#48: Why do I listen to hip hop?

Our 48th prompt comes from Afandi. They ask:

How do you balance enjoying the genre of rap and trap music with all the misogyny and homophobia that features heavily in it? (usually by the male rappers)

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Afandi,

You must have seen me tweeting song lyrics/screenshots of songs I’m listening to on Twitter.  😀 I love this question, especially because it’s one “woke” hip hop fans ask themselves a lot.

I have been listening to hip hop for as long as I’ve been listening to music in general, and I always loved how it told the stories of black people from parts of the world I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to visit. Hearing the stories about how they lived on a day to day basis and what they had to do to survive helped me build a universal picture of blackness that I doubt I’d have been able to do otherwise. It’s the same reason jazz and reggae also appeal to me.

Hip hop artists paint a really clear picture of what it’s like to come from “the hood” – to have bad schools, bad neighbourhoods, to be hunted by the police, to experience racism – in a way that few others manage to. They show me what it means to be black in the Americas (and because I also listen to British hip hop, in the UK as well.) This lens is what keeps me listening to their music – they are telling their stories. Just as I tell mine/those of my people through my work.

Now, is a lot of rap/trap music problematic? Definitely. Hip hop in general is known for being homophobic and misogynistic as hell. In my case, I do not make these misogynistic/homophobic jams faves. I am keen to avoid the songs that purvey misogyny/homophobia, and I’m glad that hip hop artists get called out on their bullshit online (and offline) much more nowadays. I call it out as well. This ensures that they check themselves, and when they don’t, they better know we will.

At the end of the day, there’s the realization that almost all artwork is coloured by the biases/prejudices of its creators – most movies we watch are sexist/homophobic/problematic, for example. They purvey biases/prejudices that have existed for ages. And because they tend to be made by whiteness, we’ve somehow become accustomed to them. Yet when we engage with them, we have to be critical and note these things and counter them. That’s the same thing I do with hip hop. At the end of the day, it tells the stories of black people, and I want to know those stories. Many of my critical thoughts have been seeded by hip hop, especially those about structural inequality.

What I make sure to do is #StayWoke while consuming them. And hey, let’s not forget the fact that it’s hella awesome. At least according to me. 😀

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This post is part of a daily writing experiment that I’m running for a year. I’d love it if you took part! 🙂

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