of sacrificing the gospel aesthetic.

This song is also fully charged with auto-tune in the chorus of the song which can be heard from 00:45-01:10. You can hear bits of auto-tune underneath the chorus of the song. When you associate a song with auto-tune, you automatically think of T-Pain. “Can’t believe it” by T-Pain is one of his many songs that represent his signature auto-tune sound. Mary Mary’s song is heavily influence from T-Pain’s auto-tune aesthetic, hip hop and R&B influences. All of these secular influences, and even adding a secular artist to the song, complicates the gospel aesthetic and consequently overshadows the gospel content which is supposed to be the forefront of the genre.

Another criticized gospel artist is Tye Tribbett. However, his influences of country, pop and rock n’ roll don’t seem to overshadow the message of his songs. His style and his youthfulness allows him to balance between the younger, older, and the secular crowds all while maintaining a gospel sound and message. One of his songs “I want it all back” is a prime example of the type of approach he brings to gospel.

Looking at his performances, you can definitely tell that he has rock n’ roll influences and represents gospel aesthetics. There is call and response between him and his background singers, intense passion in their voices, it is very percussive, includes stock phrases and contrasts between parts. This performance also demonstrates Burnim’s idea of gospel as “expressive behavior” by his large emphasis on movement, dancing, clapping and shouting. The most important part is Tye Tribbett also focuses on the lyrics equally as he does the performance, if not more. The lyrics clearly reflect Christian values and there is no doubt about the messages of his songs. Even though he still receives criticisms, as he mentioned in an interview, he is adamant on making sure his message is clear (Cummings).

The most important aspect of gospel would have to be the text. If the text doesn’t clearly reflect “the gospel,” Christian values, or inspiration then it will be criticized. Today, the term “gospel” is used loosely which has made it hard to characterize what a “true gospel” song is. While no one can define what true gospel is because its complicated aesthetics, it is important that traditional gospel aesthetics be the foundation for upcoming gospel songs. If artists like Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary, continue to complicate the line between sacred and secular by focusing on appealing to the secular aesthetics rather than the content of gospel music, it can endanger the gospel genre as a whole. It is not a bad thing for gospel artists to have secular influences in their work, as long as the content is not compromised. Because of its complexity, the genre is in danger of losing its current fan base in order to cross the charts. So it is important for gospel artists to make sure they are aware of the line between sacred and secular when they are producing a new gospel music.

Mixtape Playlist
1. “Old Time Religion” (1954) by The Caravans
2. “Oh Happy Day” (1969) by The Edwin Hawkins Singers
3. “Why we Sing” (2003) by Kirk Franklin
4. “I like me” (2007) by Kirk Franklin
5. “Lip Gloss” (2008) by Lil Mama
6. “God in Me” (2008) by Mary Mary
7. “Can’t Believe it” (2008) by T-Pain
8. “I want it all back” (2006) by Tye Tribbett

Works Cited
Brown, Emma. “Walter Hawkins, Grammy Award-winning Gospel Artist, Dies at 61.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 14 July 2010. Web. 16 May 2014.

Cummings, Tony. “Tye Tribbett & G A: The Award-winning Gospel Hitmakers Claim Victory.” – Tye Tribbett. Cross Rhythms, n.d. Web. 16 May 2014.

Daniels, Antonio. “Bridging the Gap between Sacred and Secular: Kirk Franklin’s Prominence – Soul Train.” Soul Train RSS. N.p., 16 Nov. 2012. Web. 16 May 2014.

“Mary Mary on Controversy Over Their Single ‘God in Me’ and Baby News.” Essence.com. N.p., 14 Oct. 2009. Web. 16 May 2014.

Jackson, J M. “The Changing Nature of Gospel Music: a Southern Case Study.” African American Review. 29.2 (1995): 185. Print.

Burnim, Mellonee V. “The Black Gospel Music Tradition: A Complex of Ideology, Aesthetic, and Behavior.” Irene V. Jackson, ed., More Than Dancing: Essays on Afro-AmericanMusic and Musicians. (1985): Print.

Final Mixtape: Sexual Themes in Hip Hop

Daniel Morris

Throughout time sexuality has always been a sensitive subject. Initially, we think of sexuality as a subject preferably talked about behind closed doors, but in reality sexuality is all around us at all times. Stories and rules on sexuality have been around since the dawn of time, and with each newfound form of media, discussion of sexuality spreads. From art and books to television and music, media constantly tests, retests, and pushes the boundaries of what is acceptable and what is not in the area of sexuality. It is only fitting that such a controversial subject has been tackled so heavily by one of the most controversial genres, hip hop. Over the past three decades hip hop has constantly crossed the line of current sexual boundaries, not necessarily in the genre’s best interest. Over time themes in hip hop have become increasingly sexualized. More and more songs and even whole albums contain lyrics which include more vulgar words and phrases and sexual content. Music videos show women with less and less clothing and imagery just shy of being considered pornographic. Some artists, such as 2 Live Crew, Lil Wayne, Eazy-E, and others, are known for sexual content, but the genre as a whole has increased sexual themes, as well. These sexualized themes reinforce negative stereotypes of the over sexualized African-American which were first seen in minstrel shows. These themes give new life to the idea of black minstrelsy and the prejudice and negative consequences that it entails.

Rap began its rise to popularity in the late 70s and early 80s. Once comfortable in the spotlight, artists began not only pushing the boundaries of acceptable sexual content but crossing lines altogether. The first overly profane group was known as the 2 Live Crew. They were the innovators of the absurdly sexual lyrics. They began in the 1980’s, releasing three studio albums. Their third album saw one of the dirtiest songs ever written, “Me So Horny”. This 1989 song raises the bar for what can be said in a hip hop song. Before 2 Live Crew, artists use to make subtle references to sexual content or use analogies for sexual imagery. 2 Live Crew employs the direct approach. They use vulgar language never heard before in hip hop as well as lyrics pertaining to the objectification of women. Additionally, the music video shows dozens of women in scandalous outfits, or at least outfits deemed scandalous in the 80s, dancing and stripping while the Crew sits and watches. 2 Live Crew reawakened the stereotype of the over-sexualized black male. They were viewed to only think about sex and loose women, the new-age version of the minstrel stereotype.

