The Power of Obscenity in Hip Hop

“Hip Hop has done more damage to African Americans than racism in recent years.” - Geraldo Rivera, FOX News

What does rap music tend to be about? First thing that comes to a person’s mind: sex, money, murder, women, drugs, and anything illegal you can think of. But, what’s ignored is the content which surrounds the swears and inappropriate deeds. Tupac said it best. In a 1994 BET interview on the topic of black on black violence, Shakur spoke of scenarios in which young black men are situated in the ghettos of America, “It’s not that he wants to kill. He does not want to die”. It’s this desperation that the media construes to people that is left unheard.The importance of vulgarity is the immense power it carries. Unfortunately, this is something  The impact of these dangerous words and things hit harder than anything else, and that’s exactly what they’re putting out there.

In Dead Man’s Tetris by Flying Lotus, Snoop Dogg says “could’ve been the drink, might have been the smoke, in light of all that he was considered dope”. The usage of contraband in this sense is speaking of a man who is no longer alive, either from alcohol poisoning or drug overdose. Regardless, in the end, he was “considered dope,” which has multiple meanings. Dope is a (usually derogatory) term to refer to relatively strong drugs. This puts on the assumption that all this man was remembered for was doing drugs. Dope could also refer to his intelligence, not only because he is dead, but because of the situation in which led to his death was all his own. Drugs destroyed him. Dope could also mean he was remembered well by his people for doing these “dope” things. This meaning highlights this trend of fear in black communities. Thug behavior is embraced because the guys who do what the dead man did are afraid. They’re afraid that their actions have consequences, so they relish in the fact he went out in this way. It’s dope to run away, and regardless of how it may seem at first, this is lighting substance abuse in a negative light. It’s not the first song to hit this note.

Kendrick Lamar rocked the charts a few years ago with his hit single “Swimming Pools (Drank)” The hook of the song glorifies drinking with catchy lines like “I got a swimming pool full of liquor and they dive in it”. From the chorus, Lamar sets off a song with the anthem of the glorification of alcoholism, but indeed proves the opposite. The song takes place at a party Lamar’s at in his teenhood. There is so much alcohol it overwhelms him. If he drinks anymore (which is apparently “only 2 or 3 shots”) he thinks he’ll “drown in the poison”. Already the song explains through its verses and marketing that it’s all about facades. Kendrick, wanting to impress his friends and party-goers, pretends to want to get intoxicated, but actually doesn’t, much like the song’s presentation. This is reaffirmed with the next line, where Kendrick says “I think that I’m feelin’ the vibe”, referring to the party through alcohol. The key word is “think” which highlights the theme of uncertainty this song associates with drinking, not even close to encouraging it.

To be more recent, Future’s recent “Mask Off” is something most old white people want to avoid. Immediately, they are met with the obnoxious barraging of unintelligible lyricism and vulgarity. Less than half of the song are unique words, with the most prominent noun used on the track being “percocets”, a hard drug. But within these words most interestingly is the line “chase a check, never chase a bitch”. Simplicity aside, the meaning of this line is to go after money and quantifiable things over the subjective. Things like love and a woman are no match to a lot of money and a lot of women. Future teaches his audience how to count, and his blunt, but telling vocabulary shows the other side to the melancholy of black culture, accepting it as it is and the importance of having more. The simplicity is accepting all of these drugs and violence in the world these rappers grew up in.

  In conclusion, it is to be known that point of the so called “bad influences” that rap adorns are just seen through the wrong lens. The place these rappers came from, their experiences living in poverty, in gang fights, substance use, and racism should not be viewed under a lens of the protective quality, but one seeing strength, impact, and reflectiveness.

“I’m not on the outside looking in, I’m not on the inside looking out; I’m in the dead fucking center, looking around.” - Kendrick Lamar, “Ab-Soul’s Outro”

Works Cited

“FUTURE - Mask Off Lyrics.” Directlyrics, Accessed 13 May 2017.

Flying Lotus. “Dead Man's Tetris Lyrics.” Azlyrics, Azlyrics, Accessed 13 May 2017.

Kendrick Lamar. “Ab-Soul's Outro.” Azlyrics, Azlyrics, Accessed 13 May 2017.

Kendrick Lamar. “Swimming Pools Lyrics.” Azlyrics, Azlyrics, 13 May 2017.

BETNetworks. “Tupac Shakur: ‘God Has Cursed Me To See What Life Should Be Like.’” YouTube, YouTube, 19 Sept. 2016, Accessed 13 May 2017.

HuffPostLive. “Geraldo Rivera: Hip-Hop Has Done More Damage To Black People Than Racism.” YouTube, YouTube, 19 Feb. 2015, Accessed 13 May 2017.

This is my best 2fer because I'm very passionate about it, much like my other one. It has more of an argumentative tone, but does not slip into the personal. It hits harder. I like it.