By RJ Huggins
“Or for anyone who’s ever been through shit in they lives,
‘Til they sit and they cry at night, wishing they die,
‘Til they throw on a rap record, and they sit and they vibe,
We’re nothing to you, but we the fuckin’ shit in their eyes.”
Those lines from the third verse of one of Eminem’s many hit singles, ‘Sing For The Moment,’ hit home for me all too well. I’m that person that he’s talking about. I’m that guy. He’s talking to me in his music and It’s surreal.
Without music, life would be a much different place. A dark place. I’m the type of person that has music playing wherever and whenever it’s possible. It keeps me sane, balanced, and it keeps my mind at ease. I’m a fan of all genres of music but am especially fond of hip-hop.
The first hip-hop or rap album that I owned was Will Smith’s 1997 album, Big Willie Style. I don’t remember how old I was when I first started ‘Gettin Jiggy Wit It,’ but I remember falling in love with that style of music. Will Smith didn’t curse in his music so it was something that was okay for me to listen to. It was mom approved.
It didn’t take long for me to delve into the rest of the rap scene and discover other artists that weren’t exactly appropriate for the age I was at. Eminem being one of them.
Like most parents, mine didn’t want their kid being influenced by someone who promoted violence and glorified drug use. Unfortunately, things like that are inevitable and hopefully as a parent, you can help guide your kids in the direction of what’s right and what’s wrong, instead of trying to cover it up or sugarcoat things.
Although people like Eminem had a lot of negativity in his music, even Slim Shady was able to be a positive influence on many as far as, for instance, giving someone the strength to never give up. Having the ability to rap about things people could relate to. That’s why that line from the third verse of ‘Sing For The Moment’ hits home for me. I’ve struggled with depression, I’ve wanted to give up. As derogatory as his music is, depending on who’s listening, it’s all interpreted a different way. I am lucky enough to take the good out of almost anything, but I know it’s not as easy for others.
Now, are there better examples of influential artists in hip-hop? Yes, there are but you have to look around a little bit because the stuff that’s promoted the most is what sells; drugs, sex, and women.
One in particular that comes to mind who I’m a huge fan of, goes by the name Jon Connor. He gets his name from the Terminator movies because like the fictional character, he says he can’t escape his destiny of being a rapper.
You won’t hear anything negative coming from this guy. He’s about as positive as you can get in the hip-hop world. He discourages the glorification of gang violence and recently put out a powerful song called ‘Fresh Water For Flint’, which speaks out about the water crisis in Flint, MI, his hometown.
In his song ‘Don’t Wanna Be’, he depicts the reality of gang violence and how the road many are taking ends in death, hoping to influence others in a better choice of living.
“When the niggas you look up to on
the block is not in a suit.
When they’re glorifying the rocks
That they got the cops in pursuit.
When one of the your niggas die,
You don’t cry and you just salute.
Like his death is a badge of honor,
Till death come looking for you.”
His music is a breath of fresh air in a genre of lots of negativity, and he’s not the only one. There are others that promote positivity instead of the common negativity of violence and drug use. Tech N9ne is another favorite rapper mine that comes to mind. He was someone I listened to religiously because of his ability to story tell about dark times and overcoming them with his dedication. He independently owns his own label and is a perfect example of what hard work can bring if you stay with it.
Following in his footsteps, a rapper known by the name of Hopsin, worked tirelessly to get a fan base by only using the internet. He doesn’t smoke or drink and defends being sober in his music. Kendrick Lamar is another sober rapper who doesn’t promote drug use or violence. He tells stories of being around those types of things growing up in Compton, CA in hopes that the people listening to his music don’t make the same mistakes he did.
I’m not trying to convince anybody that rap music is the best thing since sliced bread. To me, it’s played a huge roll in keeping me going in this twisted world. I’m able to take the good things out of it, despite the profanity and negativity that is does heavily promote. My hope is to see more positivity come from hip-hop because it does influence so many people in society, and I believe it is happening. Kendrick Lamar and Jon Connor are both signed Doctor Dre, one of the most notable producers in the industry today.
Just because there is a lot of cursing in hip-hop, or the sound comes off destructive, it doesn’t come off that way to everybody. Many listen to what these people are talking about as far as the struggle they have went through to get where they are now. They are inspired. These artists may talk about what they had to do to get through tough times, but keep an open mind to what they’re actually talking about. Don’t be so ignorant as to think that just because there is profanity and violence in the song it is what is being glorified. A lot of times that not the case.
If you want to check hip-hop off as completely destructive entity that has no place in our society, you might as well include all the reality TV show garbage as well. In my opinion, a show like Keeping Up With The Kardashians is just about as destructive to society as the violence promoted in hip-hop. I’m not even going to get into how devastating it would be if Donald Trump were to be elected president. If you think rap music is bad, listen to just about anything this guy says on cable television or his tweets on the internet.
Keep an open mind and know that there is positivity in this genre, even if it is far and few between. Do a little research on independent artists that don’t get all the promotion that artists signed to major labels do. It’s out there. Young or old, there are artists in the hip-hop community that encourage positivity and love and can be extremely beneficial to today’s society.