Through the 1980’s 2 Live Crew was the only group with blatant sexual themes to see mainstream success. They continued to have success with their 1991 hit, “Pop that P****”. Again 2 Live Crew expresses the stereotype of the over-sexualized black man and once again the video shows women dressed in lingerie and bikinis dancing and stripping around a pool. The men continue to rap about woman as if they are objects or pieces of meat and the entire song pertains to sex. But interestingly, 2 Live Crew was no longer alone in the world of sexually explicit lyrics. As hip hop’s popularity continued to rise and as 2 Live Crew gained more commercial success, other artists followed suit. Rapper Eazy E, also associated with rap group N.W.A., released his 1993 album, Its On (Dr Dre) 187um Killa, with the song “Gimme That Nut”. The song’s lyrics contain no subtle analogies about sex. Once again we see the direct approach used. Eazy E simply describes his methods and reasoning behind his sexual encounters. His song makes the audience think that the most important thing to Eazy is sex, which in the song he says “Always f***in is the life for me.” His emphasis on having sex reiterates the misconception of the old minstrel stereotype. Eazy E was not the only new artist to hit the controversial scene. Too $hort hit it big with his single “B***job Betty” in 1993. Recurring themes of objectifying women and obsession over lyrics pertaining not only to sexual themes, but the act of sex itself seem to be emerging at this time. The song talks about a woman named Betty who would perform sexual acts on Too $hort, only to be killed while performing one of these acts. This shows a progression in the sexual themes in hip hop. Not only are the themes of objectifying women, obsession with sex, and rapping about the actual act prevalent, but now the concept of bragging about sexual exploration and expertise has hit the mainstream. Too $hort not only conformed to the current style of sexual themes, but he expanded it, strengthening the prejudice on black men being overly-sexual.

As the world ventured into a new millennium, the rap game entered a new age too. Between 2000 and 2005 more and more artists began incorporating sexual themes in their songs and albums, but in a slightly new way. Rather than solely using the direct approach, which gained some commercial success but had a limited audience due to its language and blatant sexual content, rappers began writing lyrics with a mix of direct and indirect sexual references. This mix of direct and indirect messages allowed artists to gain wider play on radio and therefore gain a larger audience , though some songs had to be edited slightly for radio play. Artists like Nelly, 50 Cent, and the Ying Yang twins began using more and more sexual innuendos to gain more air time while containing even more sexual content than songs seen in the 1990s. Nelly released his song “Hot in Herre” in 2002. The song itself is less than subtle with lyrics like “Good gracious, a** bodacious” and “Its getting hot in herre, so take off all your clothes,” but without strong language it could be played on the radio and on TV with little editing. Once again we see the stereotypical imagery of half-naked women dancing and stripping, but his video takes it even farther. At the end of the video, fire sprinklers go off spraying water over all of the women in the video to which they react in an excited way, an indirect but not unnoticed sexual reference. The Ying Yang Twins’ 2003 hit “Salt Shaker” had a similar approach. They have explicit lyrics such as “She leakin, she’s soakin wet” but they also use analogies like “Shake it like a salt shaker”. Even their video contains girls similar to Nelly’s. They are all dressed in small bikinis, dancing for the men, and somehow being wet from head to toe. 50 Cent implored innuendos more than the other two artists combined in his song “Candy Shop” from 2005. He used no foul language or any blatant references to sex, he simply used analogies and other indirect ways to get his extremely sexual message across. His video still contained erotic imagery and objectification of women, as the video is based in what seems like a brothel called The Candy Shop, but the lyrics were more subtle. The most interesting part of the early 2000s was the emergence of female hip hop artists venturing into the absurdly sexual themes. Before, it had been rare for female rappers to go as far as the men did using sexual lyrics. Artists like Salt n Pepa and Lil Kim paved the way for others, but artists like Kalis, Khia, and Tweet took the game to a whole other level. The dirtiest of which is Khia’s “My Neck, My Back”. She reverts back to the 90’s direct approach and explicitly instructs her partner on what to do.  Her video even reverses the gender roles from the previous three. Instead of lots of women dancing for a few men, there are lots of men pampering and dancing around her. Hip hop in the early 2000s not only pushed the limit for sexual content, but it made sexual themes more widespread throughout the entire genre. It strengthened the overly sexual stereotypes held about black men even more, but now even black women were considered part of age-old prejudice.

Over the past three decades, sex has become more prevalent in our society. Everywhere we look there is sex. Hip hop is not different. Sex is all over hip hop today. While seeing its most commercial success to date, also has reached a new high for sexual content. It seems impossible to find a hip hop song made after 2005 that doesn’t contain sexual themes. And although hip hop constantly changes with society, changes have consequences. For hip hop, a genre dominated by black Americans, the abundance of sexual themes brings about negative prejudices that have existed since minstrelsy. Even in today’s society, prejudice and racism still exist. Unfortunately for hip hop, exploring the new world of the sexually explicit comes with the reemergence of the over-sexual stereotype.

 

Works Cited:

2 Live Crew- Me So Horny (Uncensored). 2 Live Crew. 1989. Youtube. Web. 16 May 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6VTj7LhCtE>

2 LIVE CREW- Pop That Pussy. 2 Live Crew. 1991. Youtube. Web. 16 May 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIX5bo8MOxQ>

Eazy E- Gimme That Nut (lyrics). Eazy E. 1993. Youtube. Web. 16 May 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4iqcRHXMpE>

Too Short- Blow Job Betty (with lyrics). Too $hort. 1993. Youtube. Web. 16 May 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Go9SVX0bPJU>

Nelly- Hot In Herre. Nelly. 2002. Youtube. Web. 16 May 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GeZZr_p6vB8>

Ying Yang Twins-Salt Shaker (feat. Lil John and the East Side Boys). Ying Yang Twins. 2003. Youtube. Web. 16 May 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJEzl31zL-I>

50 Cent feat. Olivia- Candy Shop. 50 Cent. 2005. Youtube. Web. 16 May 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRcnnId15BA>

Khia – My Neck My Back (Lick It). Perf. Khia. 2002. Youtube. Web. 16 May 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMCMlNyySvo>.

 

 

THe Art of Sampling in Hip-Hop (90s to Present)

J.R. Quarles

 

The definition of sampling is defined as “is the act of taking a portion, or sample, of one sound recording and reusing it as an instrument or a sound recording in a different song or piece.” (Wikipedia) Hip-Hop/Rap is one the newest music genres to come from the United States. The tool known as sampling is the process of taking piece of a piece of music and using it in another form in another piece of music. The process of sampling has been around longer than hip-hop. It’s become such a staple that songs can be sampled and we would have no idea.

