Monday, March 14, 2011

Why I like rap

Ever since I was 9 or 10 I have been an avid rap fan. I used to not know why this was and not really care. I just liked to bob my head to the beat and listen to the constant rhythms and rhymes that fascinated me. Rap was a mind teaser to me. I loved the riddles, the analogies and the tongue twister lyrics. As I've grown I have started to wonder why I like rap. The lyrics are often objectionable, the politics in rap are usually opposite my own beliefs, and the lifestyles that are glorified in rap are equally divergent from who I consider myself as a person. Yet somehow my love for rap has only grown with time. Now I have the mental faculties to actually consider the deeper reasons that rap resonates with me. Why does it resonate with me, the real me, not the external projection that everyone in the sidelines of my life sees?

I think my love affair with rap is a story of feeling. Like a movie or a good book, rap tells a story. It has characters: protagonists, antagonists and everything in between. The harsh realities of urban ghetto life are objectionable to be sure, but the feeling within the lyrics is raw and uncensored. I think that I like the ability of rap to bare the soul. It's poetic, it's perverse, and it's cathartic. When I listen to rap I take part in a story I didn't live. I am transported to the Bronx, to Philly, to Compton and Inglewood. I hear the bullets thud into chests and the sobs of parents who have lost their children to gang violence. I hear the anger, the frustration, the pain, and I feel human. It's the empathy component that makes rap interesting. The ability of the story to bring the listener in and involve them in a drama, much like a good book or movie. I know there is still more to rap that I like, but at this point I can't articulate it. Jay-z, my favorite rapper, does an excellent job of explaining (from the perspective of one who did live it) the emotional aspects of rap. Check out this short clip to hear how rap has filled a need to voice a cry for help and to tell a story that is often overlooked in popular media.

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