Lyrical Content

June 24th, 2003

Besides the amazing music of hip hop which is far more diverse to all other genres, there’s the lyrics which stand unique and as it gets. On one CD you won’t find 14 songs about how the artist is in love with his misses and God, you’ll hear reality. Tunes talk about how working nine to five gets them down, how they’re sick of the government, tired of the gangs and the riff raff etc etc. The opportunity to talk about anything is there, which is much more than can be said about the freedom of a typical pop or rock singer or band. In this short editorial, you’ll be shown the wide range of subjects touched upon by the microphone. Be more than aware that the songs quoted are as small a selection of the greatness out there as a midget with no legs.

Let’s go back to where it all started with ‘The Message’ by Grandmaster Flash and MC Melle Mel. Here we had an MC speaking out about his environment and enabling those listening to feel much more optimistic and positive, having learnt that they aren’t alone and the only ones feeling the same shit.

“It’s like a jungle sometimes. It makes me wonder how I keep from goin’ under”. “Broken glass everywhere People pissin’ on the stairs, you know they just don’t care I can’t take the smell, can’t take the noise. Got no money to move out, I guess I got no choice. Rats in the front room, roaches in the back. Junkies in the alley with a baseball bat. I tried to get away but I couldn’t get far ‘cuz a man with a tow truck repossessed my car”.

A step forward in time was NWA and their aggressive gangster rap music. This created a whole era in hip hop where the majority of the music was very hard and focused a lot on street life. With the track ‘Fuck The Police’ they seemed to have picked up from where the video for ‘The Message’ left off, and pointed a big middle finger up at the authority which was previously getting people down.

“I’m tired of the motherfuckin jackin, Sweatin my gang, while I’m chillin in the shack, and shinin the light in my face, and for what?,Maybe it’s because I kick so much butt, I kick ass—or maybe cause I blast, on a stupid-assed nigga when I’m playin with the trigger of any Uzi or an AK, Cause the police always got somethin stupid to say.”

Then came a time to get focused. It was all very well being aggressive and straight out explicit in bringing the problems to people attentions, but sooner or later someone had to start using their brains and start intelligently making a change. Enter Public Enemy, the political outfit whom came out with two of the most important albums in hip hop history ‘It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back’ and ‘Fear Of A Black Planet’. A wide variety of important issues were dealt with in the lyrics, including the integrity of the police, the power of hype, racial equality, record industry exploitation, televisions manipulation and so on. A personal favourite for me was Chuck’s verse on ‘Don’t Believe The Hype’

“I’m not an addict fiendin’ for static, I’ll see their tape recorder and grab it. No, you can’t have it back silly rabbit, I’m going’ to my media assassin Harry Allen. I gotta ask him Yo Harry, you’re a writer, are we that type? Don’t believe the hype”.

Things didn’t stay serious forever more. It was still important to have a good time, after all that’s what music and entertainment is about right? Check out this verse from one of the mid 90’s most successful rapper. Here, Busta Rhymes delivers, with wonderful wordplay and a powerfully expressive voice, not a track detailing a problem or how to address it, but a more romantic situation.

“Yo, word is bond Baby let’s get it on I never say it wrong Yo baby girl take off your thong Let me put it in your spirit like the holy Kyron Got the mega song Sweet like honey chicken dijon Movin along Yo, honey body look real strong Watch your ass swing Hangin like a medallion Exercise baby let me see you spread on the floor What you askin for? Relax, I’m bout to give you some more Where the liquor store? Hit you with some more metaphor The raw, hot to def shit you never seen it before Hit the deck, on your mark, get set, we bout to jet Spark it like ingelet, chickens breakin their neck Yo we play to win Such a shame, shit is a sin”.

With hiphop growing at a very high speed, rappers felt it more and more important to prove themselves the best and everything got a lot more competitive. Take a look at this verse from an MC battle between Canibus and LL Cool J. This is just one example of many, showing how a rapper will try placing certain words together in order to come across the most witty and intelligent, and therefore winner of the bout. This is from the Canibus track ‘Second Round K.O’.

“So I’ma let the world know the truth, you don’t want me to shine You studied my rhyme, then you laid your vocals after mine That’s a bitch move, somethin that a homo rapper would do So when you say that you Platinum, you only droppin Clue’s I studied your background, read the book that you wrote Researched your footnotes, bout how you used to sniff coke Frontin like a drug-free role model, you disgust me I know bitches that seen you smoke weed recently You walk around showin off your body cause it sells Plus to avoid the fact that you ain’t got skills Mad at me cause I kick that shit real niggaz feel While 99% of your fans wear high heels From Ice-T to Kool Moe Dee to Jay-Z Now you wanna fuck with me? You must be crazy! You drippin with wack juice, and you can’t get it off You betta be prepard to finish what you start, nigga”

The last verse I’ll leave you with is by the rapper Pharoahe Monch from the track ‘The Light’. This rapper is one of the freshest lyricists in hip-hop right now and delivered the much slept on album ‘Internal Affairs’. In this rhyme you see words which on paper don’t sound too good, but on record make you stand back and go ‘damm’. This article has been very brief, however I hope it stands as a testiment to the range of shit dealt with by hip-hop artists. For far too long people have written off the genre and culture as being very shallow and feeble. It’s time that’s changed. Peace.

“..... we kissin and we wrestlin – sexual confessions I never lack to pack prophylact’, I learned my lesson First impression, to be discrete, use discretion Back of the cab undressin – uh-huh I’m here witchu, sorta like a bond spiritual All night, all I could do, is stare at you Cracked the window and the Alize on the Palisades Right before she told me her name was Valerie Her crib was just a mile away, nothin to my salary She could serve me pain all night and I could tolerate I’m her horizon right, but in the night though Night glow type shit (and I know you can see the light)”.