I hate beating dead horses. I also hate feeling like I’m piling on more to a fire that’s already larger than the Springfield Tire Fire.
However, the comments Billie Eilish gave us about hip-hop have irked me to the point that I’ve got to say “whoa there, young woman.”
In case you’ve been unaware, the Grammy Award-winning pop darling recently caught a taste of “the internet will eat you alive if you come sideways.” Eilish spoke about hip-hop in the broadest, most-general sense. Essentially, she said “people be lying and always rapping about guns and hoes.” Now, I know she loves Tierra Whack and wrote a song for XXXTentacion, as Vulture reminded us. I don’t think she hates rap music or is yet another white woman taking the steez of rap and gentrifying it so people in their late-teens in the burbs can enjoy it. Unlike some fans, I don’t even hate her or her music. I am aware that her music isn’t really for me. In the same way much of rap isn’t meant to be swallowed up whole even if it’s popular (due to the genre’s nuances), “Bad Guy” isn’t something that speaks to me.
I do however grow tired of (anti?)pop artists acting as if rap music is to be taken at literal face value every freaking time a rapper drops a bar. If that were the case, little ol’ me would’ve killed half of Baltimore, committed suicide twice, and had my body count in the quadruple-digits. Rappers use vivid imagery to get a point across. We all know that every rapper isn’t killing everyone. That’s not why rappers say that sort of thing (at least, not every time). Since the beginning of time, rap has been a battle. Artists have wanted to prove their worth, usually doing so by “killing” their competition. It comes from the fact that rap partially grew out of roasting people, poetry, and a desire to keep the party going. Sometimes, it comes out in “I’ma shoot you bars.” Sometimes, it comes out in lyrical miracle rap that eviscerates the competition. Not everything in rap music, be it a stretched truth or an allusion to something or a truth truth, needs to be dissected and analyzed.
Eilish is part of the RapGenius generation of music fans and artists, even if her comments come off as “okay boomer”-esque. I’ll get into this idea at a later date, but here’s a synopsis: In the RapGenius generation, things can get misconstrued. Everyone has their opinion on a song. That’s cool. Music is to be discussed and analyzed–to a certain point, that is. The problem with that discussion and (over)analysis lies in this: if someone gets enough people liking an opinion, it becomes a de facto fact. Even if the artist comes out and says otherwise, you’ll have people ready to argue with them saying “no, you really meant this.”
On top of that, we have people taking hyperbole as fact, which is why folks used to rally against rap in the first place. 2 Live Crew wasn’t out here having sex with everything that moved all the time, even if they were as nasty as they wanna be. Not every mid-to-late 2010s rapper is out here killing people while high off xannies and contemplating their own demise, even if that’s what they’re talking about in the damn songs.
That said, I also grow tired of non-rap artists taking a (misguided) stand against the genre to prop themselves or their sound up. Eilish did this, Miley did this, John Mayer did this–countless non-rap artists have done this same song and dance. On the plus side, at least Eilish didn’t drop an entire album of MikeWillMadeIt-produced approximations of stripper jams. However, for the love of all that is good, if you’re not heavily into rap, do us a favor. Just sit there and eat your food when it comes to what “should” go on in rap music. Don’t try to gatekeep or police something you don’t truly understand–even if you have friends in the game or love some of the songs.
Because, to paraphrase Kurt Cobain, you probably really don’t know what it means.