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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My Take On: ARTPOP

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AHHHH. Lady Gaga is my absolute idol. I know everything about her that is public information and participate in/buy/revel in anything and everything she creates. Her photo is hanging in my bedroom, as a constant inspiration. I have been a fan since the beginning. I’m just obsessed. So of course I drowned in anticipation of her new album. Right on November eleventh, I rushed to Meijer to buy it. To my dismay, I couldn’t find it anywhere! I asked the workers and they said new music is always put out on Tuesdays. I persisted that today was the day it came out AND their sign said it would be available then, so they went to the back room and got it for me. I can be a spoiled brat over my obsessions. Haha. Since then, I have had the album on repeat, using it to workout to, go to bed to, listen to in the passing time in the school halls, when I’m doing homework, anything. I’d say I know almost all of the lyrics by now. It just blows my mind. I have been thrilled to watch Gaga grow and evolve. As she discovers new crevices of her industry and ways to expand it, she discovers new regions of her own mind and creativity. ARTPOP is the final joining of visual art and musical art. Her Art Haus app and new ventures with performance artists like Marina Abramovic not only heighten her artistic knowledge and spiritual existence, but also her fans. By making us more knowledgeable of the noble ways to discover the greatness of life, she allows us to focus on ourselves. And reminds us, if you do that, you’re sure to find something beautiful. You are a work of art.

Here is a song-by-song review of the masterpiece called ARTPOP.

1. Aura

A confession of killing her former lover followed by a series of wicked laughter opens this song and sets a spooky mood, but after the ethnic dance beats drop, a culturally explosive theme is uncovered. The beginning gives the impression of a woman with power, and the song turns out to be centered about women who wear burqas. That isn’t the entire theme, but the main tease of the song is that she is singing as a woman who covers her face, yet is in much control and yields much sexuality. Now I know some may be offended by this and claim she’s making conservative women sex objects, something they clearly discourage. But that’s not her goal at all. If a man was ever to underestimate their beauty and brawn due to their coverings, he would be sadly mistaken. Gaga sings from her wordly passion and shows a woman in a burqa just as bold as anyone else. “I’m not a wandering slave/ I am a woman of choice.. my veil is protection for the gorgeousness of my face” expresses understanding of ethnic traditions and proves these women dynamite. 

2. Venus

This intergalactic jam continuously references the aquatic goddess Venus and the goddess of beauty, Aphrodite. “Take me to your planet,” repeats in the chorus, before Gaga sings about her passionate romance with someone from a different galaxy. No apologies here. This song is playful and fun, with a fantastical theme  we’d all love to explore. This was released as one of the singles before the album release, and it does stand out as one of the most charming songs on the hit list. Perhaps her “I wonder if this could be love, this could be love” refers to her relationship with Taylor, or maybe a previous lover, or is just an expression of one of her silly fantasies, but either way, it gives us an entertaining song worth dancing to. “DON’T YOU KNOW MY ASS IS FAMOUS?!” towards the end encourages booty shaking and body loving. Seashell bikini optional.

3. G.U.Y.

G.U.Y. opens with a purposefully awkward introduction of a tape teaching new sex positions, and transitions into her feisty pleas to be the man in the relationship, yielding the passionate power.  Gaga urges her lover to touch her and retreat, allowing her to be the strong counterpart that pulls him back. In between sexually explicit references, she expresses that she just desires passion best in the lyric “I just want it to be hot, because I’m best when I’m in love, and I’m in love with you.” In this inventive song, Gaga shows us her exploratory side and fearlessness. She really will do anything to be pleased with her lover, and at the root is really, really fiery love. I can’t help but grin listening to this one. In addition to the erotica, we see Gaga as just a girl who loves to be madly into someone, and that’s something we all can relate to.

4. Sexxx Dreams

Just by the title, it’s obvious that this song is pretty dirty. If you have followed Gaga through the Fame Monster, you join me in expecting a few songs like this on an album and almost expectantly waiting for them. In Sexxx Dreams, the queen of sexual artsyness confesses her dirty dreams about someone and two-timing lust in lyrics like “When I lay with you… I think of him,” a similar theme to her hit Poker Face. Her pretty high notes in parts of the song express what a treat the dreams really were. The listener wonders if these dreams have become a reality, but as her provocative whispering goes on, we’re pretty sure of the answer.

