School of History and Dramatic Arts

Reflection: Rap is a form of expression

Rap music is a form of expression. Rap music is not just about the sex and the drugs, it’s a style of art in which to express yourself. It doesn’t necessarily have to include these themes.

I like to express myself. I rap when I feel like doing it and even when I’m sick of rapping a song over and over just to get it right. I challenge myself with a little new and a little old everyday. I sprout lyrics out when I feel frustrated, happy and just plain bored. Some have the themes of sex, drugs and alcohol while others don’t. It’s just a matter of expression.

I thought I couldn’t write rap lyrics unless I knew from experience these themes. To be honest, I didn’t think I was good enough to write lyrics that weren’t about sex and drugs at all. In addition sex and drugs aren’t me. I couldn’t lie and say I did this and that. I couldn’t go off experiences I never had.

I asked people to define characteristics of rap. Some said sex and drugs, while others said it was about the police and the hard times of African-Americans struggling for their rights. While it’s all that, there so much more to it.

This was to say I believed the stereotype, like everyone else did; the stereotype that had to be an African-American male, but today the rap genre has expanded to include white male rappers including Macklemore, G-Eazy and Logic.

Then a few weeks ago, a substitute teacher in my theatre noticed I took a deep interest in rapping as I was trying to learn a new rap song. He asked me if I wrote my own lyrics. I told him no and explained I couldn’t write rap lyrics about the themes described in rap songs all the time. He gave me some inspiring words that I will never forget. I truly appreciate it every day.

He told me it doesn’t matter that I’m white, doesn’t matter that I’m a girl, doesn’t matter I can’t write rap lyrics on themes like sex, drugs, and alcohol. Rap music doesn’t HAVE to be about that. Just like all music, it’s expression. It’s just a matter of what words you want to use. You can write from your own experiences. You can write how you feel. Look at Public Enemy and Logic; it’s not all sex and substance abuse. They get to write down the genuine and speak from the heart. When you start to believe the stereotype, you become controlled by it. That doesn’t really accomplish anything now does it?  You can’t let yourself get discouraged if someone tells you that you can’t. If you love what you do, if you have a talent for it, and if you’re passionate about it, you go for it, regardless. He was right.

It doesn’t matter that you’re African-American or white, girl or guy, young or old. Speak from your heart because rap is expression. It doesn’t have to be anything. It doesn’t have to follow the rules; it doesn’t follow stereotypes, neither should we. It’s music. Something to listen to, something to relate to, knowing something out there is going through what you are. It’s personal. That’s rap, it’s expression.