How Rap Remains Black

The Black community has been at the forefront of music since we landed on the continent of North America. . There was Blues, Jazz, Country, Rock n Roll, Disco, R&B, House music, Dance, and Techno to predate it. Hip Hops older siblings are forgone and forgotten by society as being Black inventions. These days most people only contribute Hip Hop to be Black music. There have been countless discussions about hip hop in and outside of the Black community. Claims of hip hop being destructive and a poor representation of the Black community will always occur. However, there is a discussion that rarely happens. As other forms of music became whitewashed and no longer considered “Black” music how is it that Rap remains Black. What attributes do Rap and Hip Hop have that stop them from being whitewashed? In my opinion, it commentates on three events that played into each other.
Before discussing Rap and Hip Hop we should discuss the trend of whitewashing music. Musicians like Fats Domino ring into my head every time I think about the whitewashing of music.
Domino made the song and it reached Billboard’s top ten, only to have Pat Boone cover it a mere week later and his cover reached number 1. However, the Fats version didn’t simply go away and grew in popularity. While some see no issue with this the issue is the attempt to whitewash Rock n Roll started. No matter where you go if you ask about Rock n Roll people of color or white will say The Beatles, Elvis, or The Clash. Very few mention Black pioneers like Chuck Barry, Fats Domino, and Sister Rosetta Thorpe. The sound has been snatched the history buried under all things, White. This happened with House, Techno, and of course Rock and Roll. It has been done so perfectly that our kind calls the music we made “White people music”. The sound was snatched.
Yet somehow, in some way, Rap and Hip Hop have avoided this whitewashing. It wasn’t due to a particular defense set up by the Black man or woman. Nor did White people not engage with hip hop. Vanilla Ice and the Beastie Boys broke on to the scene and were some of the first white rappers to break on to the scene. So how is it then the Hip Hop is still seen as Black music? How hasn’t hip hop been snatch? There was a chance early on, however, that chance is gone now and the music for the foreseeable future will remain Black. Mostly due to three separate events. So to begin let’s start with the first event, the creation of gangster rap. It all starts with NWA.
When NWA broke on to the hip hop scene they opened a new sub-genre of hip hop. Gangster rap. Their songs covered harsh and gritty scenarios of ghetto life. They also made a huge leap when they made a song called “Fuck the Police”. This song and NWA’s overall attitude set the groundwork for what would be Gangsta Rap. The groundwork made this form of rap unapproachable by White America. Why is hard to wrap my head around. I could say they have no issue with the police yet circles of White men I’ve been around have said fuck the police or find them to be in a negative light. Earlier this year I heard an older white woman say if the cops ever came to arrest her they better duck because she’ll be shooting. Comedians made jokes with anti-police rhetoric and jokes. So why does this song get this notoriety? It was due to the fact a group of young Black men was saying it and profiting off it. The double standard of police treatment of POC has normalized already. So when a Black man runs into police he’s defiant, un-American, and a threat. When a White man runs into the police he is a citizen and within his rights. NWA normalized it in Rap. Thus making the art form anti-police. This event snowballed into negative press and media.
After the normalization of gangsta rap by NWA hip hop was put in the spotlight. Media and the negative press did nothing but push the new fledgling subgenre into the mainstream. People believed the negative press would extinguish the art form. The coverage of hip-hop and rappers grew into the early 90s. MTV even had a show dedicated to Rap and Hip Hop. The normalization of gangster rap grew and was in full effect. Interviews with rappers grew in number and so did their notoriety. We can see the media’s draw to rappers like Tupac and Snoop Dogg. The 90s had thrust rap into the limelight. Politicians started to taking cracks at the music genre, the same way they did with Rock n Roll. However, they focused the narrative of Rap on the situation of the African American. While they did this two of the most influential rappers of the decade were coming into their own.
Tupac and Biggies deaths, in my opinion, solidified Rap as Black as it bought the words and stories of the ghetto to the front. America had to see the ghetto for the first time without politically colored glasses but as it stands in entertainment. Tupac and Biggie were not the last but they are the most impactful. For those who do not understand they are the 90s XXXtencion and Pop Smoke. On the Eve of Hip Hop jump to becoming the elite genre of music its two biggest names were killed. One year after the first source awards. Tupac was fatally shot. A year later Biggie was fatally shot as well. Now the lives they rapped about became real life and that put up bars that kept hip hop Black. They added criteria to hip hop. You must have lived in these circumstances or you aren’t a real rapper.
When a genre of music becomes tied to a specific lifestyle that must be lived or connected to it set up walls that either box artists in or wall artists out. These events in hip hop did just that. The only white artist to jump into Rap since and be acknowledged, by the Black community, is Eminem. There have been some white rappers who, come, go and of course won awards. Macklemore, Iggy, Asher Roth, Machine Gun Kelly, and Post Malone all at one point were considered Hip Hop artist. Yet their stay is brief and they return to either pop and rock or disappear altogether.
As hip hop grows and expands to what it is today, we have our first openly gay rapper in Lil Nas X, it will change these criteria. However, as long as its history remains and the media continues to see rap as a Black art form to use against the Black Community it will stay Black. So we as a community should embrace rap for what it is and let go of what it could be. It is our music, our voice of discontent, triumph, or just simply having a good time. So go ahead vibe to Currency, twerk to Gucci, and get in your feeling with Uzi. Embrace the art form because it’s more than just music. Rap is a cornerstone of the Black Community.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: