The Secret to Making Great Hip-Hop

The Secret to Making Great Hip-Hop

Keeping it real and saying what you feel.
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About every November, TIME Magazine publishes a list of the 10 Worst Songs released over the previous year. Looking at it, I was surprised to see songs I love (“7 Years,” Lukas Graham; “I Took a Pill in Ibiza,” Mike Posner). Some of them I understand (Britney Spears’s “Private Show definitely should have been ranked higher on the list), but others, TIME seems to hate on because of what I would consider only minor flaws (maybe Machine Gun Kelly’s verses were what the song “Bad Things” was named for). If you don’t like any of the songs I just listed, that’s fine. TIME clearly states its reasons for selecting these songs as some of the Worst of 2016. But for all the hate, these songs—for the most part—seem to get one thing right: They all talk about things people can relate to.

I hope the majority of us haven’t taken a pill in Ibiza, but all of us at some point have done things we’ve regretted and isolated ourselves as a result. Posner does something right when he sings about his experiences—that is, he sings about his experiences. We can relate to what he writes about in his song not just because of how he tells it, but because it is genuine. And even if they weren’t genuinely his experiences, our believing it would produce the same effect. We crave authenticity, even when we know its put on or, for example, when someone has a ghostwriter.

Sia is a ghostwriter who doubles as her own writer. She’s written songs for tons of big names as well as for herself, and we can’t say we think “Diamonds” is any worse because Rihanna sings it. So we know that writing good songs require more than authentic material sung by the authentic singer. Yet we know “Titanium” becomes more compelling the more we learn about Sia. Associating personal integrity with a song can do a great deal for the song’s popularity, especially if the content might otherwise be discordant.

Which brings me to one of my (formerly) favorite singers, renowned for his off-putting and offensive lyrics: Eminem, a.k.a. Marshall Mathers. Eminem made a career out of rapping on subjects no one else would touch: doing absurd amounts of drugs, murdering other celebrities in obscenely grotesque fashion, and (the elephant in the room) ascending so quickly to superstardom just for being white. But although his hyperbolic hits might have attracted attention, they would have just as quickly grown old hat if he didn’t have something to back it up: experience. No, thank goodness, Eminem didn’t have to kill his wife to write “Kim” or have brain fall out of his skull to write “Brain Damage.” Still, everything Slim Shady went through provided the material for his music. His early raps, at least, while exaggerations of his life, were expressions of his life as well. For that reason, I consider him one of my former favorite singers.

If the Marshall Mathers LP 2 is anything to go by, Eminem’s life has improved dramatically. He’s in recovery from addiction, he’s friends with the monster, and he’s beginning to feel like a rap god. These feelings of freedom and acceptance have become major themes of his music. For the most part, I find the related songs uplifting and inspiring, but not all the way through. The lyrics of recent songs, coming from both light (Marshall Mathers) and dark (Slim Shady) perspectives, seem misdirected. They focus too much on the “how” of expression than they do on the “what.” Super-fast delivery and tongue-twisting verses draw to themselves so much attention that whatever Eminem tries to say gets overshadowed by how he says it. We appreciate genuine, even exaggerated, personal experience, but the communication also needs be clear for it to be appreciated.

Words can get in the way of we say, and keeping it real helps prevent that from happening. In terms of lyrical style, Eminem-inspired hip-hop artist NF (Nate Feuerstein) raps more like a throwback to Eminem: his lyrics tell personal stories using simple language and express outrage using excessively violent language. And like the Eminem of old, NF chooses lyrics that let him express his controversial ideas, rather than ideas that let him use controversial lyrics.

Anyone with a thesaurus can write “Alphabet Aerobics,” and lyricism for the sake of lyricism has its place in hip-hop. What keeps us invested in artists, though, is the feeling that they share their unique experience with us in a way we can relate. The secret of making great hip-hop, then, is the one everyone’s saying all the time—it’s all about keeping it real.

Cover Image Credit: Hip-Hop Golden Age

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.
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Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.


7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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Is Astrology Real?

After my roommate read me my natal chart I'm starting to believe it's real.

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There are many misconceptions about whether or not astrology is real. For most people, religion comes into play which makes people believe astrology is a fluke and that God is the only one that can alter someone's life. Although I'm also a believer in this, my roommate decided to read my natal chart one night and now I'm starting to believe that astrology is anything but a fluke.

If any of you were wondering, a natal chart is a chart based on the time you were born and where you were born to show how each planet has and will affect your life.

One night, my roommate offered to read my natal chart after she told me that many of the readings she has done for other people have become true. Being curious, I told her my birth information and soon enough she had my chart pulled up and started to read everything that happened in my life and everything that would happen in the future. From my childhood 'til now, every single thing she described from my chart was true. Everything from family deaths, internal struggles and passions was spot on. I was a little hesitant to find out what my future holds, because I want to be able to find that out on my own.

To confirm my belief for astrology, two more of my best friends had their charts read and theirs were scary accurate as well. It's crazy to think that the time and place we were born can literally define who we are as a person. If you want to figure out what your chart looks like go to https://astro.cafeastrology.com/natal.php. I highly encourage you to find someone that knows how to read these charts so you can figure out how accurate your chart is as well.

I am very interested in astrology now and strongly believe that astrology is real.

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