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