In the 1950’s and 60’s, when copyright laws were more relaxed, sampling was used constantly. The art of sampling that we now see as an art form, at the time was seen more as a crime. Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, and even Chuck Berry are some of the pioneers as artists who “stole” a segment of a song and reused for their own gain.

The term sampling as an art form has been around since hip-hop’s conception.. The art of sampling in hip-hop is multigenre which means that the music used can span any other genre. Gospel, Rock, R&B, Soul, and even Ethnic music are just some of the genres that samples come from. My mixtape would show the evolution of sampling as a tool and as art form itself.

Since the inception of the hip-hop producer, sampling has been used a not only a style of production but also tributes to artists. Producers such as J-Dilla, Pete Rock and even Kanye West are famous for it and have made their careers off of the style. Although hip-hop is still considered a very young art form, the production style of sampling is much older than we believe that it is. This playlist will identify some songs that include samples and will try to point what aspect of the sample are used in the newer song.

The first song on my mixtape is Nas’ Get Down of his God’s Son album from 2002. The sample is from James Brown’s “Paid the Cost to be the Boss.” From his soundtrack for the Black Caesar film in 1973. The first four instrumental bars from Get Down are the exact same four bars from the James Brown piece. Get Down also uses a vocal sample of Brown’s voice saying, “Get Down” which basically signals Nas to begin his verse. A horn sample is also used before the vocal sample due to the fact the song itself doesn’t have a lyrical chorus. So the vocal and the horn sample create a chorus so words aren’t essentially needed to let the listener know that another verse is about to start. The entire instrumental for Get Down is a four bar loop composed from the backbeat of “The Boss”. The instrumental sample itself isn’t the main focus of the song.

The next song pairing on my mixtape is Herbie Hancock’s Jessica taken off of his Fat Albert Rotunda album from 1969. This song is sampled by Mobb Deep’s 1995 hit Shook One pt. 2 off of their Infamous album which released in April that same year. The sample, which you can clearly hear in the first 5 seconds, is a simple piano roll. It’s one of the more basic sample configurations on the mixtape but also one of the most iconic and recognizable by hip-hop lovers. There is no major change in the instrumentation of the Mobb Deep record; the pitch is lowered a little bit and the drums were added to give the sample some substance. There actual three different samples used in this song; “Kitty with the Bent Frame” by Quincy Jones, “Jessica” by Herbie Hancock as mentioned before, and “Dirty Feet” by the Daly Wilson Big Band which were used for the drums.

The two songs following the Mobb Deep songs are Bobby Caldwell’s “Open your Eyes” which hip-hop producer J-Dilla sampled to create Common’s “The Light”. The first chorus is the exact same chorus that is used on the Common song. The backbeat is loop simultaneously to create what essentially an instrumental extension. There are few other instruments added to the songs; turntable scratch samples and drums are the most present. The end of the song uses a chopping of Bobby Caldwell’s vocal by a turntable.

Kanye West samples the legendary Curtis Mayfield for his Late Registration album which was released in 2006. West uses Mayfield’s song “Move on Up” from his 1970 debut album Curtis. The entire instrumental in the beginning of Move on Up is the main instrumental of West’s “Touch the Sky”. The sample is chopped in a way to give space for the drums and makes the songs easier to write verses to. The live congas are the main drums that are present on the song but they are used more as a backbeat than being the main focus on the song.

MY last set of songs are from an artist by the name of Big KRIT; a rapper from Mississippi. On his 2013 mixtape King Remembered in Time, KRIT samples Billy Paul’s “I See the Light” for the production of his song, “Shine On.” “I See the Light”, which comes from Billy Paul’s album War of the Gods from 1973, is combination of soul and funk. Paul is most famous for his hit “Mr. and Mrs. Jones” which released in 1972. The first chorus in I see the Light provides with the intro to Shine On. Paul vocal samples are spread throughout the song especially Paul’s wailing sample that is the main part of KRIT’s instrumental. The background vocals for both Paul’s and KRIT’s song are the same, negating KRIT to have to use any actual people for the chorus.

As much as an achievement as the technique has become, there have also been some problems with the style. For example, Kanye West at one point was being sued for his unauthorized use of a sample on his 2013 album Yeezus. He was being sued for copyright infringement which is the act of using someone’s’ work without get clearance from the management of the original artist. It’s unfortunate but happens more often than we think. Philadelphia rapper Mac Miller was accused of the same infringement just a couple earlier for his mixtape KIDS.

There many ways to sample songs and throughout the past couple of years, the technology has changed immensely. The technology has gone from the keyboard sampler such as the Yamaha Casio VS-200 to the MPC 2500 and now the MPC Renaissance. Sampling has not only become a type of production tool, but also a production style as well. As mentioned before, there are some producers who have made their entire off of the technique of sampling; J-Dilla, Madlib, and 9th Wonder for example.

The Black Gospel Sound Revamped

By  Jamal Gross

Section 0107

Less is not more. The core of the coined phrase “Less is more” alludes to the fact that less of a substance is easier to analyze than “more” of it. However, when one is prepared to put time and effort into an analysis of a subject, “more” always leaves the audience with a greater take away. Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) and Gospel music of the modern age are musically “more” than their predecessors but the audience enjoys participating in it just the same. Between the complexity and chaos of modern Gospel music, lies an inescapable simplicity that compels the average listener to tap their feet. It is ideal to analyze this part of music to gain a better understanding of where Gospel music is headed. Compared to the Gospel music of the 21st century, older Gospel music is easier to play, sing and compose. The Gospel music of the 21st century is a jamboree of eclectic sounds and rhythms strategically placed in a way that fills up musical space like never before in the history of Gospel music. Drawing from the songs How I Got Over by Mahalia Jackson, Overture and You Are Here by James Fortune, I Feel Your Spirit by Sheri Jones Moffett, No Music by Mali Music and Saved by Grace by Israel Houghton and a host of other songs, I will argue that modern Gospel and CCM musicians create music that fills up more musical space via harmony, instrumentation and rhythmic complexity in order to convey a change in religious culture.
Historical Background
Before I dive into the complexity of modern CCM and Gospel, it is crucial that I give a general overview of the gospel music of the early 19th and 20th centuries. In order to best understand the Gospel music of this time, it is important to understand the purpose of Gospel music to its audience. During the 19th century, Gospel music gave hope to the Black community in a segregated world and made room for members of the Black community to express themselves freely.

