Today’s Hip-Hop: Does It Have To Make Sense?


Engaging a group of students in a conversation about today’s Hip-Hop music, I asked them to quote for me lyrics from some artists who are presently deemed hot MCs. It goes without noting that when most names were mentioned, I immediately opined, “What is he talking about”?

To which one youth responded, “Does it have to make sense?”

Truth be told, I’m becoming an old man. Now granted, I haven’t started wearing the black shoe polish in my hair to compensate for the lack thereof. Nor am I wearing super-sized headbands to hide my receding hairline (which, might I add, would look ridiculous with me dressed in a shirt and tie, standing at a chalkboard teaching Math). My oldness is appearing in other debilitating forms. My stamina isn’t what it used to be, and my memory is fading, quickly.

But probably the worst indication of prolonging the inevitable is the fact that I have not the slightest clue what many of these rappers are now talking about. I guess that wouldn’t matter if I still didn’t have an infatuation with the music that I fell in love with as child. I find it easier to fall in love than it is to fall out of it. However, I’m getting old, and I know it because I am now starting to quote the words my parents used to say to me when I was a child.

Words such as, “I don’t know what this garbage is y’all are listening to today.”

I can barely tune into the local radio station that caters to the Hip-Hop-oriented demographics, because the majority of songs sound as if they were made for a strip club compilation CD. I don’t know about other mature adults, but at this stage in my life, I only want to listen to strip club songs when I am in the strip club. Not when I’m in my car during the day, either transporting my 13-year-old daughter to or from school.

Then if I’m not listening to strip club songs, I’m being force fed songs that I literally need translation for. I understand Hip-Hop is a young man’s sport, but would it be wrong for me to suggest that it doesn’t have to be a genre of music precisely geared towards a specific age group? And would I be inherently stupid not to believe that our young folk only want to listen to strip club songs or songs about trapping?

People oftentimes will say, “There’s a lot of conscious Hip-Hop music out there. You just have to find it.”

Before we go any further, really consider that quote. If I have to seek consciousness, then what am I presently in the midst of?

It pains me that our music has drastically changed the way it has. Truth be told, it wasn’t all conscious then, but various options provided for us diversity. And due to that diversification, conscious Hip-Hop was readily available and made mainstream. Now, we know that it was for the monetary profit for corporations, but it would be remiss to say that our community didn’t profit from it as well. Arguably in a far greater capacity than just dollars and cents. Some would suggest that systematically, it was determined by the powers that be to dumb us down by over saturating our community not with the spirit of Malcolm, but instead the fictitious life of Montana. We’ve replaced the idealization of strong, Black women with only the sexuality of Foxy Brown.

Plainly speaking, we’ve been duped to believe that we don’t have much more to offer to each other than lying *ss street stories and bedroom tales that should remain inside the bedroom of consenting adults. Man, I’m getting old because I do remember the time when I would relish those same stories that are being spoken to our children, by our children today. I done spent many of nights jumping up and down at a club, screaming to the top of my lungs foolishness. I’ve been watching the movie Scarface since it came recorded on two separate VHS tapes.

However, apparently that wasn’t all that I was doing. And more importantly than anything that I must stress, that was not my only alternative. Unlike today’s Hip-Hop oriented entertainment culture, I was given viable options, which lent to my balance. My greatest concern of our culture for today’s youth is that they are not getting the same balance. And what they are being fed is just as unhealthy, dangerous, and detrimental to their well being as foul food or contaminated water.

So, “does it have to make sense?”

Given the impact and influence that our youth allow the music to have on their lives, I reckon that it should.

Cornell Dews is a proud parent, classic Hip-Hop fan, and contributor.