Rap Music: Self-expression or Violence

Creating rap music is one way human beings can express themselves through the sharps and flats of a key, the rhyming pattern of the lyrics, and the rests, the beats, or the speed of the song. It was a new form of art that began in the streets of New York City and grew to become a source of entertainment all over the world. However, rap music’s reputation has arguably also been associated with violence, gang rivalry, and drugs because of the vulgarity and profanity embedded in the lyrics of the song and the background identity of writers themselves of these songs.

In 50Cent’s song, “Patiently Waiting”, he sings:

“Niggas shouldn’t throw stones if you live in a glass house
And if you got a glass jaw you should watch your mouth
‘Cause I’ll break your face
Have your ass running, mumbling to the jake
You going against me, dawg, you making a mistake, I’ll split ya”

In Ye’ new song, “Eazy,” he mentions:

“I got shot up like Columbine, the Crips descended on me
Sign my name on the dotted line, that was vengeance on beats
This is the way…
God saved me from that crash
Just so I can beat Pete Davidson’s ass (Who?)”

In YG’s, “Meet the Flockers,” he says:

“First, you find a house and scope it out
Find a, find a neighborhood
‘Cause they don’t believe in bank accounts
Second, you find a crew and a driver, someone ring the doorbell
And someone that ain’t scared to do what it do
Third, you pull up at the spot
Park, watch, ring the doorbell and knock
Four, make sure nobody’s home
They gone, okay it’s on”

There is so much freedom in writing lyrics expressing one’s frustration towards others. Personal experiences can no doubt be a great source of inspiration for composers and writers. 50Cent can easily rap that he’ll break your face just as Ye boasts of beating Pete Davidson on their songs without regard for consequences. It is no secret that Kim and Ye have separated, and Pete Davidson took his spot. The public is entertained by this love triangle plot which seems to resemble a typical romance drama television show, ignoring any possibility of a threat to Davidson’s life. When, then, do these seemingly innocent lyrics of self-expression become actual threats? When do we, listeners, become concerned and draw the line of reality? Moreso, these rappers have millions of fans all over the world. 50Cent has more than 27 million followers on Instagram while Ye has more than 10 million followers– and this is on Instagram alone. With these numbers, their influence and reach are widespread which can become such a powerful tool. When they sing songs about “breaking [someone’s] face”, beating someone up, or an instructional on entering and stealing, millions of people are listening to them. Millions of followers are being influenced by their music and what’s in it. When they hear these types of lyrics in their favorite rappers’ music, it becomes cool, or even more so, normal despite the consequences that these behaviors may have. The idea of solving problems through violence becomes ideal, the threat of life becomes less serious, and the idea of destroying and taking another’s property becomes acceptable to meet one’s needs. So I ask, when do we break the line of artistic self-expression and crime?

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