5. Jewels N’ Drugs ft. T.I., Too Short, and Twista

 The first time I heard this song, I was like whoa. My main passion in music is hip hop and then of course when my idols do pop, like Gaga and Nicki (at times). But here my idol does my favorite genre. I am completely receptive to her playfulness (I don’t see her hitting up the ghetto anytime soon), and she is aware of her place in music. Yes, hip hop is open to anyone, but to do it well, the right balance of singing and rapping is needed. So she tapped some rap virtuosos, including T.I. , to bring the effortless raps. Her singing in the song is just great, and I can’t wait to see how playful the music video is. Can anyone believe when she sings “Don’t want your jewels, I want your drugs” ? Unless the jewels are symbolic of frivolous objects, and the drugs are love and passion. But even then I’d be reading too much into this song. I’d rather not refer to this one as anything deep or complex, and as what it what intended to be: a musical exploration and collaboration that succeeds in being convincingly tough enough- even if just for one song.

6. MANiCURE

This energetic song names various forms of beautification, including lipstick, shoes, slinky dresses, and curly hair and atleast in the chorus sounds referential of eighties jams, especially with the shouting of “Manicure!!” A celebration of femininity becomes a therapeutic healing when “manicured” is substituted for the phrase “man cured” as a play on words. This is an encouragement to forget that man who blew you off, get all dolled up, and have some fun, because there are plenty of others out there. And in “I’m addicted to the love that you garner” and “put your hands all over my body parts,” women are still shown as lovers of men and romance. And once you’re in your favorite dress and you’re feeling beautifully unstoppable, you’re in more control to seek and receive the love and attention you deserve. Remember, it’s you wearing that dress and makeup, not vice versa.

7. Do What U Want ft. R. Kelly

This one was the second single off of the album and so has been on repeat for weeks. Here, Gaga expresses sexual consent, but no, that’s not really what this crooner is saying. “But then you print some shit that makes me wanna scream” in the beginning and  “You can’t have my heart and you won’t use my mind” in the chorus,along with R. Kelly’s dis to haters, express the theme of a failed invasion of privacy by the press and others. Since their target isn’t her intellect, she proves the attackers as losing out, because they’re not even gaining access to her true focal point of stardom. It’s almost a jokingly “do what you want” , because they really don’t have any power. People can say what they want and do what they want, but that doesn’t mean their views are anything near the truth of her mental capacity; and in that way, their efforts aren’t a threat in the least.

8. ARTPOP

This, being the title track, was one of the songs I was most eager to hear. And I wasn’t disappointed. The whole meaning behind her ARTPOP venture is expressed in the intriguing lyrics of this song. In the chorus, “We could, we could belong together” expresses the ability of art to evoke feeling in humans, and even determine compatibility. The fact is that we are affected by what surrounds us, what we see, hear, experience; others’ actions are out in the open, and we are inspired by this, no matter if we notice or not. Life is lived in observation and then reaction. Actions, especially in art, are so significant ; “The melody that you choose/ can rescue you” and “The color palette you choose can profit you,” express this. “ARTPOP could mean anything,” expresses the endless possibilities in creation, because it’s all interpretive. The mental impact is not even superficial, Gaga proves in “Because i just love the music, not the bling. ” “Darkness won’t help you create your destiny of self,” says that sadness will not benefit you for long and that strokes of genius come with satisfaction of one’s surroundings. We are all surrounded by the works, the struggles, and triumphs of others, and yield our own purposeful part in it all. In the end, she robotically states “Free my mind, ARTPOP/ You make my heart stop,” and exhibits the ability of creativity to make one feel alive and kept interested in their existence. I find the main topic of the whole album to be power and control, and while many of the other songs apply this to love, the title track applies it to art, which we are all surrounded by in everything we do, every day, and affected by, hopefully in a positive way. When I hear her complete immersion in the thinking behind her creation, and the understanding of others’ too, I am inspired to think more deeply as well. I’ve always been a deep thinker, and Gaga just furthers that, giving me a more tremendous appreciation and worship, and my part in it all. I love Gaga because she gives me new ways to love myself, and that’s something there can never be too much of.

9. Swine

Swine is one of my absolute favorites on the album, and probably my favorite one to dance to. In it, “You’re just a pig inside a human body” and other despicable insults, repeating the words “squealer” and “disgusting” are screeched over techno beats and background pig noises. The nasty jabs are reminiscent of the bullying Gaga endured in school, which provokes a ton of emotion in me. She’s not just including herself, but also encompassing a wide array of anger and hurt felt by millions of kids worldwide. She doesn’t shy away from repeating the words of bullies, and proves herself as a now confident, mature, and bold woman who recognizes cruelty and deflects its effects. She turns hatred into an absolutely fabulous pumped-up hit that’s infectious. There’s no denying the props she deserves for such a powerfully brash combination of old pain and fresh fearlessness. To monstrous bullies who find entertainment in terrorizing their peers, your victims are stronger than you think, and thanks to the Hell you put them through, can only go upwards. Just look at what they may become. The joke’s on you.

