The case for more conscious rap

**Trigger warning: sexual assault**

Conscious rap is a term that describes rap that aims to impart knowledge on listeners and has a higher meaning than other rap. For some, it’s a preference. I believe it is necessary.

As I explore more rap, the more I discover its damaging aspects. First, there’s the misogyny. This is so much of an issue that there is an entire Wikipedia page devoted to it.

Tied to this misogyny is the disgusting usage of rape as a joke. Tyler the Creator rapped about raping a pregnant woman in “Tron Cat.” Eminem says in “No Favors,” “I sodomize like an ass-raper.” These two artists continuously promote sexual assault and abuse with their lyrics, and it’s not something we can laugh off.

Sexual assault should not be mentioned in a song unless it’s to raise awareness for the alarming rate of it. (See: Lady Gaga’s “Til it Happens to You” from the Hunting Ground)

As rap becomes more popular with young listeners, the more damaging its overt talk of drugs, crime, and sex becomes. For young men, it’s encouraging. For young women, it’s threatening.

I don’t have a problem with explicit lyrics, but I do have a problem with misogyny and the glamorization of drugs and crime as attributes of success.

I will be the first to admit that I do listen to problematic rap. My favorite rapper, Kanye West, while “conscious” in many ways, is also famed for his misogynistic lyrics (“I made that bitch famous”). I still believe the rap world needs more conscious rappers. Rappers like Kendrick, Logic, Raury, and Cole address social problems and use the attention they receive to educate the public on things that matter. And while they aren’t without their flaws, I recognize their efforts to address social issues and use their art to promote a positive message. I worry that other rappers have strayed from their original intent to do the same.

Rap has been a heterosexual male-dominated genre since it originated, and time is well overdue to bring justice to women and LGBTQ+ individuals. It’s already hard enough for anyone other than straight men to succeed in the game, and to succeed female rappers typically must either masculinize themselves enough to be on par with male rappers, or sexualize themselves enough to receive their validation. Justice is long overdue for women and queer folks in music. The continued exploitation of sexual assault in rap is threatening to their well- being and provides an overall unwelcoming environment for their success.

It’s time to open the world of rap to more social consciousness. As more and more citizens become engaged with social justice, they will no longer tolerate ignorance in their music. Artists needs to catch up to the times. I don’t believe all rap needs to be conscious rap, but all rap should be free of blatantly irresponsible lyrics. If you’re going to rap, say something worth listening to that doesn’t demean anyone.

While conscious rap is on the rise, with albums like All Amerikkkan Badass by Joey Bada$$ and Everybody by Logic addressing the current political sphere, there remains a large portion of rap that continues to perpetuate not only negative, but destructive ideas. Rap may be free from clean language, but it should not be a free-for-all where all ethics go out the window. Rappers receive ample attention and fame, and they should use their influence to advance knowledge. When they promote negative ideas, their artistry is trashed and the name of rap is defamed. Rap has deep roots in protest culture and pride in one’s identity. A return to this will not only appeal to more listeners, it will help empower the public to continue fighting for justice.

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Conscious rap selections, from top to bottom: Logic’s Everybody, Joey Bada$$’s All Amerikkkan Badass, Childish Gambino’s CAMP, and Vic Mensa’s There’s A Lot Going On

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Weak

 

She is breaking her spine to love you.

Splitting vertebrae to render her spine yours.

Turning limbs in every wrong direction,

Fracturing her extremities to fit your theses.

She is dividing herself within in order to let you in.

She is piece by piece removing fallen branches

Returning the debris to her innards

So you are unable to see her dying.

Her world is curling up, so you may breathe

She is igniting forest fires.

To let you run free

She is conquering herself in private

So you are convinced you are supreme

She is demoting herself to lender

So you may take ownership of her bones.

You have taken her keys, and invaded her home.

Your capability of cradling a life form

Displayed with one minor tongue flop

Overcome with grief

she capsized-

“I am no longer weak in the knees

I am just weak.”

Atlantis

Nothing makes sense

In my daydreams clouds are pink and the grass sways like water

Only, this is real life

In my dreams I am awake, breathing, and alive

I am striding across a territory that is not mine, and never has been

It is not my ancestors’, nor their ancestors

I am walking, waking, over my head, deep

I am wading in all that is possibility

Built upon the atrocities of the dreamers before me

The dreamers who were cut like beanstalks from the sky

Cut down, drowned out,hushed, unwritten

Who will tell their story?

Better yet, if they tell their story, bare their bones, unveil the remnants of a civilization-

Who will listen?

