Where struggle and greed fight,
We write songs about wrong ’cause it’s hard to see right.
– Common, “The Corner”
Too many people have already made up their minds about hip hop, and too many people don’t like it. To be fair, I can see why. Many people only hear hip hop in passing. On the radio, in cars… and much of it is mediocre posturing and dramatic overcompensating. Some is catchy and soulless, some is harsh and empty.
But great hip hop is a thing to behold.
Hip hop is music from the streets, and the best rappers can articulate the grit, the game, and the tug-of-war between hope and helplessness–all occurring on the same block. And not all hip hop is rife with violence and superficiality. It’s urban poetry, the heir apparent to jazz, and some of the lyrics and flow can tap into Shakespearean wordplay and triple meanings. It’s Wordsworth with a beat.
And the beat isn’t a coincidence: Great hip hop has more heart than any top 40 love song. For any skeptics, I’ve compiled a playlist of hip hop for people who hate hip hop. Listen to the lyrics.