Buried deep in the world’s history are many tragic stories of times gone by. Such stories are often romanticised, making them ideal for exciting movies or compelling books, and music is no different.
Here are three compelling ways references to slavery are common in rap music, and a look at why:
1) Because I’m black!
Blame is the perfect go-to when you attempt something you’re not very good at doing, and it fails.
If you were Gordon Ramsay and you burned every course of a meal at a dinner party, your guests might believe the disaster was down to a broken stove. Conversely, if it were you throwing the dinner party as someone that idolised Ramsay – blaming the stove for the ruined cuisine would make you seem ridiculous.
Rap music is the same. Today, the black-card is more popular than a tray of hors d’oeuvre at a luncheon, like that clichéd discussion about all those unknown yet “brilliant” black artists on the underground, who believe that their ethnicity is the very barrier that makes chances of success so minuscule…
2) Because I’m better!
Mentions of hue and shade are widely scattered throughout the rap world:
Tupac – Keep Ya Head Up:
“Some say the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice/I say the darker the flesh then the deeper the roots”
J.Cole – Premeditated Murder:
“Light-skinned so the house nigga’s feel me”
As statements of opinion, these lyrics are harmless. However the roots of these descriptions are deeply embedded in slavery where the connotations surrounding degrees of blackness were widely discussed, eventually creating physical and emotional divides.
Still, does a light-skinned black person listening to Tupac, feel left out? And what about a dark-skinned black person vibing to J.Cole…?
3) Because I’m cool!
Perhaps the most popular of all, is the term “nigga”, which is used as a term of endearment (and is allegedly independent of the word “nigger” where the different spelling magically changes the meaning, except for when used by a non-black person in which the rule instantly defaults).
When challenged, it has been argued by the community, that taking ownership of the word has worked to ameliorate its original meaning; an idea that continues to confuse anybody that isn’t black. For example:
- What happens when a non-black person is singing along in public to a song containing the word?
- Can a non-black rap artist attempt to use of the word in a song?
This hilarious YouTube video attempted the answer:
The fact of the matter remains that through years of domestication, we have come to expect rap music to include racially provocative references for both attention and reaction.
So – if this is a hypothetical battle of Awareness vs. Advantage – which is the winner?
This post was contributed by UK hip-hop artist Dreama; a self proclaimed ‘girl-emcee sat somewhere sipping tea’. You can read more of her musings or jam-out to her tunes on her official website dreamasreality.com