When I remember I stop and drop my ear to the earth and listen to the rock and roll of the earth on its axis

Muffled chanting mistaken for party music. Thievery mistaken for livelihood.

Everyone who has entitled themselves to this land has poisoned it, and for that we are guilty of not only genocide- but suicide.

You took everything. There is nothing left to make of this blue planet.

There is nothing green.

Only the sea, that washes me away in no time- reducing me to the minor, insignificant microorganism I am, shooing me, discarding me, replacing me, and erasing me.

I have never existed in a world the way it was supposed to be.

I uncover what I can in the lost world of the sea, Atlantis- moaning to be released, crying, and screeching at my feet.

Drowned, I am lost. I am nothing compared to what was here before me.

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A difference in truths

Bring these stories to our feet. Trip us and bury us in the history that has made you suffer, that has brought you down, and entrenched your people with hate and violence.

I am not a war criminal, but I am a product of the times where war crimes are a point of American pride and most of us do not even realize growing up that patriotism is built on deceit- that the acres you inhabit are not yours. They are not yours. They were never yours. This land didn’t belong to you anymore than you belonged on it, any more than anyone belonged to you or owed you a damn thing just simply for existing. Any more than you deserve the ease of normalcy in a world that can see color for its own exclusion but be color blind all at the same time.

You see, our truth is for convenience. Our truth is made of darkness, fury, and violence. Nothing about me reeks of earned establishment. Nothing within me claims to belong here.

Your truth is for light, love, and liberation. You roar with the sear of pain and the might to break this curse.

I feel your longings, and I echo them. I sing with you as I let conquer. Conquer what was stolen from you. Show us what real power looks like, and how to operate as a moral authority (something we have never achieved).

I wish I could see a fruition, I wish I could see a day of a life where we all radiate. Your shine awakens me, but I will never live up (pressure creates diamonds).

But right now, it is your story to be told. It is my time to listen. So bring them at our feet. Don’t let us forget for a second.

 

for the forgotten natives of this country, and all of those who were brought here against their will.

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Coming Clean

I have struggled for many years- unable to combine a few sentences and break the silence on the emotional pain I deal with over food and obsessive exercise. Even writing this, I am questioning myself and dismissing myself, even though I know this has been heavy on my heart for far too long.

I would say it began around eighth grade- I got really really into exercise and healthy eating and so I became a super health nut and began to work out. I ran with friends, danced a lot, and basically did a ton of cardio but without purpose other than to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I quit everything unhealthy- anything with artificial colors or flavors, candy, soda, junk food like chips, etc. over night. Once I devoted myself to my health, I never looked back. I fell in love with the feeling I would get from working out, or the pride of having a strict code of foods I would and would not eat.

As the years went on, I became more and more obsessed with living a healthy lifestyle, especially because no one around me was the same. My family has never been that into health, nor my friends. Most of the people I know eat healthy on occasion and exercise in recreational ways, but I built my days upon a fitness regime. I started following workout plans and guides and ripping out the pages of Self and Shape with the little workout guides printed. I loved it, and as I continued to learn more and more about fitness, I pushed myself harder and harder. Around high school, I was working out with a more definitive goal in mind. It was also around this time I went vegan (senior year). By then, fitness was hardly just a part of my life- it was my life. It defined me. Going vegan is the best decision I have ever made, and it definitely helped boost my confidence in my healthy lifestyle, since a balanced vegan lifestyle is the healthiest way to live and eat. I could never look back on that decision, because I do feel that veganism helped my relationship with food.

By college, I was still in this mindset. I worked out almost every single day, often doing yoga plus a workout daily, after biking or walking to class, and sometimes running on the same day. Thankfully, we have free fitness classes in our residence halls at school, so I would attend those all the time, unless something legitimately important prevented me from going. I was definitely, definitely obsessed. I often skipped club meetings or other cool campus involvements just to go to fitness classes or work out on my own. I tracked all my food and activity on my Health app on my phone, and felt like I was in control of my life. I can definitely see now that there were some unhealthy aspects to my obsession. I still continue to struggle with this to date. There is an issue- I work so hard and I run my body like a machine, yet I still never feel like it is enough. I stopped loving my workouts and started simply doing them repetitively because my self-worth is directly correlated with how active and healthy my lifestyle is. It absolutely is. I was traveling for a week and a half recently, and I had no time to work out, although it was a very active trip in general, but I still felt so guilty and like my body was not fit enough. I have always struggled with this obsession to be the best and fittest I can possibly be, and it has left me scrambling to find time to work out on days it doesn’t even make sense and I end up making myself late for something, just so I don’t feel like a worthless human being later on.

