Dagdha's Blog

Hip Hop

Posted in Uncategorized by dagdha on July 6, 2011

When I was twelve or thirteen, I told people that I didn’t like music.  At the time I was determined to be a herpetologist and thought of myself as a tribal disciple of nature, and music was just excess noise.

When I was fifteen, I discovered punk rock.  Ironically I was on a church trip to Salt Lake for the LDS semi-annual General Conference when I heard Bad Religion’s Process of Belief album, forever transforming my view of music as a medium for ideological proliferation.  For the first time I felt I was listening to lyrics that sated my appetite for intellectual stimuli and opened my ears to the message of a traditionally counter-culture genre.

Eight years later I experienced another shift in musical preference that was even greater than my discovery of Punk – a revolutionary journey into the often neglected genre of hip hop.  For years I used to tell people that I liked almost every kind of music except country and rap, but, like so many people I have encountered, I was ignorant of a vibrantly rich culture hidden beneath the superficial trash perpetuated by mainstream media.

I used to think that rap was mostly about money, women, and needless violence, and rightfully so considering what is commonly heard on the radio or seen on TV. When you step back and look at a larger history of the genre however, hip hop has a vivacious culture born out of the suffering and strife of the disenfranchised, who were looking for a way to voice their ideas and opinions.  More than any other genre I’ve explored, hip hop is a philosophy and way of life.  It’s a way of thinking that encourages its listeners to question accepted ideas, but in a logical and systematic way that is often lacking in the anarchism of punk rock.

Like punk, corporations eventually realized the monetary potential of hip hop’s ability to reach untapped demographics, and they began enticing talented artists with pieces of gold and silver tongues.  With the marketing and distribution power of multi-billion dollar companies, the genre became overrun with the same shit you hear on the radio today, promoting misogyny and capitalistic interests of stock-holding corporate producers.

If you dig beneath the surface though, you can you still find a seemingly endless trove of genuine hip hop, usually independently produced (i.e. “underground”).  There’s still plenty of misled/mediocre music, but I never have to search for long before finding a new artist that rips it up, each with a very distinct sound.

While most lyrical artists write a song and then compose the accompanying music, rappers largely work the other way around, creating a musical canvas onto which they paint their lyrics. This method encourages greater experimentation, particularly with vocabulary.  It’s much more difficult to fit words with a specific beat than to accompany the natural rhythm of language with melody, and precisely why it is my music of choice.

After years of studying language in college, words have become a great passion of mine.  I’m fascinated by the ability of symbols on paper to convey profound messages, and this certainly pertains to my musical tastes.   I originally got into punk rock because the lyrics made me think –  Bad Religion presented me with new ideas and used words I had to look up.  Hip hop, in my humble opinion, is light years ahead in the same regard, but it requires more effort to appreciate.

Most contemporary music seems influenced by our methods of listening, which is typically on the go while we do other things – driving, working out, playing games, etc.  (When was the last time you sat and did nothing but listen to an album from start to finish?) As I’ve said in a previous entry, music has largely become a passive soundtrack to our lives, so if it has a good beat and simple lyrics we can sing in our cars, it sells.  With hip hop, however, you really have to listen to appreciate it, or even keep up for that matter.

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