10. Donatella

This dedication to the leading diva of fashion empire Versace is absolute fabulosity! I am head over heels in love with this song,as a huge fan of Donatella and (obviously) being majorly knowledgable about the fashion industry. I read an article where Gaga told how she played the song for Donatella and Donatella clapped and cheered, cracking up, and begging her to play it again and again. Their friendship makes my life complete. I’m not going to specifically pick out any lyrics in this one, because the whole thing is just an absolute treat of a song. Whenever music is written in the theme of famous fashionistas, I am overcome with joy.The whiny shouting of the chorus and continued reference of being a “rich bitch”, skinny, and “so fab” are just hilariously honest. This woman is an industry maven and a walking firecracker. I adore the singer and the subject, making this song to me an endearing, playful piece celebrating two badass women more than worthy of my admiration.

11. Fashion!

“Looking good and feeling fine,” is really what fashion is all about, isn’t it? This dedication to her most beloved passion, next to music (and my top one), is the most fitting tune to get ready for the day. The sound is pretty soft, and the beat is reminiscent of the groovy 70’s, but the lyrics and tone of her voice is newly endearing. She sings the words with drive, as a “thank you” to the art of clothing. The bridge coveys her emotion toward the subject, and in “I feel alive when I transform, ” it’s clear. For any critic of her loud style and outrageous manner of dressing, I challenge you to listen to this one and still deny the importance of fashion in her, and millions of us fashionistas, lives.

12. Mary Jane Holland

The combination of different sounds and beats in this song, and Gaga’s sly and smooth tone makes this song feel especially daring. Gaga basically expresses her plea to become another woman for a night, to enjoy a night with some fun people, and exemplify another side of her being. She compliments this so-called Mary Jane Holland as a sneaky woman of Amsterdam who gets whatever man she chooses and items she desires. It’s a personification of her vulnerability of self, and her variety of characters within her own. Just when you think you might know her, a new side is uncovered and Gaga has floored you again.

13. Dope

This emotional piano ballad evokes an image of Gaga being distraught and dark on a bedroom floor, begging for another chance with a lover that keeps her breathing. If in case some material items, like drugs, got in the way of their love, she assures his superiority in “I need you more than dope” and “Been hurtin’ low from living high for so long.” This song never loses its relatiblity and raw emotion. While the other lovey songs on here are playful, this one’s pure pain. Everyone is going to feel this way about a lover in their life, and so the lyrics hit home, no matter who the listener is. If I ever almost lose my soul mate, I just hope I express my hurt as beautifully as Gaga does.

14. Gypsy

I especially love this one too. It’s touching. “I don’t want to be alone forever, but I can be tonight..” speaks for the loneliness we’ve all dealt with. Her strength in the song comes when she finds a love. In “Pack your bags and let’s chase the sunset,” her exuberance towards companionship is shown and makes for a beautiful song  featuring the story of an independent wanderer who finally finds someone that inspires her to keep exploring and with whom she can discover with. I don’t know anyone who can say this isn’t a goal of their life. Gypsy is the culmination of who most of us deem ourselves to be and who it is that we can breathlessly become.

15. Applause

The first single off of the album signs off the masterpiece and definitely ends it on the highest note possible. Applause could be the soundtrack of life. The recognition of creation is what keeps the performer going. Knowing that a song, a lyric, a dance move could evoke something in another human being is the remarkable truth that brings a life on stage into such a significant purpose. Us little monsters feel alive when we hear our queen sing with such raw emotion, and she feels purposeful when she sees our very humanly receptive reactions. Writing this review has made me feel emotional (I have written it whilst listening to said album) and here, the song really hits home. The fact that I can feel connected to a woman I haven’t ever gotten the chance to even shake hands with is just magical. This is art. And this is her whole point behind the album. I love you, Gaga, and I want you to know that I live to applaud.

 

So there it is. I couldn’t be more passionate about these songs, and the spectacular woman behind them. If by chance you failed to recognize the greatest masterpiece of the twentieth century is in stores now, I demand you run to the store immediately, kiss the cover in apology, and buy the fucking CD. Thank me later.

