The almost infamous rap group N.W.A was a Compton based rap group that was often banned from mainstream radio for having too explicit lyrics. Besides the occasional record glorifying the objectification of women and gang activity, the group rapped for the inner city youth.
Rolling Stone ranked the group number 83 on their list of “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” and in October of ’12 they were nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Their debut album, Straight Outta Compton, featured their controversial song, “Fuck tha Police” which protested against police brutality and racial profiling. Way ahead of their time, the group called out white police officers senselessly beating down blacks in the ghetto.
This album featured the song “Gangsta Gangsta” which painted a picture of inner city youth. It also featured “Express Yourself” which had lyrics centered on free expression and the restraints placed on rappers by radio censorship. The song called out other rappers for being afraid to express their true opinion for fear of backlash of the public.
By the end of their career N.W.A essentially created gangster rap, but the only thing they ever considered it to be is “real rap”.
Another rapper in this era is Tupac Shakur. Although involved in a violent royalty war with Brooklyn rapper, Biggie Smalls, Shakur had a message for women, mothers, and rival gangs.
With songs like “Keep Ya Head Up”, “Brenda’s Got a Baby”, and “Dear Mama” Shakur rapped to single mothers, his mother and all women who might be going through hard times. These songs also featured subtle lyrics criticizing the government like in “Keep Ya Head Up” when he says “You know it’s funny, when it rains it pours. They have money for wars, but can’t feed the poor.”
Songs released after his death were most influential as well, like “Changes”. The song starts with lyrics describing being an underdog in the rap game and being a poor, black man in modern society. It also addresses the dirty politics of modern day America that make it harder for black men.
Perhaps the most important song to describe the eventual decline of rap music is Common’s “I Used To Love H.E.R.”. As you listen to the song Common takes you through the evolution of a relationship with a woman he met and her adventures crossing the country and evolving. It isn’t until the ends of the song that you realize this explicit relationship is not with a woman, but with hip hop music itself.
The song goes on to be referenced and remixed a million times and is considered to be a “timeless ode to hip hop”.
Overall rap of this time told a story, the lyrics were deep poetry set to a funky beat. Nowadays, technology has blessed the music industry with hot beats, but the content of which rappers preach is filth.
Every song about sex, drugs, and money gets old fast. It’s all the same. The rappers speaking about real world issues in the community are far and few between. The current main theme seems so be all about who has the most money and who can objectify the most women in the least amount of bars.
Every rapper claims they’re going to change the game then they get sucked into the mainstream luster of making money and forget about their message. Nevertheless there still is hope for new school rappers. There is no such thing as rock bottom in a game that is forever changing.