Why do I listen?

Published 11:06 am Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I just watched The Shining, and it is literally the scariest movie Ive seen in my entire life. That part when Jack Nicholsons all like Heres Johnny! and hacks through the bathroom door with an axe? I havent been able to go to the bathroom since. If you havent seen it yet, sorry for ruining the ending.
Anyway, speaking of violence, Ive been thinking about rap music a lot lately, more specifically, why I listen to it. It seems there is a gene present in those who like rap music. Generally, it is only present in those under the age of forty, but there are exceptions. Anyone who doesnt have this gene will just look at people who like hip-hop and ask them, Why do you listen to that crap? (Note: My father is the type of person who asks questions like this.)
Until about ten minutes ago, I really didnt have an adequate answer for this question. The best response I could muster was usually the air-tight defense of, Uh, I just like it, okay? I neednt say that, for most who asked, this response did not suffice.
I love hip-hop because its a door to another worlda world so foreign to me that I can barely understand it. Its like a movie. You dont always want to see movies about people exactly like you, do you? Well for me, rap is the same way. When I listen to the intricate, interwoven crime narratives of a guy like Raekwon Da Chef, I really feel like Im in the middle of his stories. Show me a rock song or classical piece that can place you in a completely different world, and Ill show you five rap songs that can do the same.
The basic functions of a rock song and a rap song are diametrically opposite: Rock uses the music to create feelings, and often uses the lyrics to reinforce that feeling; meanwhile, hip hop uses its music to set a mood that a rapper can use as a canvas to paint a lyrical picture.
What Im trying to say is that hip-hop is more focused on lyrics, while other forms of music are more concerned with the actual rhythmic content of a song. While I can totally understand how some people would be opposed to hip-hop, or even question its legitimacy as a musical genre, I am a fan of hip hop precisely for how it has turned the focal point of a song away from the actual music itself to the lyrics. I love words, and rap music functions as a conduit for presenting me with lots and lots of words. Why wouldnt I like it?
Now, some people say that rap is a needlessly misogynistic, violent, and materialistic genre. And to some extent, it is. But then again, rock music can be too. I defy you to find a rap song raunchier than The Lemon Song by Led Zeppelin. And just because some rap music is bad doesnt mean that it all is. If you were to listen to an album by Talib Kweli or Mos Def, for example, you would find that its probably less profane than, say, something that Bill OReilly would say when he thinks the cameras not rolling but really is, or less violent than our nations vice president shooting somebody in the face.
So in closing, we should all go out and listen to some rap music. Even you, Dad.

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