I have dealt with this for so long. I decided I wanted to come clean, and tell my story to someone-anyone who would listen. Recently I was raw for two weeks. I was inspired to go raw by all the raw vegans I know. I felt great doing it and truly believed I had reached the pinnacle of perfect healthfulness. After doing some research though, I discovered that eating raw can be very dangerous, because it doesn’t include as many varieties of foods as it should. It is also very dangerous mentally, because the people who made the diet demonize ridiculous foods that no one should cut out from their life- like nuts, seeds, and avocado. While it may be right for some people, I don’t think it is for me. My mindset was out of control on a raw diet. I felt so incredibly healthy just eating raw fruits and veggies, and I will say my energy felt great and I was not bloated, but I do not believe I was getting adequate nutrition, and I too started demonizing anything that wasn’t a raw fruit or veggie. I didn’t eat bread for two weeks, and I wasn’t sure if I ever would again. (I have.) I do this a lot. I have been vegan a year and a half, and at this point, it’s almost too easy to find vegan treats anywhere. I got to the point where I felt I was consuming too many sweets, so I cut them out completely. I did a month without added sugar, and I have kept with it. While many of my behaviors are points of pride for me, I can also recognize that I am someone who can very, very easily fall into a trap with my healthy lifestyle- every time I think I have achieved perfection, but I somehow veer off that path, I lose my mind.

I love to talk about working out and healthy eating partly because I want people to admire my physique. I want all of my hard work to be noticed. I look in the mirror and I like what I see most of the time. I am notoriously obsessed with my abs, and when my stomach is bloated I get so distraught. I want to be toned and fit and trim, and I want to be known for being fit. I guess I have defined myself by my fitness for so long that I get offended when people are surprised I’m so into working out. Just because I don’t have giant guns doesn’t mean I am not incredibly strong and physically adept. I feel like when others (especially sexist jerks who think I can’t lift heavy objects) don’t notice my athleticism, it’s really a personal blow. I don’t know what I would do if I hadn’t worked hard to have a fit body. It really is a huge part of my life and my identity, and this is both a positive and a negative thing. It is positive because I know I will always be devoted to living a long, healthy, and happy life, but it is also negative because it has caused immense emotional pain when I feel I don’t live up to the standards I set for myself. Basically, fitness will always be a part of me, but I am just trying to not make it all of me.

After realizing I was dealing with emotional distress every time I felt I ate something I shouldn’t have or missed a chance to work out, I researched what I was going through. It turns out there is a name for it- orthorexia, obsession with healthy eating and exercise. I read the stories of many others who have struggled trying to balance the positive and negative sides to being obsessed with personal fitness, and I wanted to cry and shout from the rooftops. I felt like my pain was validated, like it was something real and tangible and mine to own. Now, I don’t like to go throwing around names of disorders just to gain sympathy; that is something I will never do, but I am so glad I was able to recognize within me something potentially dangerous. Orthorexia is closely linked to anorexia. I distinctly remember times in my life where I did purposefully starve myself, or feel so guilty from eating something that I so badly wanted to induce vomiting. My mother survived anorexia when she was around my age, and that is a treatment process I never want to have to go through. I probably do not have the worst case of orthorexia ever, but I am so glad I see the red flags now, which may have potentially saved me from a lifetime of even more pain and suffering.

Every day is different living with orthorexia. Typically, I keep a very strict eating schedule- one I have probably thought of the day before or hours earlier, and workout for up to two hours. Once I start working out, I don’t want to stop. I often do squats and ab exercises in the bathroom and shower just because any idle moment I have I feel obligated to use in my physical benefit. If I ever get fat, it will be my own fault. The saddest thing is I have allowed that to be my worst fear. Not starving, not throwing up, not fainting, not being infertile because my body has been in starvation mode for years. My worst fear has been getting fat. It is highly impossible to get fat with the way I eat and live, but I feel like even one day without working out is risking it. I often slap myself out of absurd ideas like this, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t feel guilty lying in bed at night. I constantly wrestle with my own mind- is it okay to not work out today? I need sleep- isn’t that important to my health too? I am trying so hard to not be superficially focused on the benefits to my outward appearance, and remember that my incredibly active lifestyle is keeping me alive longer. That should be the real goal. I want to meet my grandchildren. I want to be a thriving old woman, but this won’t happen if I don’t start treating my body like the temple it is.