Additionally, music served as a means of working efficiently for slaves. Some slaves joined together in songs to not only weather the physical labor but to also synchronize their movements allowing for a more efficient work experience. Lawrence Levine is an expert on the African Diaspora who writes “They [slave spirituals] were not sung solely or even primarily in churches in churches or praise houses but were used as rowing songs, field songs, work songs, and social songs.” In his book Black Culture and Black Consciousness.
As the religious music of the Black community continued to evolve in the mid-20th century, it no longer needed to serve as music for efficient working. Because the main issues in the Black Community revolved around civil rights, people would sing gospel music to weather hardships being experienced through a prejudice society. An example of this can be seen in the song How I Got Over sung by Gospel music legend Mahalia Jackson

“The divergent outlooks that encompassed gospel signal two important developments: the intrusion of commerce in daily life and the ways that intrusion influenced race and religion.” (Jackson 131)

Argument

The harmony of modern gospel music via instrumentation and vocals is more complex than its predecessors. Historically, Gospel harmony primarily came from large choirs featuring the important S.A.T.B. sections. This is illustrated in the following link featuring Mahalia Jackson and supporting choir.

Although this piece does feature some harmony primarily between the baritone and tenor sections, it is not as complex and involved as a lot of harmonious patterns today. An example of this can be seen in Tye Tribbett’s Chasing After You

towards the end, Tye Tribbett layers the vocals of his group in contrast with the instrumentation to fill out more complex chords. He utilizes a lot of subdominant (also known as the IV) and sus2 chords.

The instrumentation of modern gospel music utilizes more studio engineering and diverse instrumentation than Gospel of the 20th and 19th centuries. According to Billboard.com, Tye Tribett, Israel Houghton and Mali Music are among the top selling Gospel artist of today. All of the above heavily rely upon electronic sounds in their music. An example of great studio engineering paired with sounds from a synthesizer and keyboard can be seen in Israel Houghton’s Saved By Grace

Modern gospel music allows for every instrument in the rhythm section to explore diverse rhythms in its respective right; the final result produces more rhythmic complexity than the gospel of old. An example of this can be seen in the song The Overture by James fortune and FIYA.

The overall complexity of this piece is dumbfounding but simply attempting to understand the rhythm alone is a daring task. Rhythmically, this 45 second jamboree of awesomeness takes poly rhythm and diverse timbers to an extreme. Although the piece starts off with a soft simple meter undertone, it quickly intensifies. Between several keyboards, guitars, bass, drums and various electronically engineered sounds, the song experiments with complicated rhythms in a 4/4 time. By the end of the piece, the keyboardist is quickly moving between notes (performing “runs”) at an accelerated rate while the rest of the band accents beats in an unorthodoxed way. Although the music is a bit unconventional, an untrained musician can appreciate its beauty. Another example of diverse rythms can be heard in I Feel Your Spirit by Sheri Jones Moffett.

Although this is gospel, the diverse timbres that are played in this song come directly out of the New Orleans Jazz tradition. Historically, New Orleans Jazz music is noted for its diverse timbres.
The afore mentioned musical differences occur as a result of a major change in religious culture. Modern musicians and praisers alike want the music of today’s time to reflect the atmosphere of the 21st century as it relates to being young and Christian rather than the atmosphere during the civil rights era. Moreover, since the late 90’s, younger musicians have preferred a Gospel sound that has more secular influences. Artists such as Kirk Fanklin, Donnie Mcklerkin and a host of others, pioneered this new sound. Gospel export and author Jerma Jackson writes “In the 1990s a new generation made gospel its own. Singers such as Yolanda Adams and Kirk Franklin infused gospel conventions with elements from jazz, hip-hop, and rhythm and blues. Their recordings reached the top of the charts, and their live performances packed huge auditoriums, bringing resurgence to gospel as young people found their sound a refreshing alternative to the decidedly secular tone of hip-hop.” Because the conservative traditional gospel sound does not appeal to a younger audience, many modern musicians (a lot of which are young) alter the traditional sound to appeal to a younger audience. An example of a direct alteration that serves as a respectful appropriation can be seen in Mali Music’s No Music
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8cSCufIYdo
In this song, the lead singer discusses the gospel of old and its authentic rhythmic roots. The title No Music is in reference to the piece not requiring any instrumentation outside of rhythm section and vocals.

The traditional sound featuring a lead singer, Hammond B3 Organ/Upright Piano, Drums and a choir dominated the majority of the 20th century. Whether spiritual or hymn, this iconic sound made room for the Black community to worship, praise and transcend the cultural hardships of the time. A newer model features a lead individual that could be singing or simply furthering the worship experience (similar to the class definition of an MC), keyboard, drums, backup vocals (choir or small ensemble), bass, guitar and other various instruments. Although this model is more than reverent to the spirituals that birthed it, it recognizes that the younger generation of Gospel isn’t as interested in the traditional sound. But, this new generation is passionate about revamping the sounds that is often paired with the Black community. Horace Boyer, one of the foremost Scholars of Gospel Music, states “gospel music is the unifying element of Black students all over the [college] campuses of the United States. Gospel choirs began on college campuses to provide some continuity between the black church and the academic life, but students found that they liked it and wanted to perpetuate its existence.”
In conclusion, the change in the religious culture emulates from a transition from older worshipers to younger and the desire for these younger worshipers to incorporate secular sounds.
Track List
1. Good Lord (Run Old Jeremiah)
2. How I got over by Mahalia Jackson
3. The Upper Room by Mahalia Jackson
4. Chasing After You by Tye Tribbett
5. Saved By Grace by Israel Houghton & New Breed
6. The Overture by James Fortune
7. I feel Your Spirit by Sheri Jones Moffett
8. No Music by Mali Music

Works Cited

Jackson, Jerma A. Singing in My Soul: Black Gospel Music in a Secular Age. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004. Internet resource.

Darden, Bob. People Get Ready!: A New History of Black Gospel Music. New York: Continuum, 2004. Print.

Levine, Lawrence W. Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-american Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977. Print.

 

Hip-Hop’s Adoption of EDM Elements

by Zachary Wasli

            African-American hip-hop has seen an explosion in cross-cultural terms in the 2000 and 2010. This can largely be attributed to a change in pop culture and the decline of rock, but it is also very connected to the genre blending that is building the sub-genre of alternative hip-hop. There is no more apparent or successful collaboration of cultures than African-American rapper’s late 2000s and early 2010s adoption of EDM (electronic dance music) into their mainstream channels. This congregation is not only groundbreaking for hip-hop itself, but it also shows how these hybrid songs are changing the culture of both styles of music and those who enjoy them.

