West Coast Rap as social commentary

Ever since hip-hop was created in 1970’s South Bronx, it became part of culture with the individuals that produced hip-hop music and those who consumed it. NWA was a group of 5 to 6 rappers that joined to make a hip-hop group, but they made sure to use their music to create a conscious, whether or not the listeners were ready to hear the content of the songs. One of their most famous songs that was released in 1988 is “Fuck Tha Police,” since it was written about the police department and their racial profiling that leads to unneeded arrests of African American males. Ice cube, a member of NWA, raps “You’d rather see, me in the pen/ than me and Lorenzo rolling in a Benz-o,” which was a violent critique of the police and the United States’ corrupted political system. NWA strategically wrote the song as if each rapper was preaching their side of their story to a jury, and ultimately the judge decides to give the verdict of the police officer getting arrested. The policeman that was described as corrupted, harsh, and racist throughout the song was then pleading for justice for himself when all along he was convicting the rappers unjustly because of their race. “Fuck Tha Police” was the first song to publicly express how African American males felt about the ongoing racism in the political system, which is why the song is still praised for it’s social consciousness that continues to be analyzed by generations after generations.

            Recently, hip-hop is still holding on to its origins and artists are focusing more on relevant social topics, instead of producing songs about glamorizing money, sex, and drugs. Kendrick Lamar is one of the recent artists that has been praised because of his lyrics by critiques and fellow hip-hop legends. Dr. Dre from NWA first signed Kendrick Lamar to his label, Aftermath Entertainment, after listening to one of his first mixtapes because Dr. Dre related to Kendrick Lamar’s lyrics. Kendrick Lamar’s “ADHD” on his Section.80 mixtape shows how Generation Y is the product of technology and how fast it is to get what you want to get to the next notion, which makes us have short attention spans like the symptom of having Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Kendrick Lamar raps, “Who gives a fuck? We never do listen/Unless it comes with an 808/a melody and some hoes,” which describes that individuals only listen to what their music says and particularly if they have videos with explicit content and women in skimpy outfits to catch their attention. Kendrick Lamar is writing lyrics like this to make the listener snap out of the technological trance and realize that there are serious issues that are ongoing around them.

Besides writing about the technological culture that we are living in, he also writes about what happens to individuals when they get “too much of a good thing”. In his breakout single “Swimming Pools” it seems as if he is rapping about drinking and getting heavily intoxicated with a grand amount of liquor that he metaphorically calls a “pool full of liquor”, when in reality it is about how alcoholism ran rampant in his family. Kendrick Lamar raps, “Now I done grew up Round some people living their lifes in bottles Granddaddy had the golden flask Back stroke every day in Chicago,” which people misuse alcohol as an escape from real-life problems and drag others down in their overindulgence. He also raps, “Why you babysitting only two or three shots I’mma show you how to turn it up a notch First you get a swimming pool full of liquor then you dive in it”, about the overuse and the disregard for limits that people exercise when drinking. This song is relatable to any age group, whether it is witnessing alcoholism in your family at a young age like Kendrick, picking up the bottle for the first time as a teen, or being an adult and not being able to establish your limits. The theme of overindulgence in “Swimming Pools” can be analyzed literally to alcoholism, or can be extended to explain any overindulgence in life and how having too much of anything isn’t ideal.

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