I come across this mind state all the time. This latest instance was at a small Christmas get together at a colleague’s house. Almost everyone there was a teacher. I was in one of those small conversations that start up at these things. There was a first year teacher, a high school principal, a veteran teacher with 18 years of experience, a high school teacher, and myself. The high school teacher made the comment that “rap music is an oxymoronic term.” He said, “Rap music isn’t music.”
I think this is an ignorant mind state and I can’t believe that people think this way. When I asked him why he doesn’t think that rap is music, he said because there isn’t any melody to it. We were then arguing about the definition of music.
I talked about the talent to write lyrics that rhyme and how rappers are quite clever in how they manage to do this. They rap in cadences, in the middle of lines, and in multiple syllables. I argued that the artists actually do have melody in the way that they deliver the lyrics. In hip-hop we call this flow.
I tried my best to change his mind but I don’t think I did. I didn’t get much support from the other teachers either. They shrugged their shoulders most of the time during our heated exchange. I was trying to have nice debate with him but he kept coming back to his narrow definition of music as something that had beat and melody. I argued that anything with beat is a song. You can’t have a song without beat and rhythm. I don’t think the limited definition of melody needs to be added to these two key ingredients. In fact, he admitted that drum troupes make music.
In the end, he did admit that rap is poetry and a form of art but he would not budge on his original statement. He said that he can appreciate it but to him, rap is not music because it has no melody.
I know he might not read this, but I want to continue this argument.
Rap is music because
- It is delivered and consumed in the same way as any other music genre
- A rapper does the exact same things any other songwriter does. He or she writes lyrics and decide how them fit together with music.
- I could take any song from any genre and rap it and I bet that I could make it sound good.
- The instrumental track or “the beat” can be very musical. Rap is not just about simple drum patterns and loops.
- Rap singers use inflection, dynamics, accents, many other musical devices.
- Music is anything that we listen to.
- It is acknowledged as a music from by Billboard
- Rap has the two components to any form of music, beat and rhythm
- Rapping is a talent that needs to be practiced and developed just like any other form of music performance
There are so many people who don’t understand rap music and hip-hop culture and won’t even try. To those people, I will always have something to say. Hip-hop is a valid form of music. It is poetic and beautiful. And it isn’t going anywhere. It has been around for close to thirty years now. It is time that it was accepted as a legitimate art form. I won’t stand for any less than that.