I am convinced that this stylistic change in hip-hop is important for several reasons. The first being the racial cooperation seen in rap/EDM compilations, which feature primarily white DJs and African-American rappers. This cross-cultural pollenization is extremely relevant in societal terms. The twentieth century has seen much black and white collaboration, but this may be the most polarizing mix of genres yet. The second reason rap incorporating EDM is important is the now altered structure of hip-hip, which has expanded its horizons from beats to synthesizers, wobble bass and much more. This expansion of what was thought possible in rap music is currently revitalizing the genre and inspiring new artists, both rappers and DJs alike.

While there may be obscure examples of rappers incorporating EDM elements into their music in the past, I am going to focus on the most culturally relevant and mainstream examples to prove the point that this genre blending is representative of a greater stylistic change.

The stereotype-shattering albums of Kayne West cannot be overlooked in the evolution between rap and EDM. For many hip-hop listeners, Kanye West’s 2007 song Stronger was the first major example of African-American rap that so heavily borrowed many of its elements from an EDM song.

 

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger by Daft Punk was the inspiration for this song’s beat and chorus, and the French duo authorized West’s use of their creation to produce this track. The robotic voices of Daft Punk in the background and the heavy use of synths throughout the song give a dominantly electronic vibe to the beat that Kayne raps over. Stronger was the perfect starting point for future rappers to broaden their sound and audience as the song was released by the already popular West, as well as sold over 5 million copies and was West’s first successful hit in Britain.[1]

Following the initial success of Stronger, West then produced an entire album featuring the 808 drum music system, which was only utilized by electronic music until this time.  “808s and Heartbreak” most successful song was Heartless, an emotion filled diatribe about a woman who broke his heart.

The flute sounding effects and sharp snare were clearly artificially produced by a computer, giving the song a futuristic feel. In addition, West’s voice both rapping and singing the chorus is auto-tuned, which further adds to the technological elements of the song. Although not the first artist to rely on an overpowering auto-tune effect (T-Pain, Akon), the synergistic effects it had in “808s and Heartbreak” further distanced the album from anything else produced in hip-hop until that point.

The year 2011 brought with it a massive hip-hop collaboration, Watch The Throne, by Jay-Z and Kayne West. It is not surprising that these two rap giants would choose several songs to feature EDM elements, the most notable being Who Gone Stop Me.

 

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This song’s beat is literally an complete sampling of Flux Pavillion’s (a successful EDM artist) song I Can’t Stop, and West and Jay-Z merely rap over the original, thus turning it into an aggressive beat, especially after the “drop” (the climax of many EDM songs, in which there is a tense and quickening build-up, followed by a sudden blast of loud and attention-grabbing sounds). In Who Gone Stop Me there is a similar disconnect to Stronger seen between EDM producers and rappers in which the rappers construct their music, often borrowing from EDM artists work after it is completed, similar to a remix. With the increasing popularity, however, rappers and DJs more frequently work on and release songs together.

2012 saw the release of exactly what was predicted, the featuring of a famous dubstep producer on a rapper’s track. Wild for the Night by A$AP Rocky featuring Skrillex (who is white) was a huge hit.

 

This rap song borrowed most heavily from its EDM influences, sporting incredibly aggressive and high pitched wobble bass. This was also the first time that the EDM producer was mentioned in the song itself, with A$AP even going as far to call Skrillex his “nigga”. This could almost be considered “inclusive” language in the 21st century because of how seemingly bizarre it is for a rapper to work with a skinny white nerd with a weird haircut and be so proud of doing so. Wild for the Night was similar to Who Gone Stop Me in that both songs were somewhat centered around “the drop”, which was not a feature in rap songs until this period.

In 2013, white southern rapper Riff-Raff released a track with just as much, if not more, EDM influence entitled Dolce and Gabbana.

 

The most interesting aspect of this song isn’t necessarily the art itself but rather how it came to be produced. Although commonly known as a rapper, Riff Raff signed with the EDM record label Mad Decent, which is owned by trap artist Diplo.[1] Diplo was instrumental (no pun intended) in manufacturing the “womp-womp” sounds that characterize Dolce and Gabbana. Although Riff Raff is white, his previous cultural affiliations were with hip-hop and the predominantly African-American rap industry. His record deal with Mad Decent displayed that some in the EDM industry were as eager to incorporate rap elements into their music as rappers were with borrowing their face-melting beats.



Also in 2013, Eminem (widely regarded as one of the best rappers of all time) released the single Rap God, in which he raps ridiculously fast over futuristic beats with an electronic production.

 

Eminem’s incorporation of EDM is important because while many of the previously mentioned artists were relatively new to the rap scene, Eminem was a veteran from the 90s with an old school style. Surely if Eminem was utilizing the popularity of electronic elements then others who may have been initially resistant would follow suit.

So far in 2014 there has been several rap songs that utilize EDM beats, the most recent and popular being Future’s Move That Dope.

 

 

This song is best characterized as a “trap” song, not only for its specific style of electronic beat, but also because its lyrics and vibe revolve around the sale of illegal drugs. The harsh beat and background noises present in this song make it the most EDM influenced hip-hop song to date. Except for the words of the rappers (which are actually hard to hear) there is nothing that could categorize this song as hip-hop, even in an alternative sense. In this particular example, Future has put most of his muscial emphasis on a different genre than the one in which he commonly belongs.

As the years have progressed, artists of many genres are using EDM elements in their songs much to their success. The pop/rap hit Dark Horse by Katy Perry and Juciy J is a perfect example of how the “in vogue” status of EDM could bring two such different artists together to make a song that doesn’t quite fit into any genre itself. Hip-hop is not nearly done with its incorporation of EDM just as it isn’t with any other genre it borrows from.

 

Hip-hop’s appropriation of EDM elements in the 21st century is a very important development in the history of the genre. Not only are EDM producers and beats expanding the horizons of what was previously thought possible in rap music, they are working hand in hand with a diametrically opposite culture (and often race), and producing incredibly complex and varying art because of it.

 

Zachary Wasli

 

Track Listing:

Stronger by Kayne West

Heartless by Kayne West

Who Gone Stop Me by Jay-Z and Kanye West

Wild for the Night by A$AP ROCKY and Skrillex

Dolce and Gabbana by Riff Raff

Rap God by Eminem

Move That Dope by Future

Dark Horse by Katy Perry


[1] “Top 40 Singles of the Year 2007”. BBC. MMIX. Retrieved 2007-12-30.