 

 

Lorde of Fresh Pop Music

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“And everyone who knows us knows/ that we’re fine with this/ we didn’t come from money..” These were the lyrics I heard one day randomly flipping through radio stations. I, as someone who stopped religiously listening to the radio years ago after hearing too much of what I didn’t like and not enough of what I did, don’t expect much brilliance to come ensue the few times I actually do turn on the radio. But flipping through and hearing this, a majestically beautiful voice over a snappy beat, with words I could find experience in? I was intrigued. And so began my discovery of possibly the coolest kid that exists. I say kid was a literal statement, as I shockingly read that Lorde is just sixteen the other day in Rolling Stone. SIXTEEN! So who is this high-school going sensation? Ella Yelich-O’ Connor is a Yugoslavian New Zealander with a civil engineer father, prize-winning poet mother, and three siblings. She grew up just like you and I, and has acquired a sort of loving recognition of her not-so-prosperity. But not so fast. She first released The Love Club EP in November 2012, including  “Royals”, the song that’s now become a hit in America and  that first caught my ear. Then, after more studio time, she released Pure Heroine this month. After hearing “Royals”, I went and listened to most of her other songs. My mind was blown. First, I have to praise her for her relatibility. I feel connected to her. She knows she’s only sixteen and makes a point of not being haughty or entitled. It’s not in her to behave that way. She has a pointedly known disgust with mainstream music and cheap celebrity. Her goal is to spread her music to bountiful hearts, while still hanging out with the same ol’ friends. The phrasing she uses and her painfully sharp honesty drives her tracks right into your heart and mind, a place where they refuse to stop replaying. Even with the simplest of words, Lorde’s indie tone and charming pitch bring a song to anthem level. Her voice is beautifully haunting. As an avid tennis player and lover of long talks with loved ones, I particularly love “Tennis Courts”. “Team” and “The Love Club” are excellent for dancing. For the past week since discovering her, her music has stayed playing on my phone and in my head. Listening to her puts a smile on my face, and even churning up some sad thoughts, I truly enjoy it. I’m never sure if music and films mean more to me on a deep level than everyone else, but I don’t mind. The secret kingdom of artistry I’ve endearingly racked up internally keeps me enjoying life and acting and thinking vividly and vivaciously. I can’t stop and won’t stop listening to Lorde’s precious jams. And seeing how many countries her music has crossed to impact a listener like me, so far away, I don’t think I’ll have to anytime soon. Longevity for Lorde, and to all a good night.

My Take On: Stars Dance

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I had honestly never counted myself as a Selena Gomez fan before. I bought a few of her albums when I was younger, in her Disney days, and watched her shows and movies, but as I grew and so did she, my interest in the young Latina actress and singer dwindled. I considered her a mock artist, one that finds a place on the charts solely due to fans from a previous success, a.k.a. for kids. Recently I decided I would give her new album a listen. I had heard “Come and Get It” and something about the tribal beats and infectious chorus caught my ear. Now, after seeing Selena in Spring Breakers, a movie I adore, my confidence in her as an actress did, in fact, increase. I was disappointed that she was the kind of wimp-out character in the indie film, but I was willing to take it, after her emotional performance throughout the majority of scenes. She has always succeeded with a sort of faux innocence, in this particular movie playing a religious character named Faith, yet smoking a bong and messing around with a gun. I believed in her role because I believe that it mirrors who she is. This is only supported with her new album. Her new music has taken me by surprise and I’m actually impressed. Now that she’s 21, more mature themes and more wild backdrops are completely appropriate and well appreciated. The album’s tone seems brightly fresh, a transition from her days of making cheesy love songs and  costume-filled videos.

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“Birthday” is one of my favorites on the album, as a party tune that will not get out of my head. I can call myself a party girl, and I absolutely am obsessed with the lyrics: ” tell them that it’s my birthday when I party like that”. Great excuse, Sel!  In “Undercover” , a real dance hit, she sings “I need to find a place where we can be alone in the dark,” over fabulous Britney-esque beats. The fast-paced songs on the album excel, and although the love songs aren’t as strong, they aren’t painful like they used to be. “Write Your Name” and “Slow Down” succeed as catchy and lovey songs.

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Part of the reason that the album cooperates so well is that Selena doesn’t seem to take any of the songs too seriously. This is her most genuine album yet. You can truly hear the fun she had in each song, and the faith she has in the meaning of each lyric. I used to call Selena bland, and I never meant it as an insult, but an interpretation.. but now I realize it’s just taken her time to come into her own. I would actually love to see her in more big-screen flicks, on the cover of more big-time fashion magazines, and at the top of the charts with more big-time hits. It puts a smile on my face that another young woman has finally come to realization that she has the power to influence others through her art, and that becoming a pop diva is an attainable dream. After hearing her mature, majestic, and motivated new album, I can finally say that I can predict and support her achieving just that. Stars really do dance.