Research Paper: The Art of Reality in Hip-Hop/Rap Music and the Effect it has on Society

By: David Carbajal

My research paper is about the art of Reality when it pertains to Hip-Hop and Rap music, also how the words from certain artists from these genres of music affect society but particularly youth in this generation. Back in the late 1980s early 90s a rap group was well known for their art of Reality when it came to what they wrote about the name was N.W.A (Niggaz With Attitude) it comprise of three legends of the Hip-Hop and Rap game Ice Cube, Eazy E and Dr. Dre and what they rapped about was mostly about what they went through on a everyday basis. When I say Reality what I mean is that certain artists actually write and perform about what they go through or what is going in the world today such artists like the group N.W.A. (Niggaz With Attitude), J. Cole, Eminem and Kendrick Lamar. There are some that say Hip-Hop and Rap has lost that art because of how mainstream it has become and how the big mass media companies see rap as another way to sell their products like Apple surprisingly and alcohol companies are big contributors to this outsource. Still artist like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole rap about the truth and reality of what is going on in the world today and with that becomes a way to empower today’s generation and that to make a difference and learn from the past that you have to go out and make a change.

This art of reality rap where the artists did songs about what they go through on an everyday basis and also what is going on in the world during their time. Art of reality rap started with a group from the late 80s and early 90s which comprised of three legends of hip-hop Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and Eazy-E along with their friends MC Ren and DJ Yella made the group of N.W.A (Niggaz With Attitude) from Compton, CA. They perfected this style of reality rap which came to be called gangsta or hardcore rap N.W.A shook up the music industry and the broader culture with songs about the experiences of young, poor black males in the inner city (Reklis., 2015). They were such an instrumental part of the music industry and also in American culture for giving the inner city of Los Angeles a voice during a time where racism and police harassment were at its highest especially when it was during the Rodney King trial. Before, that even happened N.W.A released the track F**k Da Police which talked about the harassment they have experienced and also witnessed from the LAPD. No matter the generation the affect that N.W.A made on not only hip-hop but in the world in general is still shown not only with current artists like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole but also in the recent biopic Straight Outta Compton which is about the world’s most dangerous group N.W.A. Many critics disliked the movie that believe it would be a better movie and a more honest appraisal of N.W.A- style rap if it had confronted the dark side of the genre (Reklis.,2015). Either way no matter how you react to the N.W.A style of rap or the message they spoke through their art, there is no doubt that N.W.A left their mark in music history and will forever be known as the pioneers of the reality rap.

The art of gangsta or reality gets heavy criticism in society though from back when N.W.A came out with their song F**k Da Police and while on tour they were actually arrested in Detroit for performing that song and it started a riot in the city (Straight Outta Compton., F. Gary Gray). It all started with N.W.A when it came to backlash for speaking the truth and now even in this generation rappers such as Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and Eminem have been criticized in the past and present for their lyrics and music videos. For example, in 2015 FOX News anchor Geraldo Rivera criticized rapper Kendrick Lamar on his performance at the BET Awards this past year saying that “…hip-hop has damaged young African-Americans more than racism.” (Bishop., 2015) Rivera thought his performance did not help anything when it comes to racism and then Lamar responded saying that “This is our music. This is us expressing ourselves.” (Bishop., 2015) and then went on to say his song which says “…we gon’ be alright…” does not imply that he wants to kill somebody. In the textbook Mass Communication: Living in a Media World there is a brief section on Audio and the concern about the effect music has on the youth and one of the concerns brought up is that “…rap is the complaint that it is misogynistic and violent. Rappers defend the violence in their recordings by noting that we live in a violent world.” (Hanson., 2016) What people like Geraldo don’t understand is rap gives us a voice for people that see this world as a messed up place where everyone criticizes our President and would rather have Donald Trump be president please we need reality rap so at least we know that there is hope in this world and that there is a voice for the voiceless. This allows the youth to be empowered by the strong words of real artists like Kendrick Lamar and people should be concerned if the youth just listens to mainstream artists that don’t get the chance to speak the truth because the big companies they work for don’t want the heat, but lucky for us there are rebels like Kendrick and J. Cole that don’t care and just want to rap about the truth.

Rap has always had a deep impact on society and it is has been feared, but also is highly praised for its raw emotion when it comes to the truth of what’s going on in the world we live in. Rap has a great impact on the future of this country because the words from inspirational rappers like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Eminem and Lupe Fiasco inspire the Youth of this country now whether it is in a positive or negative way is completely how they interpret the songs from these artists. In a journal entry written by Raphael Travis Jr. he tells how throughout the time “Pioneers of various Hip-Hop have been empowered through the ability to voice there reality…” (Travis Jr. ., 2013) and through this it has help inspire movements like the #BlackLivesMatter movement giving them a voice and that their message is being heard by artists like Kendrick Lamar. Also, according to Travis Jr. “This new paradigm of Hip-Hop’s use includes goals of empowerment for individuals and communities, moving from an emphasis on ‘me’ to a simultaneous emphasis on the collective ‘we’.” (Travis Jr., 2013) Hip-hop has an affect on a community like how I mentioned N.W.A earlier coming from the streets of Compton, Ca gave that part a voice but they weren’t the only ones Notorious B.I.G gave the east coast a voice and Tupac Shakur gave the world a voice with his raps so this art is all over the country and even in places like Mexico and Canada as well. Hip-Hop inspires the youth now whether people see it as a bad form because of what the artist is talking about or see it has a good form because that straight rawness of the rap is completely up to you but to me rap empowers the world in a great way.

In closing, the reality rap is a an art just like an artist painting a mural because both are about sending a message to the public and showing that the people have a voice in the inner city communities. Back when N.W.A started that is all they set out to be and do is give the streets of Compton, CA a voice especially during a time where the L.A.P.D was known for police harassment against African-Americans. The legacy of N.W.A is the reason such artist like Notorious B.I.G, Tupac Shakur, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, J. Cole and Lupe Fiasco just to name a few speak or spoke the truth about what goes on in the world around us and were never afraid to speak their mind. These artists past and present give the youth empowerment to speak their minds and have a voice when it comes to things going in the world such as politics songs from Tupac Shakur and Lupe Fiasco gave their point of views on politics. Of course rap will always have its fair share of critics because of how straight up raw they are, but in the end these artists are the voice of the voiceless giving people a chance to know what is really going in the world and do it perfectly with a melody. Annotated Reference
• Bishop, T. (2015, July 02). Kendrick Lamar Responds To Fox’s Geraldo Rivera’s Criticism Of His Music As Harmful To Blacks. Retrieved February 27, 2016, from http://mediamatters.org/blog/2015/07/02/kendrick-lamar-responds-to-foxs-geraldo-riveras/204247

• Hinds, J. (2015, August 13). The famous 1989 Detroit concert by N.W.A, then and now. Retrieved February 27, 2016, from http://www.freep.com/story/entertainment/movies/2015/08/13/straight-outta-compton-movie-detroit-ice-cube-joe-louis-arena/31496317/
• Blair, M. E. (1993). Commercialization of Rap Music Youth Subculture. Journal Of Popular Culture, 27(3), 21-33.

• Reklis, K. (2015). Reality rap. Christian Century, 132(22), 44.

• Travis, R. (2013). Rap Music and the Empowerment of Today’s Youth: Evidence in Everyday Music Listening, Music Therapy, and Commercial Rap Music. Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal, 30(2), 139-167. doi:10.1007/s10560-012-0285-x

• Hanson, R. E. (2011). Mass communication: Living in a media world. Washington, DC: CQ Press. P. 175

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