[2] Maness, Carter (May 10, 2012). “Riff Raff Signs To Diplo’s Mad Decent Label”. MTV.

 

Works Cited

A$AP Rocky Feat. Skrillex. Wild for the Night. Wild for the Night Single, 2012. MP3.
Eminem. Rap God. Marshall Mathers II, 2013. MP3.

Future Ft. Pusha-T and Pharrell Williams. Move That Dope. Move That Dope Single, 2014. MP3.

Jay-Z and Kayne West. Who Gone Stop Me. Watch the Throne, 2011. MP3.
Katy Perry Ft. Juicy J. Dark Horse. Dark Horse Single, 2014. MP3.
Kayne West. Heartless. 808s & Heartbreak, 2008. MP3.
Kayne West. Stronger. Graduation, 2007. MP3.

Maness, Carter (May 10, 2012). “Riff Raff Signs To Diplo’s Mad Decent Label”. MTV.

Riff Raff. Dolce and Gabbana. Dolce and Gabbana Single, 2013. MP3.
“Top 40 Singles of the Year 2007”. BBC. MMIX. Retrieved 2007-12-30.

 

The evolution of Hip Hop

When looking back at previous decades at the start of hip-hop around 1970 then looking at today’s 2014 version of hip-hop, I think it is evident to say that hip-hop has transformed throughout the decades. Today’s music topics and themes have undergone the biggest shift as the years have passed by. I will be looking into the transition of hip-hop genre and making note of how hip hop has created a new wave of lyrical meaning.  To demonstrate this monumental change I will be utilizing a mixtape that will show the difference in music from then and now. I will start by showing representations of how hip started with artists such as Kid N’ Play making music you can just simply dance to, and Melle Mel expressing “The Message” about life with Grandmaster Flash on the one’s and two’s which they refer to as the deejays equipment. They also had Doug E. Fresh speaking of “Rising to the Top.” When moving down the timeline of musical history in the 90’s people such as Biggie Smalls, Tupac, and Queen Latifah state their real life situations. This soon led to the music of the 21st century, with artists having more of a gangster representation such as Gucci Mane and Lil Wayne. People over the decades have merely refashioned music.

When hip-hop music first began around the mid 1970s, we could recognize its genre by the its four elements: deejaying, emceeing, Breakin, and graffiti. The music was about positivity and expressing the meaning of life. The most trouble could possibly be seen in the acts of graffiti in public places. But even these were not meant to send a negative message, but instead were innocent tagging of one’s name on a random object. The early years of hip-hop tried to build a culture of music, dance and creativity. Kid ’N Play shows a perfect example of this in their song “Ain’t Gonna Hurt Nobody”. This song makes you want to dance and has an uplifting tone. Even in the video they dance around showing no worries. With the lyrics stating “Aint going hurt nobody/ we just dancing y’all/ ain’t going hurt nobody out there on the floor…” to “If your lookin’ for war step on the dance floor/ Check your coat and troubles at the door.”  Another example of this kind of music is seen in Melle Mel’s “The Message” which was released in 1982 with Grandmaster Flash being the deejay.

In this example you see how Melle Mel writes about the real life situations he deals with on a daily basis. With lyrics such as “Broken glass everywhere, people pissin’ on the stairs, you know they just don’t care/ I can’t take the smell, can’t take the noise/ Got no money to move out, I guess I got no choice.” These lyrics show his current situation and how he wishes he could have a better lifestyle but because of lack of resources he has to deal with what he has. Lastly, Doug E. Fresh shows his contribution to early hip-hop through “Keep Risin’ to the Top” in 1988. He shows expressions of deejaying and emceeing through his music. This can be seen in the following video, with Doug E. Fresh showing people deejaying, and dancing on the dance floor. His music style not only corresponds with early hip-hop but his lyrics do as well. For example he states, “no matter what we’re gonna keep risin’ to the top/ Give it all you got, give it all you got.” which gives a positive message to the audience rather than what we see today as gangster rap.


Before we got to gangster rap we were introduced to music that was created in the 90s. This type of music can be said to set the standards of gangster rapping, and giving current rappers something to keep alive. The artists during this time period had a main focus of getting their message across and impacting those around them. Whether they told a message of living in the hood, having day-to-day troubles, or speaking about the disrespect in the society, these artists just simply kept it real. You can see this in an example of Queen Latifah’s hit single “U.N.I.T.Y.” released in 1994. She decided to speak out on the disrespect of women in the society, addressing the issues of domestic violence, and slurs against women in the hip-hop culture. Listening to her song she is very blunt with her lyrics. One of the first words she states are very self powering, yelling “who you callin’ a Bitch”. Not only is it her first words but also it is repeated throughout the song at the end of every verse, which reinforces her perspective on the topic. Her lyrics may come off as explicit but the message behind the song is really positive. In correspondence Tupac continues this theme in hip-hop with songs such as “Keep Your Head Up”. Within the context of this song Tupac is telling a story of what the current situation around him seems to be. He states, “They got money for wars, but can’t feed the poor/ Say there ain’t no hope for the youth and the truth is it ain’t no hope for the future.” Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G were seen as iconic figures in hip-hop. They gained big crowds and everyone thought the lifestyles they were living was something to take after. In “Juicy” by Biggie Smalls, he makes note that “I’m far from cheap, I smoke skunk with my peeps all day, spread love, it’s the Brooklyn way… considered a fool cause I dropped out of high school stereotypes of a black male misunderstood/ And it’s still all good.” Because these were iconic figures during that time, I believe that people wanted to keep the legacy and make their way in the game talking about the same thing.

 Now in the 21st century, the musical content is the total opposite of what rappers and hip-hop artist started talking about. Instead of rapping about what’s real they are taking the easy way out and rapping about what’s popular and what people want to hear. Rappers such as Gucci Mane make music relating to sex, drugs, money, and fame. The lyrics of the music are the same but today’s rappers are using them to exaggerate about what they have and not to promote positivityor a making a change in these negative factors that are taking place. “Trap House 3” by Gucci Mane for example is a totally different form of hip-hop than what used to be. “I use to trap out all the bandos, abandoned homes with boarded windows, who the f*ck is that creeping in my window, f*ck boys know I keep that extendo.” These lyrics relate well to the main  point of the documentary “Hip Hop beyond the Beats and Rhymes.” This documentary explains how artist have taken the game of spreading a message through music and made it about masculinity, sexism and riches. In the documentary one of the guys being interviewed stated, “The gun is a symbol of what it means to be a real man”. Gucci Mane saying boys know I keep that extendo means people wont bother him because he keeps a gun on him. Not only does Gucci Mane display this in his music but also artist such as Fat Trel, who is fairly new in the music industry. His music comes off as very explicit. In his song “She fell In Love” he degrades women, and talks about getting them in the most disrespectful ways. The creativity in hip-hop has diminished, with artist going into the studio making use of overused samples, with no real message. The phenomenon of hits with no messages can be seen in 2-Chainz song “Crack” released in 2012. He even contradicts himself saying “started from the trap now I rap, no matter where I’m at I got crack.” He’s saying he has moved on from the trap lifestyle, but then says he still has crack.


