When people think about rap music, many tend to think of names such as Tupac, Notorious BIG, Wu Tang Clan, Drake, Lil’ Wayne, Eminem, Tech N9ne and others.
People also tend to think of scantily clad women, diamond encrusted mouth jewelry, flashy cars, drugs, violence and gang references.
Because of these affiliations, there is a large segment of the population that does not understand the appeal of this genre of music. So what is the big deal?
Rap music is widely credited to have begun with the group Sugar Hill Gang and their song “Rapper’s Delight.”
The truth is that rap music goes back much earlier, with examples from the forties and fifties present on such video streaming sites as YouTube.
The style is simply described: It is in many respects poetry to music.
What sets it apart from something like slam poetry is that it is delivered with a set and specific rhythm and timing.
Like slam poetry, rap is most often used to address socio-political or socio-economic issues plaguing the community the artist calls home, or the racial community with which the artist identifies.
In the early days of the genre, it was delivered most times over sampled music; that is, instrumental portions of other songs mixed to create something new and different.
In the early 2000’s, this was made more difficult due to several lawsuits which claimed that the sampled music was not acquired legally, did not properly credit the original creator, or that the original musician was not adequately compensated.
This caused a major shift in the genre which ushered in an era of originality at an instrumentally foundational level.
For many fans of rap music, the growth, metamorphosis and variety present and represented within the art form is attractive.
For many more, it is the messages delivered within the music that is more substantial.
A veteran of the genre, KRS-One, is generally accepted as a foundational pioneer of what is known as Conscious Rap; a designation that describes a subculture within the genre that seeks to uplift, build up, inform and educate the listener.
This form of rap music is just one example of what kind of message attracts fans.
Still, for all of its growth, evolution and genuine artistry; in spite of the presence of such excellent messages as are found in such forms as Conscious Rap; the genre attracts a great deal of harsh criticism.
Much of this is due to a style birthed in the 1990’s known as Gangsta Rap.
This form took for its inspiration gang life and all that came with it: Drugs, violence, and a less than favorable view of women.
It was performed most often by those who had lived the life, and appealed to those who knew the life themselves, as well as those who desired to portray the image of a tough, no-nonsense individual.
This is the ultimate allure of rap music in general.
The messages found within the lyrics either support the listener’s own views, or they support the image the listener wishes to portray to the world around him or her.
For example, the rap artist that portrays him or herself as a powerful and respected individual, however flawed, is often embraced by those who feel powerless and disrespected.
To illustrate another portion of rap fans, there are those who see certain events taking place within their neighborhoods, cities and states who feel they cannot effect change; yet their artist of choice have both the voice and the message to do so in their stead.
This is not to say that there are not listeners who enjoy the beat, instrumentation or vocal rhythm of the artist; there are indeed many such fans.
The example given here is simply one of many which has been shown to be an accurate representation of a certain segment of the genre’s fanbase.
Rap music is popular for many different reasons: Some enjoy dancing to it, others like it for its instrumental components, and still others find the artist’s image appealing.
However, the genre’s appeal generally comes down to its message and delivery.
While it is unlikely to attract new fans among the Baby Boomer or the Flower Child generations, it is reasonable to expect a continued increase within the ranks of current and future generations.
Much like other forms of music through history, its attraction lies in its ability to address the positive and negative issues experienced by its listeners.