I know this will probably fly in the face of what my music stands for–especially since I (technically) can be considered conscious in my musical leanings, but I have had it. I’ve probably even written about this in some form before, but no matter. Some–not all–conscious rap fans are literally some of the worst fans of music you can come across. Yes, worse than the wildest of the Barbz or the most-insane of Eminem stans. Hell, I’d take a bevy of the wildest Nicki Minaj fans over three conscious rap fans.
The worst of the worse conscious fans make rap unfun. At least the Barbz know that rap doesn’t have to be nothing but lyrical miracle “we gotta do something” struggle rap. But, be it through their Genius-style dissertations on “real” hip-hop or their dismissal of artists who don’t provide thought-provoking lyricism 24/7, some of these conscious fans just make listening to your Spotify playlists a chore. On top of that, some of these conscious fans try to shame people just because their musical leanings aren’t just artists most people only bring up to show their hip-hop snobbery or artists. I don’t doubt that some of the people who consider themselves, for example, Rapsody fans only deem themselves as such because they want to seem better than people who listen to nothing but Cardi B. It’s not because they love Rapsody; it’s because they dislike Cardi B’s music. That sort of contrarian thinking is detrimental to hip-hop as a whole.
Here’s the rub. Hip-hop is a genre that was created as boastful party music, a protest against the disco-heavy leanings of the 1970s and a way to show that–even in terrible times–people could protest their own way and live their lives. That’s not to dismiss the woke music or to prop up radio-friendly jams. It’s just a truth. “Rapper’s Delight” was about seven minutes of the Sugar Hill Gang rapping about how much better at rapping they were than their peers. What’s to say that’s different than what Cardi B does on “Up” or DaBaby on “BOP?” Absolutely nothing. The beauty of hip-hop is that it’s varied, there’s literally something for everyone in the genre.
To make rap music uniform not only takes the fun out of it, it takes the rebellious nature out of hip-hop. To make rap music nothing but “let’s do better. We’re ‘smart'” rap is the exact same as making it nothing but “my sex is amazing. My money long” bars. It fragments the genre as a whole while also making the genre monotonous.
I’m speaking from experience here. I used to be a super conscious rap nerd. I even had a song called “Fuck Swagger,” where I positioned myself as an anti-swag rapper who was trying to “save the game.” I was in my early twenties when that song was created and, from there, I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I kept churning out “alternative conscious” rap that became increasingly same-sounding. I became afraid, in some ways, of the alternatives out there to what I created. It made rap less fun for me.
It was only after I came back as Speed on the Beat that I was able to create music that wasn’t just one sound/one energy and achieve the successes that I have so far in my tenure as SOTB. Why, you ask? I threw away the idea that rap needed to be “saved” or that “real” hip-hop was inherently better than someone who rapped about getting money. Sure, I was more lyrical than some of the “my money long” rap of my youth, but I was also more stunted in my world view.
I don’t have all the answers. But I know that rap music doesn’t need to be saved. There’s space for everyone and everything in the genre–unless you’re on some R. K**** shit, then please drop dead. If you’re not, then I don’t see the problem with throwing some City Girls and Lil Baby in there with your Lupe and Aesop Rock every once in a while. Variety is the spice of life and all those other clichés.
Essentially what I’m saying is this: like what you like, but don’t look down on others just because they don’t like the same things all the damn time.