It was the end of another school day somewhere around 2010. I looked through the window, trying to spot my dad's big white truck, waiting patiently for him to come pick me up from school. I was so excited to sit in the truck and read the book I had left in there. I remember sitting down and watching him turn on the radio, turning the volume up so all you heard was the sound of music, of words that I didn’t quite understand. He was playing a song from Dr. Dre’s 2001 album.
My dad grew up in the United States when rap music was becoming more and more popular. He was the first person to show me the world of N.W.A, Biggie, 2Pac and Jay-Z, just to name a few. It would take me a few years before I grew into liking the genre and would appreciate him for introducing me to it, but now I feel a sense of love and respect for rap music.
I quickly learned that rap music isn’t always about drugs, money or women. Rap music is like poetry. Lyrics can carry heavy messages. It’s a way that rappers can express their thoughts and frustrations on difficult topics.
In all the years that I’ve been listening to rap and hip-hop music, I realized that some of the most gut wrenching yet informative songs come from these genres. When we listen closely to the lyrics of songs, we’re actually listening to a story.
Take “m.A.A.d city” by Kendrick Lamar. It gives us a glimpse of growing up in a community where violence is normal, where you’ll likely see many of the kids you grow up with die from gang-related violence. I can guarantee that the majority of us reading this story today can’t say that we know what that feels like, including myself.
I think it’s important to not only listen to music like this, but to truly listen to the messages behind the lyrics. It’s not about hearing the song and memorizing the lyrics because you think it sounds cool — it’s about understanding other perspectives.
A lot of these songs can be tied to social justice issues such as police brutality and the inequalities in America’s prison system. Listen to “Gorgeous” by Kanye West for an example of a song that touches on the social injustices of America.
A rap song that I hold very close to me is one by a Puerto Rican rapper duo named Calle 13. Their song “Pa’l Norte” is written from the perspective of an immigrant going north into the United States and the struggles that a lot of these people face. As someone who comes from a community of immigrants, and hearing so many stories of the difficulties of crossing over into this country, it’s songs like those that make me feel so much more passion for the rights of immigrants.
Rap music has shown me so many new perspectives on social justice issues here in America. Even though reading the news and books is important, you can easily just turn to songs by popular rappers and get a first-hand account on the injustices that people face. I would encourage everyone to watch the way they consume media. If you aren't learning something new, or feeling a tinge of emotion, you should probably listen more closely.
Tiffany Marquez Escobar is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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