I am not a machine. I cannot wake up and grind every single day without an ounce of passion. I need to bring the love and the fun back to my fitness regime. I need to be more proud of my ability to stick with something so crucial to life than my body. I need to stop becoming obsessed over gains in certain areas of the body, and I need to stop putting fitness first, meaning don’t turn down plans with someone just to work out. I need to love myself, truly, wholly, and unconditionally. No matter if I look in the mirror and my stomach is bloated because I ate some God forbid bread. I need to remember that healthy habits become unhealthy the second your mindset turns toxic. I can’t have this toxic mindset anymore. I need to cherish my life and my strong body and the blessing it is that I am a mobile person, and even have the ability to work out without abandon. I am unlearning bad behaviors and relearning new ones every day. I am learning not to beat myself up over eating a cookie or bread, or skipping a day of working out. I was incredibly tired today and did not work out. I went to work, I read, and I napped. I listened to what my body needed, and I fulfilled its wishes. And to me, that is worth a heck of a lot more than a workout I would have thrown only half of myself into. Whatever I do deserves the whole of me. I deserve the whole of me.

Orthorexia resources:

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/orthorexia-nervosa

http://www.orthorexia.com/

 

80/20

I think I need some space

I think I need some time to reconsider the love I have for myself

I think I need to reconsider my love and imagine what it would be like if I replaced the love for myself with love for you and love for love and hope in love and actually believing that I can love something other than myself.

And actually believing in something other than my own two feet on this journey.

And actually taking another journey besides my own, and actually going anywhere other than where I want to venture.

And actually listening to something other than seashells and bird calls for me to travel onward.

And actually beginning something without complete and utter faith it will work out.

And it works out just fine.

And I’ll be just fine I just need some time

I just need to reconsider the time I give to myself and divide it up into little bits of time for you and I

I need to give my time to you and I need to give my love to you

I need to give up holding onto this love like a dog with a bone that thinks it will never get another bone again

I need to stop thinking if I die tomorrow at least I learned to love myself at least I made plans for myself at least I made plans

At least for one second I made eye contact with another human being that I claimed to love but never showed it because I had fear that he would dump my love into the river and it would pollute the oceans and murder thousands of innocent sea lives.

One innocent life on land I have managed to ruin because I never gave enough of myself for it to grow

I wanted to water you with whatever was left over after my tongue drowned and I felt hydrated enough to run five marathons while you stood on the side and watched me.

You stood on the side and watched me and cheered me on and I just thought to myself- I have never seen a smile look so artificial even in all of this natural light why am I the only thing glowing in this natural light

Why do we stand in this mirror together but I can only see myself and your skin looks blue from all the life I sucked out of you

And I look so sun kissed and happy and proud of all the places I have been recently and all the wonderful acts of kindness I am bringing into the world but I have given too much I have given my bones there is nothing left to give you

I have nothing left to give but this fleshy outer core

You can have the remains of this apple I bit into fifty times and hated the taste every time you can have whatever is left at the bottom of the bag you can have whatever I don’t need to keep running my motor you can have my extra batteries you can have my extra seat in the car but you can’t have my seat you can’t drive you never learned no one ever taught you to be a man on your own that’s why you need everything I have left over that’s why you dig through my trash just to survive and I look away but let it happen every time

It’s good to know that someone puts to use what I don’t need to survive it’s good to know that you don’t need my consent to love me you can just love me and I will tell you when to stop I will tell you when I am getting close and you can let the rest of your love create a steady stream that flows into the river all day long and poisons the frogs

You poisoned the frogs and you didn’t even ask me if I wanted to help you

You didn’t even ask me if I had ever poisoned a frog I think you figure since I am so full of venom I must have only ever poisoned one man and that man is you

I think you figured me out by week two and you realized I would either be the best thing that ever happened to you or the worst but either way at least I will change you at least I will get you off of your lazy ass and have you do something for once at least I made you care about someone else’s life but your own at least you cared about me even if I never cared for you the same way or the same amount back

At least you had an outlet for all of your pent up anger and resentment not towards me but towards your other sins and the other sirens that lured you in with their majestic hair that just barely covered their private parts

At least I let you see me and I allowed your eyes to worship my body like I was an ancient greek statue of a mermaid that washed ashore

At least we swam at least we were able to drink our own poison in big gulps at least we were able to drink the poison and get a little bit of water in our ears at least I cleared my throat one last time before the last time

At least we kissed in the metaphorical not literal rain at least we went on a few adventures at least people gave us double takes every day because our skin tones are on opposite ends of the spectrum

Maybe these walls have been closing in the whole time.

