Rap Music Essay Example

The United States was healing vastly years after the Great Depression, except for some parts of the city, where some would find themselves struggling against a war on drugs and poverty issues. In the song, N.Y. State of Mind, Queensbridge rapper, Nas talks about the struggle of being out on the streets of New York during the period he grew up in, being the 80s and 90s. Two of the major cities that struggled were New York City and Los Angeles. During the 70s, drug use and prostitution were frequent on the streets (Lam, 2018). This would be the reason for many to struggle with money, eventually causing many to go homeless. However, there was a part of this culture that the people living this life found positive, which was music. Poverty, crime, and gang affiliations in the 80s and 90s contributed to the evolution of music, morphing into hip hop, which had a profound influence on street culture.

During the 80s and 90s, culture was not the same in the East as it was in the West. These two different sides of America would find themselves competing in both, gangs and music. At this time, there were a lot of issues going on, which included a lot of people to be going in debt and as this was going on, immigrants continuously moved into the city looking for jobs (Company, 2018). The streets of cities in the East were considered dirty and there were lots of drug dealers and muggers trying to get money. Crime, especially murders were rising at an absurd rate. Many of these casualties were caused by gangsters. Early on, Jewish, Irish, and German immigrants were the ones forming gangs, but this soon changed in the 70s, when Hispanics and Blacks found themselves beginning to rap and cause crimes (Streetgangs.com, 2018). Gangs often would like to make people fear them, meaning that they wanted to be known around the area. This meant that members would soon begin implementing the name of their gang into their rap songs. Another way that gang affiliated people showed their ‘respect’ to their set is with vandalism. It was popular to draw on structures and sides of buildings, writing names or drawing art. This was known as graffiti. On streets of New York during the late 70s through the 90s, many would find themselves as part of a gang or involved in drugs. This caused many to be afraid to walk around the city, especially at night.

In previous years, jazz was a popular music genre in the East and for the black community. To cope with their dangerous and violent street life, many would revert to music and talk about their lives. To begin, many took aspects of jazz and added more sounds to make it louder. The witnesses or gang members making the music soon would add lyrics to the beat, soon creating a new genre of music, being hip hop. In the track Quiet Storm, the rap duo Mobb Deep raps about their lives and regrets. Prodigy says, “I’ll take the life of anybody tryna change what’s left/ And through all of that a n***a ain’t scared of death/ And y’all brand new n***as just scared to death/ I spent too many nights sniffin’ coke, gettin’ right/ Wastin’ my life, now I’m tryna make things right” (Genius, 2018). Threatening anyone who’s going to get in his way, Prodigy explains that he’s spent his life causing crimes and doing drugs and even though his life has maybe at one point been beyond messed up, he tells a story through music, coming clean and making money, which will help him become more successful in escaping his regrets.

As the crime rate went up in the East Coast of the United States, the West Coast was facing something similar. This was mostly in California, however. During the 80s, the economy was having slacking, causing there to be problems with poverty. Similar to the East, people began to deal drugs and participate in crime, by joining gangs and fighting. Partying was also a big part of the West Coast. “As economic recession and crack cocaine swept through Watts and East Los Angeles, a generation of artists chose to portray the world of the ghetto with unfettered realism. These were tough guys acting tough, and the sound they created was called gangsta rap. Over grinding electronic samples, they rapped about cops, crack, gangs, and lust (though seldom love).” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2018). As many struggled to avoid trouble in this period, the use of crack cocaine grew as well as a new form of hip hop. Many rappers would soon stick out to the public as figures, who even though weren’t good people due to their pasts, they were looked up upon. Tupac raps, saying, “Out of bail, fresh out of jail, California dreamin’/ Soon as I step on the scene, I’m hearin’ hoochies screamin’/ Fiendin’ for money and alcohol, the life of a Westside player/ Where cowards and the strong ball” (Genius, 2018). Starting his verse with leaving jail, Tupac immediately begins representing California. He then goes on talking about partying and money. As he continues rapping, it is stated that cowards cannot survive in this area and only strong ones will be successful. Tupac shows off to his fans, saying that he’s a “Westside player” (Genius, 2018) and talks about how he’s successful in making money and picking up girls. The song California Love by Tupac and featuring Dr. Dre is meant to be played at parties and is a well recognized hip hop song. Rappers in the West implemented funk music with lyrics about law, drugs, money and partying for the most part.

Aside from Tupac, a somewhat rebellious group was taking over the game in California known as the N.W.A. This group included many known rappers, such as Ice Cube, Eazy E, Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, and MC Ren. Just like many others from the West Coast, the N.W.A rapped in a somewhat more political way, talking about their hate for police and using noisey beats to show how wild it was around California. The group originated from Compton, California, which was a city many feared due to the crime rate. Acting somewhat rebellious in the song Gangsta Gangsta, Ice Cube says, “Do I look like a mothaf**kin’ role model?/ To a kid lookin’ up to me/ Life ain’t nothin’, but b*tches and money” (Genius, 2018). This line is repeated multiple times in the song, showing that this what the members of the N.W.A focus their lives on. On a previous line, Ice Cube mentions that he shouldn’t be known as a role model, but people still look up to him (Genius, 2018). Many people who lived the party or gang life in California were inspired by this rebellious hip hop group, which inspired them to act this way, but while it may have had a negative effect on the way people acted, the way the N.W.A acted showed that it was okay to speak up about politics and thoughts on crime.

