Humanity in Hip-Hop


When it comes to poetic masterpieces in music, most people will go to genres such as country or classical music — genres that have a reputation of complex lyrical meaning. But one genre that gets overlooked for its underlying messages is hip-hop. In an interview with Ink, Isaac Phillips, a Grammy-nominated songwriter and producer, explained that there are a few things that need to be understood about hip-hop.

1. Rap is not shallow

Rap has gained a reputation for a lack of deep lyricism, whether people mention how it touches on surface level concepts such as drugs and money, or how it has a lack of ability to convey sentimental messages like country or pop songs do. Phillips says that these ideas are far from the truth. “In order to be successful and relevant, hip-hop artists must exhibit a high level of creativity,” Phillips said. With compositions that introduce both profound flow and delivery, it’s evident that hip-hop music’s components stretch farther than most believe. Take Kanye West’s “All Falls Down,” for example. “It seems we are living the American Dream./But the people highest up got the lowest self esteem the prettiest people do the ugliest things./From road to riches and diamond rings,” West raps. Here, West talks about the reality of America, and how it may not be the “dream” many find it to be.

2. Glorification of morbid ideas

Phillips mentions how there are a variety of influences that can impact the lyrical decisions in a song. “Things like cultural relevance, even socioeconomic and political status can be of importance in some instances. Then there are times that the consideration of the artist conveys meaning,” Phillips said. This idea is prominent in all genres of music, including hip-hop. In 21 Savage’s latest album, he writes “came from rats and roaches/ I’ve seen plenty of homicides and still kept my focus” depicting his humble beginnings and how his transition from rags to riches developed his character.

3. Art comes in many forms

Hip-hop artists don’t deserve the negative connotations that come with their successes. For example, rap artists that have tattoos, grills or anything that doesn’t follow societal standards don’t necessarily lack intelligence. In fact, Phillips explains how art is subjective to the artist’s life, meaning that overlooking their artistic talents isn’t doing the art justice. “For some artists, their art imitates their life and of course that includes pros and cons. Just like famous painters, some artist’s work gains a higher level of appreciation and respect after they are no longer present with us,” Phillips said.

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