So, I am sitting at the dinner table with my parents tonight eating, pretty normal, when the conversation of rap music arose, as it has before. Personally I am a rap fan. Growing up, one of my older sisters favorite artists was Eminem, and my wanting to be exactly like my big sister, I listened to her music every chance I got. Their is no denying Eminem, topping the charts as the best-selling artist of the 2000s in the United States, is a talented rapper and songwriter. There is also no denying Eminem has never been one to shy away from profanity or violence in his music. Which brings up a very conflicting argument — is profanity needed in hip hop music?
As I got older, I became a rap fan not only because my sister was a rap fan, but because, for my generation, rap was, and still is, a very prominent part of pop culture. I genuinely enjoy listening and dancing to these songs. From Eminem, to Drake, to Wiz Khalifa, to G-Eazy, and plenty more, rappers are some of my favorite artists. My Dad likes to say, “I like rap, I just don’t like when they are cussing every other word,” which is to say he is probably not actually a rap fan. However if their wasn’t as much cussing in rap music, would he be? Would the genre even be the same?
I have a hard time when it comes to talking about this with my parents. Growing up in the time period I have, I feel like I have become numb to the words I was taught were “bad” as a child. I feel like most high school and college age people would agree, when I hear the F-word used in a song, I don’t bat an eye. Now when my Mom hears the F-word in a song, I get the, “Really? Turn this off I don’t want to listen to this.” For me I have always felt like this is simply an age divide, like if my parents were my age, they wouldn’t feel this way because they would see it how I see it. There is a lot more to this argument, however.
Cultural divides also makes it hard for some to understand why profanity is used so frequently throughout rap. If you actually sit down and listen to these songs and what the artists are talking about, you will often find they’re talking about where they came from and how they were raised. For those who were raised in profane environments, profanity is how they get across the message they are trying to relay.
Life isn’t always pretty.
It can be very very ugly sometimes, and I have found it is something most people don’t like to talk about. Especially if they have never had times like it in their own life. So when these rappers are talking about where they came from, and someone who wasn’t raised like that is listening, it’s common for them to become uncomfortable. However I think it’s important that before we write these songs off as “bad,” we should first listen to what they are actually saying, then we would understand a little more why they are using the language they are.
There’s also the artistic freedom side to this argument. Songwriters and rappers truly are some of the most amazing artists of our generation. When they are recording songs, good rappers and writers are putting everything they have into these songs. As artists, they have the freedom to express their message however they choose, and however they want it to come off to the listener. As a huge fan of poetry I also understand word choice is very important to good writing, and what words you choose and emphasize are also very important. Now, you may say they don’t need to be using these words, but I have to disagree. While listening to some of my favorite rap songs and imagining them with no profanity I realize, the song would change completely. The story that this artist is telling, the rawness and the reality of it would be gone. When I say these rappers are artists I say it simply because they are performers, I say it because they are genuinely talented and amazing writers. If you analyze these songs you’ll find that the words that people view as profane, are making this writing what it is, and they are used precisely when they need to be to relay a message, a feeling. Without them, that would be gone.
Now I don’t think this applies in all cases. I have heard my fair share of rappers who sound as if they are twelve years old and just learned cuss words but don’t realize that it’s very noticeable when you don’t know how to cuss and you are just cussing because you feel cool. Theirs also the argument of profanity degrading woman, but that could be its own article in itself so I won’t go there right now. What I am saying is artists shouldn’t be looked down upon simply because you hear a cuss word in their music. If you’re truly listening to the song and the lyrics that aren’t cussing, you’ll find in some cases that profanity really makes the song what it is. It’s not to say profanity is needed to make a good rap song, but simply because it is, that doesn’t make it any less.