Hip hop finally gave many hope and inspired people to keep going on with their life. This genre of music was relatable to the people living in this setting at the time. As many began rapping however, tension grew between the East and West Coast. Rivalries between who the greater rapper was began to occur, especially with two of the most famous hip hop artists, The Notorious BIG and Tupac. The Notorious BIG, otherwise known as Biggie Smalls was from Brooklyn, New York. The rapper began to become well known at the same time Tupac was around. The two eventually formed a rivalry against each other.

Bad Boy Records was a record label in New York, which was one of the most famous labels around, which signed Biggie into it. This record label would cause a major influence on the street culture in the East Coast. Biggie Smalls talks about how he influenced girl clothing, saying, “I put h*es in NY onto DKNY/ Miami, D.C. prefer Versace/ All Philly h*es go with Moschino/ Every cutie with a booty bought a Coogi” (Genius, 2018). Biggie aims for the girls listening to his music, as he begins to call out designer fashion brands that his girls should wear. When rappers wore or mentioned clothing brands, they are picked up upon by the audience. This causes the market to get blown up by fans of the music artist and people begin to wear clothes made by the brand getting shouted out. Biggie often raps about relatable topics, which made his listeners appreciate him even more. The Brooklyn rapper would also often mention streetwear and designer brands in his music and promote these brands.

While Bad Boy Records was big in the East, a record label in California began to grow called Death Row Records. Even though rap was always a somewhat darker genre of music for some parts, Death Row played a intense role in hip hop throughout the 90s. This record label included many of the N.W.A, as it was created by Dr. Dre, Suge Knight and The D.O.C. The label also had Biggie’s rival, Tupac signed to it. However, in the late 90s, some began to believe that Suge Knight was somewhat responsible for the death of Tupac, as he claims to be there with Tupac the night of the murder. In an interview, Biggie says, “Even though we was going through our drama I would never wish death on nobody” (2Pac Legacy, 2018). Even though they spent most of their careers battling over who the “king” of hip hop was at the time, Biggie and Tupac both respected each other greatly. During an interview taking place after the death of Tupac, Biggie explains that even though they had their beef, he would never want anything bad to happen to Tupac. However, not even a year after the death of Tupac, Biggie was eventually shot and killed. Even though many believe that Suge Knight is still responsible for the killing of Tupac, many believe that he was more responsible for Biggie’s death, in revenge for the death of Tupac. Suge Knight eventually responded claiming that he took no part in Biggie’s murder and while still many believe that he could be lying, people also believe that the corrupt police of Los Angeles were the reason of the murders of the two rappers (The Daily Beast, 2018). Even though Death Row was a popular record label during the 90s, they took a very dark role on influencing hip hop and have been theorized to have been causing the death of many rappers. Death Row Records was the label that picked up on criminals, who lived their lives commiting crimes on the streets and giving them a chance to become successful.

As many rappers began to show their views and past with life, the youth began to pick up on their ideas, changing street culture. Especially for African Americans, many were now not as afraid to be open on their opens politically and with other problems, such as racism and poverty. Hip hop artists also had a different taste in fashion than many did before this era (Spinditty, 2018). Rappers usually would wear baggier clothing and jewelry, such as chains. Many brands started to release a new type of clothing called streetwear, where they would sell clothing that would be larger in size and flat hats. Another somewhat underground sport that began to become popular was skateboarding. Skateboard brands soon began to release clothes, which caused many to join in with this lifestyle. Streetwear clothing was also brighter, instead of just plain black, white and grey colors. One very popular streetwear brand during the 90s was called FUBU. “A conscious brand that attempted to raise awareness of supporting black-owned businesses. The brand's bright colors and big logo definitely caught attention, but it seemed like almost every demographic was trying to rock FUBU in the '90s.” (Complex, 2018). To many living the city life, FUBU was a brand that many wore. The colors and bagginess of the clothing stuck out to many, showing that people were catching on to this culture and not being afraid to show what they really like and their taste in fashion. Another brand that started to grow was Supreme. With great quality clothing, Supreme became a casual wear for people following the hip hop lifestyle, as well as skateboarding. Even though some of the clothing was just a plain colored shirt with the world “Supreme” boxed in the middle, it stuck out to many as a great underground brand (Complex, 2018). In the city, street culture was a big lifestyle, which gave people the idea to not be afraid to show their views on society and what they want to wear. Even though it made many look dirtier and louder, it made people stick out of the crowd of people in the city. Rappers promoted these brands in music and many found hip hop to be relatable to their lives, so they picked up on these trends.

Many years after the economy healed, immigration and crime became a big problem in the city, causing many to go jobless. At the same time as this, drug and alcohol use also found itself booming into society, causing many to become dealers and gangsters to get money. However, music began to evolve on both, the East and West coasts of the United States, giving hope to many, especially the black culture. Soon enough, gangsters began to participate in producing and writing music and creating their own lifestyle and fashion choices. The first amendment, being freedom of speech also caused a great influence, giving these artists the right to say what they wanted to, no matter how violent or inappropriate it was. In the 80s and 90s, poverty and crime were big aspects to the city life, causing many to become gang related, but positively creating hip hop, which influenced street culture greatly.


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