Expanding inclusion and the evolution of ‘rap’

Rap (v.): to blurt out suddenly (16th century).

Rap (n.): a type of music characterized by high-level wordplay and emotion (21st century).

The genre of rap music has an unmatchable appeal and, even so, the process to construct a song is oftentimes overlooked. Unorthodox beats are sewn together ever so carefully by the clever hand of a knowledgeable lyricist: the rapper. Verses are then layered on top of one another to create a depth that will require heavy analytical skills by the listener and, furthermore, possibly the assistance of various lyric decoding websites such as rapgenius.com. This well packaged entity is finalized with what is known as “the hook,” which is essentially the barrier between verses that attracts the listener and oftentimes carries the song to the top of the charts.

That description of rap music is probably the most forgiving account of the genre that has been relayed in quite some time. More often than not, this musical setting is typically associated with violence and gang culture. I’m here to remove that stereotype and set forth the truth that rap is expanding exponentially, regardless of social factors, and is currently becoming a genre of inclusion, rather than separation.

Let’s continue the discussion by analyzing a few modern rappers who do not fit the stereotypical mold and are changing the rap scene:

One of the top up-and-coming rappers, and a personal favorite of mine, goes by the name of Sir Robert Bryson Hall II or, as his fans know him, “Logic.” Logic is of mixed racial heritage, predominantly white, and oftentimes rhymes about the issues he faces with credibility in the hip-hop industry, which is primarily inhabited by African Americans. However, similar to many other rappers, he grew up under difficult circumstances. As a child, his siblings sold drugs to his single mother as he was drowning in poverty. The self-proclaimed “white man with the soul of a black man” has received tremendous praise for tackling is sues of race and fighting off stereotypes, especially the overhanging theory that one must be African American to succeed as a rapper.

Next up, we have a significantly more recognizable name within the hip hop industry, Frank Ocean. Ocean is coming off of a breakout year in which his album “Blonde” received the utmost praise as the No. 1 album of the year by a myriad of websites, publishers and music junkies. He has been buried in awards, is at the top of his game and what separates him from most other rappers is that he is open about his sexuality. He released a statement in 2012 confirming the true rarity within the genre and critics assumed that the move would be detrimental to his career. Nonetheless, he has flourished and should have an exciting year ahead of him. His presence within the genre has offered a sense of hope for listeners and singers of rap who are not heterosexual.

Both of these rappers fall outside the stereotypical lens which surrounds rap music, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. With recent success among rappers composed of diverse backgrounds, the genre has acquired a whole new body of listeners.

Furthermore, there is newfound encouragement for those who are interested in rapping but have cultural or social differences that stray from the norm. With the direction that the genre is headed, there should no longer be concern surrounding who listens to or produces the music. After all, the purpose of music is to create emotion within its listener and provide a sense of joy. There is no better way to accomplish this goal than to spread music across all walks of life. In a world that all too often experiences division, music has the potential to act as an ever present uniting force among all. I will leave you with one final thought: Whatever music you listen to, enjoy it, and don’t critique or stereotype others who fall outside the range of genres with which you are comfortable.