Beyond the offensive and explicit content it’s normally associated with, hip-hop and its artists promote values often overlooked by those ignorant to or unfamiliar with the highly-popularized culture.
Fox News’ Laura Ingraham recently faced backlash when she allegedly made a mockery out of the late rapper Nipsey Hussle in a posthumous evaluation of his song “FDT (Fuck Donald Trump).”
While there was substantial positive media coverage focusing on Hussle’s philanthropic work, only the hip-hop community was really knowledgeable of it before his death.
This calls for a reevaluation of hip-hop’s bad rap.
Hip-hop or rap music does not shy away from details of gang life, violence and drug use often coupled with misogynistic undertones and profanity. Additionally, a number of rap’s high-profile celebrities have gang backgrounds and maintain an affiliation with that lifestyle. Simply, rap deals with its fair share of controversy.
It’s not a perfect role model but the world could use some schooling in the values hip-hop culture does emphasize.
Self-worth, personal growth, hard work and appreciation are common themes in rap lyrics. Hip-hop stars often promote family and community, resiliency, education and social justice. This is what’s at hip-hop’s core, the lifeline to one of today’s fastest-growing cultural movements.
There’s a reason why hip-hop is to disenfranchised communities as gospel is to church. For one, the rhythmic delivery style paired with a consistent beat is an accessible music format that resonates with marginalized communities across the globe.
Cambridge University’s Department of Psychology spearheads “hip-hop psych” to teach about mental health, citing rap as “the perfect form for music therapy” due to its propensity for healthy emotional expression and promotion of positive visual imagery.
But more importantly, rappers often narrate a rags-to-riches life, glorifying the fame and fortune describing the difficulties of poverty and growing up in crime-riddled neighborhoods active with gangs and violence. They attribute success to continuous learning, maintaining authenticity of self and embracing hard work and effort.
Hip-hop icon Kanye West provides academic support to prevent dropouts through his Dr. Donda West Foundation; Chance The Rapper founded SocialWorks to support youth arts and education; YG from Compton started GirlCodeLA aimed at exposing young girls to computer science, business and software engineering.
There is a kind of hilarity in the duality of a rapper’s image as both a thug and philanthropist.
Serving in such a way is immensely honorable and selfless; for charity to be a pillar of hip-hop spits volumes about the culture’s stress of generosity and loyalty to humanity.
There’s a lesson to be learned here. Hip-hop does right by acknowledging the bad guy. By challenging the preconceived perspective of hip-hop as the bad guy’s promoters, we might just see it for the globally-consuming, progressive powerhouse that it is.