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: We’re the Millers

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RV + Pineapple Express = A roaring hilarious comedy about a fake family crossing the country to smuggle half a million dollars worth of top notch weed. Jason Sudeikis plays David, who excels as the city’s best pot dealer, who doesn’t have kids, a wife, or any responsibilities in the world. He’s known stripper Rose, played by Jennifer Aniston, for years, over which they’ve kept up a somewhat-playful discontent with one another’s immorality. Emma Roberts plays the runaway delinquent teen, who Kenny, an innocent teen with an alcoholic and neglectful mother who lives in David’s apartment building, tries to stop from getting mugged one day on the streets. David steps in to help, but the gang figures out he’s a drug dealer and steals his stash and  his thousands of dollars  of cash. In order to make up for the lost profits, his boss, played by a douchebag Ed Helms, orders him to get to Mexico, pick up a “smidge and a half” of drugs, and smuggle it back to his offices. But David looks like a drug dealer, and being alone would  set off every red flag in existence. So, without much easiness, he assembles Kenny, Casey, and Rose as his fake family on an innocent vacation to “Me-hiko”. This sets up the plot for a disastrous adventure of a road trip, directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, who also brought us the classically funny Dodgeball. The stereotypical behaviors the group takes on, of a sweet little family on vacation, excel throughout the entire film. As they pass through inspection over and over, it really makes one think about the shows so many people could quite possibly be putting on to get where they want. One could truly portray who they want, as long as they take measures to actually start to live it. Which means, of course, the movie wouldn’t be right without the group bonding effectively. I can’t even express my full appreciation that this bonding didn’t go as one would expect. No, there wasn’t a scene where the family plays board games and looks up into each other’s eyes while melodic music plays, and they finally realize they are like a family. No, there weren’t hugs abound and a falling in love of Rose and David on the road. Instead, there was a scene of a very inappropriately- turned game of drawing charades with a sweet, welcoming family they run into along the way. There was a scene of virgin Kenny learning how to kiss by practicing with his “mom” and “sister”, while “dad” films, which completely disturbs the other family’s daughter, who walks in on the scene. And there was pseudo parenting needed when Casey runs off with a carnival hooligan and Kenny gets a serious case of genital inflammation after a very personal tarantula bite. So the group grows friends well enough, though with much dysfunction, in ways that are not expected. The laughs stick throughout the entire film, and although it seems there were missed opportunities for hysterical scenes with such gifted actors, the ones that are given are great. With each of the group’s different traits and strengths,  the bunch barely gets back with their lives, and the boss’s operation is shut down with David’s  assistance. They end up having been too involved with Mexican drug lords, so for their own safety, must enroll in Witness Protection- together. I prefer this ending, over an expected go-back-to-their-own-lives-yet-run-into-each-other-for-a-warming-welcome-on-the-daily one. Because even as the door to their pure-looking little house in the sweet suburbs shut and the sun sets over their flawlessly manicured emerald lawn, we know what goes on behind those walls is not in any way typical, peaceful, or innocent,  but oh well, because the group has learned to stick together. Kinda like glue… even if their brand doesn’t exactly dry on clear.

 

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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.

My Take On: The Internship

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Instability sticks with you. This is the starter point for the new Shawn Levy comedy, The Internship. Crashers  Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson team up again for the first time in decades, as more-than-middle-aged Billy and Nick, two watch salesman who lose their jobs following a company bankruptcy. Right from the start, the message about expiration is clear. Watches out, phones in. Stability out, fast-paced-modern-world-where-two-forty-year-old-settled-down-men-could-be-thrown-on-the-road-just-like-any-young-kid in. The two keep up hope though, after the disillusionment of changing times fizzles. They land a chance for an internship at mega billion dollar company, Google, in a huge competition, where they’ll have to compete with young adults half their age. These kids may have less experience, but they have more technical knowledge, social popularity, and fresh opportunity. Don’t underestimate the undergrads. Nobody wants the two on their team, and in fact, they barely make it in the competition. A team is assembled, finally, with a few other social outcasts of the group, a bubbly and vivacious Indian girl (Tiya Sircar) , an antisocial hipster (Dylan O’ Brien), and their overly enthusiastic coach (Josh Brener). The team  faces dysfunction at first, and throughout the most of the competition, with Vaughn and Wilson being wholly out of the loop technologically. But they start to triumph towards the end, when the two “oldies” help infuse the crew with some confidence and help them have some fun. A strip club scene excels in illustrating the bond between the characters, without someone throwing up (yawn). The last challenge proves the toughest, and the team shows up late with their results. Another, more Ivy-League team headed by a snooty upperclassman (Max Minghella) seems to be in the lead, but the final results deem the oddball team the winners, for their unique creativity, and not just astute predictability. It ends on a cheesy note, and all of the trials and tribulations the pair of friends have gone through don’t seem to keep these two apart. The movie is far better than ratings have deemed it. The funny parts are funny, and the touching parts make you beam out of your seat. The consumerist aspect of making an entire film to promote Google seems sniving, but not until you see how well the plot exceeds in making an ad a tale. The somewhat there, somewhat not romance between Wilson and a Google worker played by Rose Byrne is probably one of the weakest aspects of the movie, as the pretense of running into a soul mate at work has proved too movie for too long, but when the two go out to dinner at the end in a montage of joking about how to be the worst date, something works. It’s the comic atmosphere of this film that keeps in the category of “worth a watch”. It’s interesting to see all of the perks of working at possibly the biggest pop culture-dependent company in the world. Watching the film is a lot of fun, and the cast succeeds in keeping it that way. My biggest concern lies in my thirst for Wilson and Vaughn to collaborate again. This is no Crashers, but it is The Internship. In that, I must express my appreciation to a simple film that preserves the ever-changing, yet always refreshing genre of comedy. Felicitaciones. . . Google it.