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Is Rap Music The New Black Spirituals?


In 2017 millennials are in the middle of a “carefree “lifestyle, troche being creative and shamelessly expressive in the face of oppression while simultaneously battling harmful ways of living such as drugs, more about violence, or any form of negativity. So where does this paradigm leave our favorite rap artists of today?Black culture is constantly denounced for being self-oppressing, being abusive towards women and keeping young black people in a mental prison. With repetitive lyrics such as, “Percocets, Molly, Percocets,” one can’t help but feel this kind of rap has an agenda for pushing the use of drugs and numbing one from their feelings; living a life clouded by the enjoyment of sex, drugs and money. However, decoding rap lyrics without prejudice requires one to truly understand the black community, and how music is the gateway to releasing the negative cycle many African Americans face especially in urban communities.

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Take away the fire instrumentals provided, it’s easier to view rap as mere poetry where the artist expresses his or herself by acknowledging their past and really diving into what their lifestyle was like prior to riches and fame. There is a notion that today’s rap artists are paid to keep their fans ignorant, but this only denounces the community of African-American’s ability to be honest and vulnerable in front of an audience. Black people are critiqued constantly for either being too boisterous and opinionated, or in Kanye’s words “I’m too black, I’m too vocal, I’m too flagrant”. But when it comes down to personal relationships, black men especially are known for not being able to open up because our society has drummed down into their souls being emotional is not “manly” or being “feminine”.

Our youth as well as our elders before us have had to put up emotional barriers and facades for so long and it seems the only outlet to express their true emotions is through music.  Like old “Negro Spirituals” music was the only way to let our souls cry out. During times of slavery African-Americans did not have a political voice, white southerners viewed a singing slave as joyous and content. However, the seemingly “joyous” music of the Negro slave was that of an unhappy people” (Dubois). So who is to say rappers with a similar message as Future have a negative agenda instead of simply expressing what was masked up?

“O Lord, keep me from sinking down,”

and he rebukes the devil of doubt who can whisper:

“Jesus is dead and God’s gone away.”

Yet the soul-hunger is there, the restlessness of the savage, the wail of the wanderer, and the plaint is put in one little phrase:

My soul wants something that’s new, that’s new

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Depression and many mental illnesses are among many of us, it does not discriminate. Riches and fame must not be blinding to what is going on internally. In our age of growing technology and a surplus of information, it is vital that we utilize any outlet we can to release oppression we feel in our communities as well as individually. To not be a product of our environment we must take action together to fix the damage at hand instead of repressing it; music is one outlet but we need to start having open discussions.

People coming from impoverished and urban communities do not have the funds to seek psychological help, nor are there many role models to shift the paradigm of an entire neighborhood; it must be understood that through any art form our repressed emotions will be released. In order to change our communities we must be equipped to be of emotional refuge instead of being fast to critique.

Written by Leahnora Brown


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