One great thing about travelling is discovering new music, or discovering that you love a certain type of music that you never thought you could.
For me it was Southern California and rap.
Now I realise a bunch of you, after reading that sentence, will swiftly exit my blog, vowing never to return again. For those of you who haven’t, thank you.
I met some great people in Southern California and saw some beautiful places. Yeah, I went to Laguna Beach and saw one of the most rich places I think I’ve ever seen. I saw beautiful, stick thin men and women, tanned and blonde, making fashion choices that just wouldn’t make it any where else in the world. I walked on Hollywood Blvd. and took photos outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and spent a night on Coronado Island, on the beach by the stunning Hotel de Coronado
But I also went to Venice Beach, LA and stayed in Oceanside for a week, and saw that there’s very little in California between poverty and riches. I met some amazing people and learnt a lot about myself. It was a great week and I truly fell in love with the place; Jesus is truly in California.
That was just as a side note to inform you all that the beautiful state of California, in particular the southern part of the state, isn’t just glitter and money and bright lights and Hollywood. If you go back to some of my older posts you’ll find plenty about my thoughts on my time in California. However, to get back to rap…
Rap has gotten a pretty bad reputation, which is unfortunate because it’s as legitimate a genre of music as anything else. I tell people I like rap and they say “Really? You?” I love it. It’s some of the most passionate music I know. I don’t listen to much mainstream rap for a lot of reasons; it degrades women (and men…), a lot of it is about nothing more than sex and drugs and alcohol, and a lot of mainstream rappers are involved in gang violence, and I also find that it’s aggressive rather than passionate.
I love Lupe Fiasco’s music a heck of a lot. He was probably the first rapper I listened to. Fiasco is a Muslim from Chicago, Illinois and writes some of the most inspirational lyrics I’ve ever heard in rap. One of his most recent singles, B*tch Bad, may have a title typical of mainstream rap, but that’s what makes it so brilliant. The whole song is about the use of the word ‘bitch’ and how women are degraded in rap music; the title will be appealing to people who are mostly into mainstream rap therefore having the best affect. Fiasco’s whole ethos is rapping about justice and is full of positive themes, but my favourite song of his is probably Kick, Push, which is about kids who used skateboarding as their escape from the struggles in life. I first heard it when he performed on One Tree Hill and it’s a far cry from anything artists like Jay-Z are rapping about. However, most recently he released Around My Way [Freedom Ain’t Free], which is all about the mess that the USA has found itself in, in particular how the rich treat the poor. I suggest you check out his albums ‘Food & Liquor’ and ‘The Cool’ if you want to hear some of his best work.
A rapper I found on YouTube is George Watsky. Watsky hails from San Fransisco, California and started his career with spoken word poetry, one of my favourite poems being Letter to My 16 Year Old Self (something I wish I’d heard when I was 16). The best part is definitely this:
“You’re gonna get depressed sometimes
You’re gonna have weeks where you don’t feel like eating
Where gravity is working overtime like it’s afraid of getting laid off
And you can barely lift your fork to your mouth
And you are going to have a choice
Do you wanna see this world as ugly, or beautiful?
Wanna know what I think?
Well go fuck yourself! This is my poem
And I think the universe is great
It’s like God just chucked a bunch of candy into space
And Earth is a jawbreaker
So it doesn’t matter if you’ve got the biggest mouth
You can’t just chew the world up and spit it out
You’ve gotta savor it
From the grandest to the blandest nook and cranny
Every crooked alley, every mountain, brook, and valley
From Candyland to Cali
That’s been stamped by Rand McNally
Ordinary is outstanding!”
I’m not a teenager any more and that still speaks volumes.
Watsky is one great reminder that rappers are also poets and artists, he totally ruined all my misconceptions of all rappers being no different than Jay-Z and Kanye West. Watsky is my fellow nerdy white kid and I think that’s why I love his music so much. He also raps a lot about his political views and can be pretty inspirational. You can find all his albums at his bandcamp site, the amazing bonus being that you can get most of them completely free. Definitely click that download button right now!
Another rapper I discovered on YouTube is Dumbfoundead. Now, this dude isn’t quite as, eh, inoffensive, as the last two, but he is so damn good at rapping that I can’t even pretend like I don’t love his music. My favourite song is most definitely Are We There Yet, which is all about growing up and covers numerous different parts of his life, including how his Mum got him and his sister to the USA and raised them brilliantly while working numerous jobs.
I’m also massively into Lecrae’s music, and if you’re looking for Christian rap he is definitely someone you should listen to. My favourite song of his, and probably one of my favourite songs in general, is Gotta Know from his ‘Rehab’ album. One of his best is most definitely Just Like You, a song all about growing up without a Father and trying to find some sort of good male role model in all the wrong people. Lecrae has an amazing testimony, which you can find here, and in himself is an inspiration. He doesn’t water down his past or make it into some great Christian cliché, his lyrics are honest and raw and he is worth giving a listen, even if you don’t think you like rap that much.
If you’re interested in rap music and want more recommendations you should definitely listen to Trip Lee, 116 Clique, and theBREAX. I hope that helped people see rap music in a new light, and made you realise that you don’t have to be a certain type of person to listen to it. Rappers are some of the greatest lyricists out there and putting them in a box is stupid and unfair.
P.S. If you have Spotify, check out this playlist I’ve been compiling for a while: