Music is a big part of culture across the world and helps people identify with others—a fact that is especially true within the black community.
Although people of all races can listen to the Beyoncés and Jay-Zs of the world and relate to what they speak about, music has a special impact on black culture.
For the black community, our music is not just about the beat dropping or how the song makes us move. It is about how we identify with lyrics detailing the issues black people deal with on a day-to-day basis. The struggles of being a young black kid without a stable home, having to sell drugs to stay alive or else having to steal to make ends meet are all very real narratives that many within the community can relate to.
While it is true black perspectives have historically been influenced by many genres such as jazz, blues and country, I want to focus on R&B, hip-hop and rap. These genres tend to generate the most controversy with their lyrics and messages and are more relevant to contemporary culture.
Black people are very expressive. We express ourselves through fashion, sports, writing, music—pretty much everything we do. Music is a big part of that expression. It is yet another outlet that provides those within the community with an identity as well as a way to express common experiences.
Things like gangbanging, selling drugs and stealing cars are part of some of these artists’ childhoods. Jay-Z had to sell drugs growing up to make ends meet, 50 Cent got shot nine times in his ‘hood and Lil Wayne grew up with a single parent in Hollygrove, one of the roughest neighborhoods in New Orleans.
In no way am I justifying or advocating crime or suggesting that childhood experiences can excuse entertainers for acting the they way they do, but at the same time, these experiences made these artists into who they are today. Furthermore, many young black people can identify with the subjects of such rap and
I think a lot of the time, people hear the lyrics and just assume sex, drugs and alcohol are all that is being talked about, but for a lot of artists, these are the type of experiences they and many others in their position get exposed to. These are things they had to deal with growing up. Some had to deal with their friends dying at the age of 16, others had to deal with their mothers being prostitutes, and maybe they had to deal with not having their dad around.
There is a bigger message behind the music. It is not all just fun and games and thoughtless debauchery. For many, it is reality. Believe what you want, but these entertainers are making a positive impact by bringing to light black issues in America and those issues affect individuals and the community at large.
Before judging an artist on the surface-level meaning of their lyrics, do some research. For many musicians and black artists in particular, music is a simple tool used to communicate one’s life story.