In conclusion, we can see how hip-hop has changed over the decades. The circuit where young, black, talented emcees could take their talent and make it into something positive for the people has been removed. Now mainstream hip-hop has become repetitive and overrun by commercialism. We no longer see the emcee or deejaying because it has diminished throughout the years. The same thing earlier artists were trying to prevent and remove from the streets is the same thing that is dominating today. Being that most youth and some adults follow what’s popular and trending, this type of music is sure to stick around unless someone decides to make a change.

Track List

Kid N’ Play- Ain’t Goin Hurt Nobody

Grandmaster Flash- The Message

Doug E. Fresh- Keep Risin’ to The Top

Queen Latifah- U.N.I.T.Y

Tupac- Keep your head up

Notorious B.I.G- Juicy

Gucci Mane- Trap House 3

Fat Trel- She Fell In love

2-Chainz- Crack

 

songs cited

“Kid’N Play – Ain’t Gonna Hurt Nobody.” YouTube. YouTube, 09 Dec. 2010. Web. 14 May 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPbnlnFRGB8>.

“The Message – Melle Mel Grand Master Flash Furious Five.” YouTube. YouTube, 15 Jan. 2008. Web. 14 May 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8C1z36XcNMg>.

“Doug E. Fresh And The Get Fresh Crew – Keep Risin’ To The Top (1988).”YouTube. YouTube, 15 Aug. 2012. Web. 14 May 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jatOKPWqCY4>.

“Queen Latifah – U.N.I.T.Y.” YouTube. YouTube, 07 Oct. 2009. Web. 14 May 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8cHxydDb7o>.

“2pac – Keep Your Head Up (Official Video).” YouTube. YouTube, 25 July 2012. Web. 14 May 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fO8pjU781N4>.

“The Notorious B.I.G. – “Juicy”” YouTube. YouTube, 06 Sept. 2011. Web. 14 May 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JZom_gVfuw>.

“Gucci Mane (Feat. Rick Ross) – Trap House 3 [Official Music Video].”YouTube. YouTube, 28 May 2013. Web. 14 May 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKt3DBCIUsY>.

“Fat Trel – She Fell In Love (Official Video).” YouTube. YouTube, 18 Mar. 2014. Web. 14 May 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isl9abHs-nY&oref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Disl9abHs-nY&has_verified=1>.

“Crack – 2 Chainz – Based On A T.R.U. Story.” YouTube. YouTube, 25 Oct. 2012. Web. 14 May 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdTfu48PI7g>.

 

 

works cited

Hurt, Byron, Sabrina S. Gordon, Def Mos, Joe Fat, D Chuck, Jadakiss, Rhymes Busta, Russell Simmons, Michael E. Dyson, and Beverly Guy-Sheftall. Hip-hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes. , 2007. Internet resource.

“The Evolution of Hip-hop: Is It Even Hip-hop? – El Iluminador.” El Iluminador. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 May 2014. <http://www.eliluminador.com/2012/03/07/evolution-of-hip-hop/>.

Mixtape Final Project: Mr. West

 

Alexia Mingo-Smith

Mixtape Project

Music 204 Final Project

Kanye West has become one of the most innovative rappers of our time because he challenges his listeners to think outside of the stereotypical ideals of hip hop music with his clever lyrics, unique style, and exceptional production samples and techniques. When Kanye West emerged into music his style was very foreign to listeners, many people did not understand his style because it was different from other rap artists before him. His innovative consciousness and flow allowed listeners to see hip hop from a new and refreshing point of view. During the early 2000s rappers like 50 Cent, Lil Jon, Chamillionaire, Jim Jones, Lil Wayne, Eminem, and Ludacris were among some of the rappers that dominated the hip hop game. They rapped about subjects like sex, money, partying, and poverty stricken urban areas. The arrival of Kanye West changed this trend and created a place in contemporary hip hop for a cultured, civilized, and sophisticated style of rap. Kanye West is a significant figure in hip hop because he has created a sub-genre within hip hop and has paved the way for many new artists like ASAP Rocky, J-Cole, Frank Ocean, Big Sean, and Drake.

The first song in my mixtape is called “What up Gangsta” by 50 Cent. Before Kanye West emerged on the scene, this is what popular hip hop would sound like during the early 2000’s. In this song, 50 Cent raps about his expertise with guns, drugs, and how he connects with other gangsters. He flaunts his street credibility making listeners aware that he is not someone that will tolerate any form of disrespect. 50 Cent bought “Gangsta Rap” back in style with his street persona and hard lyrics. His music revived the “gangsta” element back to hip hop and this resulted in him becoming one of the most successful rappers at the time.

50 Cent- “What Up Gangsta”

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6RnfuIb1Q8

In an article by Ta-Nehisi Coates, called “Keepin It Unreal” he explains that “Get Rich has been hyped as the most realistic representation of the ghetto since the heyday of Biggie.” (Coates, 2003)  50 cents 2003 album, “Get Rich or Die Trying” was his second studio album vividly describing his life growing up and dealing with adversities living in New York. (Coates, 2003)  Although, 50 Cent was extremely successful with his number one album “Get Rich or Die Tryin”, this “gangsta” style of rapping was not new to listeners, as they have seen this before. “Gangsta” rap was popular during the 1980’s artists such as N.W.A, Public Enemy, Tu-Pac, and The Notorious B.I.G who were all heavy weights artists during the time. They rapped about the struggles of urban street life, gang life, and an African Americans living in poverty.

