Why does rap look so violent?

Hip-Hop addresses the social injustice

We all heard that : the rap is violent, it only talks about sex, drugs and alcohol, but do you really think it’s just simple violence? Seriously? No, it’s not only that. To understand better why rap music can look so violent, we need to understand better how and when this started, in my opinion the rap music is just a way to address the social injustice without taboos and rap does this more directly than any type of music, so now let me explain this with a short history.

Let ‘s go back in the 70’s

In the Bronx of New York there was this guy DJ Kool Herc, alias Clive Campbell. The father of Hip-Hop they said. Born in 1955 in Jamaica, Kool Herc was a disc jockey, inspired by James Brown and Jamaican music. He began to introduce his Jamaican DJ’ing style to the American music during a party of his sister’s school. There he for the first time created the “break”, a short section of music where he isolated the instrumental to emphasise the drum, with the help of two record players. During this time the “break-boys” and the “break-girls” could perform their dance. Interesting, no? Then what happened next? 

The first commercial Hit-Record

Campbell DJ’s Style was retaken by many other DJs like “Grandmaster Flash” and “Afrika Bambaata”, during the next years lots of groups appeared, like “The Sugarhill Gang” and their famous single “Rapper’s Delight” in 1980. This song was the first historical commercial success of hip-hop music around the world, which allowed the RAP to become popular. It was published by the first label that specialised in hip-hop : Sugar Hill Records. This period was one of the most important periods in rap. Because, it allowed many labels and artists to appear on the scene, but things really started to change thanks to this group: Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were also produced by the same label.

The “message”

This text is probably one of the most important ones in the history of rap, it was the first time a hip-hop song described and denounced violence. For Grandmaster Flash, hip-hop was a way to say : “We matter”. This music launched everything in the rap we know today and for the first time, hip-hop became a tool for social and political claims.

This song is about a habitant living in the bronx. He’s describing what he sees every day: social misery and a poor crazy girl who lives in a bag, drugs and violence with “Junkies in the alley with a baseball bat”. He’s trying to escape this suburb but he can’t because he “Got no money to move out, I guess, I got no choice”. With this miserable situation the protagonist tries not to lose his mind but it’s not so easy : 

Chorus :

Don’t push me
‘Cause I’m close to the edge
I’m tryin’ not to lose my head
Ah-huh-huh-huh
It’s like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder
How I keep from going under
It’s like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder
How I keep from going under

In my opinion this song explains perfectly why the rap can look violent today, but’s it’s not violent just to be violent, it’s violent because life there is violent, and the music is the best way to express and denounce this violence. The song does it well, we understand perfectfy what it wants to say thanks to the point of view of a habitant. Grandmaster Flash and his band were living in the bronx and no one can understand better the life in the Bronx than someone who lived in the Bronx, after all.

So now you know why rap can look violent. What I wanted to say is is stop shaming music if you don’t understand it, this song was made to denounce the violence, no to push the violence. It’s rap, the first political rap ever published by a label. I really think of rap as way to fight against social injustice, and if rap is bullied by the media and the politicians it’s because it’s doing its job well. See you next time for another episode about rap and social injustice.

The Suburb of bronx in the 80's, that show the social injustice in this period
Source : https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2020698934/resource/

Sources :

https://www.djkoolherc.com/copy-of-bio

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/aug/07/the-get-down-baz-luhrmann-grandmaster-flash-hip-hop

https://www.bam.org/media/5500824/Elements_of_Hip-hop.pdf

Post Author: Julien Pablo

Hello, my name is Julien and my last name is Pablo, I’m 23 years old. I’m from Montpellier in the south of France, close to the sun and the sea.

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