Maybe I have done this on purpose maybe I locked the door so you couldn’t escape and I made sure this home was built with the intention to kill with the intention that nobody makes it out alive maybe I told you in love nobody makes it out alive so just accept your fate and kiss me dear kiss me until the lights go out and all the bodies sing their praise for our lives for my life and all of the wonderful magnificent things I did for the human race and how we never ran a race together but if we did you would have crossed the finish line first

And I would have stopped halfway through to save the frogs from our poison

And you would have looked back and seen me encompassed in this noble task and realized god was with me that day on that race track and all the eyes were watching me with complete and utter love and adoration and you realized I was better off without another cup to fill that I had given too much of myself to give to you.

And you looked back one last time and kept running.

What I Learned from Going without Social Media for a Month

For the month of October I decided to go without social media. I am not the biggest social media fiend so for me this meant not using Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, or Tumblr. I only use Facebook for my work with PETA, so that was allowed. I decided to do this because I noticed in the months that I had been at college I was getting prone to looking at these sites, and using this as a way to fill the time in between doing other things. While I didn’t think it was extremely harmful, I recognized that there were more constructive things I could be doing, and one I wanted to do was to introduce myself to more people and connect with those around me more. One cannot make friends with their face in a screen. I saw many other ways to spend my time, and I wanted to test my theory.

I have to be honest and say going without social media for a month was not the biggest challenge for me, or the biggest life-change. This isn’t one of those stories where my time away from technology transformed me into a better, more enlightened self with unlimited time to devote to enjoying myself in solace. I am still a college student who has work every day, and often uses technology as a tool to get it done. The month started slow. I thought I had chosen the wrong month-long project, because I didn’t notice any changes in my behaviors or my attitudes, besides the fact that I was eager to Snapchat my best friend back home again. I was a little bitter for cutting out the things that allow me to catch up with the people that mean the world to me, but I was willing to see what would happen if all the other mindless factors were cut out too. It wasn’t until a few weeks in that I started to realize there were a lot of things missing from my life, things I had habitually done before moving to school, but had fallen out of habit recently. I took some time to think about this, and determine who it is I want to be- this, of course, determined by the things that I do on a regular basis, because action shows character, right? I started to think of myself again as someone with many hobbies and much enjoyment for the world, and not the version of myself people see on social media, or the version people at school perceive of me. I am so much more than that. I had to refocus my goals and realize while there aren’t so many things I want to remove from my life, there are quite a few I want to bring back. I’ve vowed to get back into meditation by meditating every day for thirty days to see how it will improve my well-being. I am getting back into writing poetry, doing yoga on my own, reading, and making art. I never want to get so wrapped up in mundane daily routine that I forget to do the things that make me enjoy life. Social media is not one of those things. Its role in my life is minimal, and I will remember to only use it in a positive way, and not abuse it to the point that it negatively impacts my well-being. It is an extra, not a necessity and I must make sure my mind and body are in a good place and those needs are satisfied before I seek other outlets. I don’t want to waste my energy or time on things that have no importance to me; that doesn’t even make sense!

I did end up talking to more people and doing more constructive things, but could I have also done this while still occasionally using social media? Of course. Yes, there are quite a few downsides to using it often, but blaming social media for sucking up your time and keeping you away from important things is just escaping from your personal responsibility to carve out a life you love. I realized this. I am in control of my life, and I determine the level of enjoyment I get out of it, by choosing the things I do. It’s only an illusion- that when you have these things in your life like social media that they are “distractions.” Nothing is distracting you from your goals and passions but yourself. I came to realize this. I can balance it all. I don’t need to take vows from things I do- I just need to spend the most time doing the things that add the most meaning to my existence. We need not deprive ourselves of any pleasure, if our hearts and efforts lie with the deepest ones. While part of me admires anyone that swears off social media or technology, another part of me says why can’t we have it all? We are modern, multitasking humans in this ever-changing world and I think it is alright for us to find joy in silly things, so long as we can put those things to the side and tackle the important issues in this world. No one should be all work, all the time. So maybe a part of us needs these “distractions” in our lives. When we acknowledge them, then we can center ourselves and get some incredible things done. It is also important to recognize ourselves as multi-faceted human beings. Don’t forget the things you do well and the things that make you feel at peace. I see less importance in defining ourselves, but rather listening to our heartbeats, taking note of our existence, and satisfying its demands in the healthiest possible way.

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