COLUMN: Hip-hop lyrics provide entertainment, insight

Angela Oliver

“Yes, yes, y’all, and you don’t stop …one-two, y’all, and you don’t stop.”

Common rapped these simple words to open his 1994 classic “I Used to Love H.E.R.,” a chronological and figurative account of his love of hip-hop music and the direction it was going.

Like the conscious Chicago rap god, then known as Common Sense, I too am wildly attracted to the intricate music of the hip-hop culture.

And like him, I pay attention to issues surrounding me and have an urge to understand why things are the way they are. That’s the journalist in me.

When I need a little insight or inspiration, I find much of my relief in hip-hop music.

Nas’ references to Egyptian royalty in “I Can” sparked my interest in black studies. Before hearing it, I likely would not have chosen it as a minor. “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash let me in on the turbulent plight of low-income, inner-city life that I had seen but never experienced.

And when I’m weary of thinking too hard, a good ‘Ye track always reminds me that it’s important to have fun. 

With this column, I invite you to explore with me. There are hundreds of questions crashing into each other in my mind. I’ll attempt to use song lyrics as hints to their answers or come to a realization that the artists ponder the same questions I do.

I consider myself a hip-hop junkie, so my catalog of reference should be thorough enough to pull this off.

  Perhaps I’ll convince you that rap music is as essential to life as water or air. Maybe I’ll turn you on to a few tunes that you needed to hear. Or I might even annoy you to the point of banishing hip-hop completely from your playlist.

Either way, I want to prove that rap is philosophical. And it’s relevant. No, I’m not talking about Soulja Boy and his “pretty boy swag,” whatever that means.

But there are jewels within the music that emanate social consciousness, love, education, politics and things that happen to us every day.

Since the 1970s, hip-hop music has penetrated mainstream radio waves and carved a huge groove into underground music culture. But it’s not all about the party.

There are reasons within most rhymes, and I want to find them. Look with me?

This commentary does not represent the views of the Herald or the university.