Kanye West came into hip hop rapping about the exact opposite of all of the “Gangsta” rap artists. He did not rap about street life or living in the poverty ridden areas of the country. Instead, he rapped about the problems that a young middle class African American young male had to deal with. The second song on my mixtape is called “Everything I am” by Kanye West. This song was is from his third studio album, “Graduation” which was released in 2007. In the song “Everything I am”, Kanye was acknowledging that fact that his music and persona was very different from most rap artists. He raps about how people should accept him for who he is even though he was different. He addresses these people when he says,

“Cause they want gun-talk,

or I don’t wear enough,

baggy clothes,

Reeboks,

or A-d-di-os…”

 

Kanye West- “Everything I am”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UeniTE5D18

Kanye West does not dress like the stereotypical rapper, with oversized clothing or ample amounts of “bling”. He appreciates high fashion by well-known designers and incorporates this fashion into his wardrobe. Not only was his fashion unusual but his rapping topics were also uncommon. Later in the song he says,

I know that people wouldn’t usually rap this,

but I got the facts to this, just a year ago,

Chicago had over 600 caskets,

man, killings some wack shit,

oh, I forgot ‘cept when niggas is rapping

Instead of promoting sex and violence, he discredits violence and raps about how it was destroying our communities and wanted listeners to be aware of these tragedies.

Kanye West’s state-of-the-art production skills contributed to his legendary mark on hip hop due to his impressive use of samples in his music. Not only did he sample other hip hop artists, but he samples from a variety of artists from different genres throughout all time periods. (Blackburn, 2008) He sampled the French electronica duo Daft Punk from their song “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.” The original song is very techno- like with quick tempo changes and robotic voices. In Kanye’s song, “Stronger” he gives the robotic voice a hip hop flavor when he puts it on top of heavy bass beat. He speeds up the original tempo, while keeping the electric theme with the constant electro-like beat shifts within the song. His diverse sampling choices make him not only a hip hop rapper, but an artist. This song marked the beginning of his journey into the world of pop music as well.

Daft Punk- “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThFnvjYYtFw

He also sampled a 1937 Etta James song called, “My Funny Valentine”. This song is an older blues tune of her expressing for her love for a man by describing his mesmerizing wit and charm. The song has a very slow tempo with a simple piano and horn complement in the background as she sings. Her tune is very settle and sounds like classic blues.

Etta James- ‘My Funny Valentine”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bt7eqkPXO8A

Kanye West samples James’ original, in his song “Addiction.” The method he used to sample this song was very impressive because he preserved the elegant instrumental background with piano and percussion. He recreates the song with an upbeat tempo including Etta James voice in the chorus. It’s rare that an artist can sample a classic song and still reserve the pureness of the record. The sample shares the original melody paired perfectly with a modern upbeat bass.

Kanye West- “Addiction”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ba-6niOoR_U

Kanye West’s pioneering sampling and creativity has certainly paved the way for newer artists. Rapper J-Cole sampled Wests song “Workout Plan” from his first album the College Dropout. J-Cole used the sample on his song “Work Out”, which is included on my mixtape. The original song has a very upbeat tempo and can be danced to. The original also puts a lot of emphasis on the violin and drums in the background. On J-Cole’s version, he drags the beat out creating a smoother, slower paced song with added bass. Kanye West’s ability to successfully sample a song inspired new rappers to do the same.

J-Cole “Work Out”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PN78PS_QsM

Kanye West also brought back a more cultured theme to the genre by magnifying past and current hardships within the African American community, educating his listeners. This style of conscious rap was popular among East Coast 90s hip hop artists such as Queen Latifah, A Tribe Called Quest, Ab Soul, etc. He does not promote violence instead he provides listeners with food for thought on things he feels they ought to know. In his song, “New Slaves” he makes very direct and bold statements regarding racial adversities in our society today. In the first verse of the song he states,

You see it’s broke nigga racism,

that’s that “Don’t touch anything in the store,

And there’s rich nigga racism,

that’s that come in and buy more

Kanye West- “New Slaves”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dT3swdCJrrg

These are very strong lyrics with a very eye-opening message. He is letting listeners know that although he is rich and famous that he still to face the effects of racism like normal people. Throughout the song, he points out how he believes that African Americans are still being oppressed by white America. On his latest album, “Yeezus” he makes another bold move and samples the famous poem “Strange Fruit” that describes the horrific mistreatment of African Americans throughout history. The poem appears in his song “Blood on the Leaves”, the title to this song is very straightforward and creates a clear visual of the words spoken in the poem. Kanye West’s courage to speak on conversional issue is another attribute that has led to his success.

Billie Holiday- “Strange Fruit”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4ZyuULy9zs

 

Kanye West remains as a key influence on the continuing development of hip hop music today. His diverse use of music production by incorporating a variety of genres has begun to open doors to making hip hop more versatile as a whole. He has shown the world that rappers do not have to be gangsters or come from a rough upbringing in order to gain respect in hip hop. He serves as a significant building block into to creating a new era of music with his unique style and witty lyrics. His raw honesty and devotion to his culture shines through his music and sets him apart from most commercialized rappers. As time goes on, Kanye West will continue to contribute to the evolution of music and the cultivation of hip hop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

  1. Blackburn, H. Drew. “The 15 Greatest Songs Sampled on Kanye West Tracks.” Mostly Junk Food. Mostly Junk Food, LLC, 18 June 2008. Web. 25 Apr. 2014.
  2. Coates, Ta-Nehisi. “Keepin’ It Unreal.” Village Voice. Village Voice, LLC, 3 June 2003. Web. 05 May 2014.
  3. Judli. “50 Cent- What up Gangsta (with lyrics).” Youtube. Youtube, 2003. Web. 13 May 2014.
  4. Trevor Raney. “Everything I am- Kanye West- Graduation (HD)”. Youtube. Youtube, 5 June 2014. Web. 13 May.2014
  5. iMerLyrics. “Daft Punk- Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger Lyrics”. Youtube. Youtube, 11 Feb 2012. Web. 12 May. 2014
  6. MyGreenees. “Etta James- My Funny Valentine”. Youtube. Youtube. 20 June 2008. 13 May. 2014
  7. JulianJeandor. “Addiction-Kanye West”. Youtube. Youtube. 21 Dec 2007. 13 May. 2014
  8. MrViewTube2. “New Slaves-Kanye West”. Youtube. Youtube. 16 June 2013. 13 May. 2014
  9. MonsieurBaudelaire. “Billie Holiday- Strange Fruit”. Youtube. Youtube. 25 Nov 2006. 13 May. 2014
  10. JColeVevo. “JCole- Workout”. Youtube. Youtube. 15 Aug 2011. 13 May. 2014