Since rap entered the scene and really since it became popularized through mainstream media circa the 1990s, critics, activists, “community healers” and all the other anti-rap groups spoke out against rap music and all that it stood for. Literally, anti-rap rallyers pushed for its abolishment because of its promotion of violence, drug dealing, gang banging, sex, womanizing, and the list goes on. Grandparents despised it as they thought about how much music has changed, parents tried their best to pry it from the ears and eyes of their babies but the youth embraced it and to this day still do. In general, they thought that rap music alone had the power to set back an entire community and in some ways, they –and by “they” I mean all the people who blame rap for all the moral and social ills of the black community— might be right but I can’t help but notice upon deeper inspection, that rap music actually embodies the very same principles that have led to mainstream consumption of our beloved American Dream.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the power that rap music has had on mainstream music, especially as we’ve seen countless movies and media representations of rap music infiltrating teenagers of all races, backgrounds and religious creeds. In fact, one of the community favorites is always the white suburban teen that identifies and resonates with every gangster rap song that has hit the radio. Needless to say, that the white market has the highest consumer rate of any demographic of rap music. Rap music has undoubtedly been a major source of influence on identity and values and it offers enough diversity to resonate with just about anyone because of its ability to maintain American principles of money, power and respect.
From Tupac’s “Keep Ya Head Up” and Too Short’s “Getting it” to Warren G’s “I Want it All” and J. Cole’s “Dollar and a Dream, “ rap music has consistently highlighted stories of rags to riches and pulling yourself up by the bootstraps in a country that is built on the principles of free enterprise with boundless social opportunity. This is not a judgment call on the feasibility of achieving the American dream given the realities that I’ve seen, but this is simply a connection to how rap music speaks of this dream from the lens of black men who offer a unique social, cultural and political vantage point. Even some of the more, what the black educated say “ratchet” music like Waka Flocka’s “I Don’t Really Care” talks about money and a life full of prosperity. All the songs about making money, living large and taking care of the homies are just as community-centered and American as white picket fences, two car garages, two kids a dog and a neighborhood watch.
I do not negate the overarching tones of violence and all the other ills that rap music wholeheartedly promotes but the end goal of the drug dealing and murdering is the same: coming up so the homies can too. I mean America still has its way with wars, imperialism and lest we forget our whole country was founded on the encroaching of what were (and still is) Native American lands – it seems like rappers just like our forefathers understood that we all had to get it how we live and not everyone can come up at the same time. Now THAT my friends, is the real “American Way” told to you through the rappers who dream of a day when “Cashin Out” is an everyday thing.