Hip-hop. The most controversial genre of music is only controversial due to the lyrics artists use. However, these “controversial” lyrics are what make a rapper so profound and distinguished. Although Tupac and Biggie are gone, there are still a few artists left that know how to craft a song with a message; however, a handful of artists are ruining rap with meaningless and lazy lyrics.
Perfect examples of artists that knew how to describe their lives in songs were Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G., and Eminem.
Starting off with Shakur, he was one of if not the most notorious rapper of all time and paved the way for future rappers. Songs like “Ghetto Gospel” are perfect examples of how Shakur used where he was placed in life and his lyrics to leave a message in his music. “It ain’t bout black or white, ‘cause we human. I hope we see the light before it’s ruined; my ghetto gospel…” These lyrics shows just how deep Shakur could get in his songs. The line also shows how much Shakur cared about what was going on in the world.
Now let’s look at The Notorious B.I.G., a. k. a Biggie Smalls. Smalls blew up around the same time Shakur was finding stardom. Aside from the genre of music they were creating, the only thing they had in common was how they used their words to describe hardship in their lives. “Because the streets is a short stop. Either you’re slinging crack rock or got a wicked jump shot…” is a perfect example of how Smalls saw life on the streets of New York on the song “Things Done Changed.” This one line demonstrates the hard life that Biggie Smalls was placed in and how the youth only saw two ways out of their current life; selling drugs or playing basketball.
Finally, we can take a look at Eminem. Eminem is one of the most controversial rappers of all time and that was mainly due to his lyrics. Eminem, a white rapper in a predominantly black industry, made a fortune from his standout lyrics not because of his race but because of what he was saying. From his academy award winning song “Lose Yourself” Eminem said, “Food stamps don’t buy diapers, and there’s no movie/There’s no Mekhi Phifer, this is my life and these times are so hard…” This is a perfect demonstration of what rap lyrics should be filled with. This one line tells an entire story of how Eminem was struggling in life. This is the exact type of imagery that rap is missing today.
Now let’s take a look at some not so great lyrics in the rap industry today. Just to name a few rappers that have notoriously bad lyrics: Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Pump, Lil Yachty.
First off Vert. Lil Uzi Vert has made a fortune off of his songs, but quite frankly there is nothing in these songs but a catchy beat. Just taking a look at his most popular song “XO TOUR Llif3” Uzi says “Phantom that’s all read, inside all white like somethin’ you ride a sled down…” What does that even mean Vert? He starts off by talking about a car then goes on to talk about a sexual act no more than two seconds later. Vert says a lot of words but his words mean absolutely nothing.
Let’s look at Lil “Miles McCollum” Yachty. Yachty has a lot in common with Lil Uzi Vert in that they both make millions off of songs that we as listeners can’t understand. Let’s take a look at his song titled “66” Yachty goes on in the chorus of this song to say “Semi, semi, keep it tucked, bad b***h, bubble butt.” It appears to me that Yachty has no interest in actually rapping more so making songs with words that half rhyme together. Yachty is another rapper that is liked not due to his lyrical talent because there is none, but because of his catchy beats.
Now we can finally take a look at probably the worst rapper out there today. Lil Pump is only 18 years old and has found a way to say the same three words over and over again on a catchy beat and call it a song. Just listening to Pump’s “hit”, “Gucci Gang,” you can see exactly what I mean. The most popular line from this song goes as follows, “Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang…” Clearly, Pump is a “lyrical genius”.
However, through all the terrible mumble rappers relevant today, true rap is not entirely dead. There are still a few rappers that actually use their lyrics to their advantage and don’t rely on a catchy beat including G Herbo, Chance The Rapper, and Lil Bibby.
G Herbo is a rapper that has had to endure the gang-infested life of Chicago and used his life experiences to tell stories in his music. Early on in his music career, Herbo released his “Welcome To Fazoland” album featuring the song“Momma I’m Sorry.” This song is a heartfelt apology to his mother who had to endure not only the Chicago life but the life that Herbo chose to live; a life of gangs, guns, violence, and drugs. The very first line in this song goes “First off, I’m still sorry for the stuff that I did all the lying and back talking s**t I did as a kid…” showing his remorse and guilt for his actions growing up and putting his mother through such hard times.
Now, Chance, The Rapper is known for his upbeat and happy lyrics. Unlike G Herbo, Chance raps about his faith in God and why he is thankful for the life he has today. A line in his song “Blessings” says, “I know the difference in blessings and worldly possessions…” This simple line shows that Chance knows what to be thankful for and what to not get attached to. Knowing that he can’t take “worldly possessions” into Heaven, Chance cherishes his “blessings” more.
Like G Herbo, Lil Bibby was placed in Chicago and grew up surrounded by the same dangers. These surroundings heavily influenced Bibby’s music and paved his lyrics. On his song “Someday” Bibby raps about making it out of the ghetto someday. The song goes on to say “Somehow, someway we gotta make it out the hood some day…just to make sure my family good someday” showing that all Bibby wants is a better life not only for him but for his family too.
While unfortunately hip-hop, as a genre, is dying out due to a few artists, there are still a few rappers out there that took the advice of the old school rappers and use their words and lyrics to create the song rather than having a beat make the song for them.