There is a preconceived notion of many, that the hip hop and rap produced the current era has decreased in inherent value and has turned towards a less meaningful avenue. There is an implication that this type of music is not the art that it used to be, and therefore is not as good, especially by those who were young adults in the times of Tupac and NWA. There has also been an increase in the glorification of criminalized behavior within what is referred to today as “trap music”. However, there is also something to be said about the ability of this type of music to make its audience identify with its sounds and words, and truly make its audience feel; one of the key goals of any sort of artistic expression.
Personally, the song that truly exemplifies this shift that occurred in rap specifically is Red Opps by 21 Savage. Essentially the song is him speaking about shooting up a neighborhood that is he believes are filled with weak men, simply because he is “harder” than them, and he was built for the life of a thug. This mindset is set in stone by his repeated phrase “I’m on that slaughter gang shit, murder gang shit”. The criminalized behavior is emphasized by a majority of his chorus when he raps
I just bought a pistol it got thirty rounds in it
Pull up at your mama house and out some rounds in it
Wet a nigga block and watch them niggas drown in it
Hunnid round drum gun a nigga down with it
Much of the song is like minded in references to being able to take his pick of the females around him, with no regard for the men they may be involved. Much of this type of rhetoric has become a commonplace fixture in the trap music world, and that is the reason why it is questioned to whether or not this is true art.
But what is not truly given an appreciation to if the bass and the beats behind the lyrics. Somehow this artist is able to keep his audiences captivated and entranced by the sounds he is able to create. 21 Savage’s sounds sweeps people into his world, and even though what is being said is beyond criminal, for those 3 minutes, the audience goes into a head space in which it is momentarily acceptable to think like this, and this thrill is what makes his music so popular. 21 transports his listeners where deviancy is not only celebrated, but sounds amazing as well.
So the argument of whether or not his music is artistic is can be laid to rest, because although it may not have the same lyrical intelligence or “wokeness”, his beats and the feelings he evokes from vibrations alone are trans formative and a key part of rap today, regardless of whether or not it’s one’s preference.