The first part of this essay will discuss how hip-hop may influence young people. Many great artists in hip-hop range in age from their early twenties (e.g. Earl Sweatshirt, Vince Staples) to mid-thirties (e.g. Danny Brown) and often have a large teenage audience. This means that the narrative themes of hip-hop music vary stylistically and often have a large impact on young people by affecting many different classes and cultures. The music may have a rebellious tone such as in Vince Staple’s BagBak, which has the catchy rhythm of “Tell the government to suck a dick, because we on now” to evoke a sense of revolution. This may advocate the idea that ‘old-timers’ have had their turn and the world is now full of opportunity for a new generation of hungry and ambitious youths. However, this is not to say that all young people have such a radical drive and neither are all old people righteous and good; to make such a sweeping generalisation would be ageist, mkay? A call for change is prevalent in much hip-hop music that may criticise current world politics and establishments by promoting a message of mass unity. This is performed by not only Vince Staples but also by Kendrick Lamar: “Everyone together now, know that we forever”, suggesting that the real power may lie in the hands of the masses rather than a suited person on a plinth. Hip-hop music may offer a respite from the across-the-board decisions made by a ruling minority and may give individuals cause to rebel and create something unique.
"Today is the day I follow my intuition / Keep the family close—get money, fuck bitches" - Kendrick Lamar (Yah).
A threat to the status quo in the form of music may be a direct response to an environment set up by outdated forms of thinking and it may therefore be necessary to generate new ideas to allow society to grow. Ratking’s ‘100’ provides a powerful rebuttal against authority by a punk-ish tone and restlessness as a result of being young: “Cause we was force-fed it / Since we was all born in it”. This song suggests that young people have the chance to think for themselves and liberate others from a regressive system and urges the listener to build a more exceptional point of view. To go against the grain may be a struggle as its is not the path laid out by those in charge but it may well be fulfilling to veer into uncharted territory as it allows one to become a special individual. This idea is advocated in ‘My Way’ by Secret Circle which has a cavalier attitude towards living life on your own terms: “Living life like I'm dying, ain't no way to live it / Out here just surviving, out here tryna get it”, which details a struggle to make ends meet by a confident and passionate expression. Another artist who has pioneered an extraordinary passage is Travis Scott, influencing hip-hop with an iconic sound and creating something meaningful by unconventional means. This success in individualism may be a beacon of hope for those who are trying to accomplish something similar and this encouragement may be found by the example set in ‘Never Catch Me’: “They will never catch me / Falling off”, reassuring the listener to continue striving for greatness.
On the other hand, sometimes taking risks result in failure and taking the safer option may be a better (although limited) guarantee of prosperity. However, this may not be a valid reason to give up as advocated by Kanye West, who stated on twitter: "Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will", suggesting that it is better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all. Being young may offer the greatest opportunity for succeeding as young people have more time to spend on the possibility of failing and therefore increasing an upwards trajectory. This is supported in the Pro Era song ‘Like Water’, which features Capital STEEZ stating “We gone need paternity tests I guess / Cause them vets ain't learning it step-by-step”. This could be interpreted as now being the time for adolescents to try out the world due to older folks no longer needing to experience the ‘growing pains’ of flourishing in a harsh and unforgiving environment. The song then goes on to fire shots towards the establishment by Joey Bada$$’ lyrics “they watered us down so they forced to believe / That they won us through force and greed”, suggesting that those in power have kept it by trickery and immoral means. Although admitting to being weakened perhaps by capitalist deceit, this message carries an undefeated tone by implying that the current establishment is fooling themselves if they think that all people are defeated into submission. This hint towards revolution is carried on into CJ Fly’s verse wherein the speaker says “I'm still a / Pacifist, but if you ask for it, then I could pass a fist”, suggesting through clever word play that some young people are well-meaning but aren’t to be pushed around.
"Coupe a half million, hurt a nigga feelings / Watch a quarter million, hurt a nigga feelings / House ten million, hurt a nigga feelings / I'm up thirty million, hurt a nigga feelings" - Gucci Mane (Hurt a Nigga Feelings).
An ability to succeed in an unconventional manner despite a capitalist environment advising against such an undertaking is often rare and these cases of success are represented in hip-hop in different ways. Some artists may allude to their wealth in order to show what riches may be available to those who work hard for something exclusive. Gucci Mane offers an interesting take on this in the song ‘Hurt a Nigga Feelings’ by detailing how the acquisition of millions of dollars seems to upset those who have not done so. This means that in the same way a ‘rags-to-riches’ story may provide some listeners with hope it may also provoke spite in others. These ‘haters’ may also be the type to surrender a lifetime of labour in order to sell an input to such a machine-like economy, resulting in frustration towards those who do things differently. The narrative of “Found out my friends weren't really my friends, not there through thick and thin” is a powerful rendition of how prosperity in some may be cause for others to reveal their own selfish nature and the speaker seems to be warning the listener to associate wisely when working towards fulfilment. Friends ought to support each other in the face of adversity and if someone seems to be taking a risk by venturing into the unknown then this may in some cases be cause for people to ‘abandon ship’ by instead choosing to stick with what they know. If you feel different to those who may spend too much time on appreciating materials for example then the speaker in this song would advise you to follow a different route and be “More concerned 'bout the cash you earn and not the clothes you wear” and subsequently meet new peers with diverse values.
"I be where the gang go / In the car with the windows down / Smoking on that good dope" - Antwon (Patience).
Similarly, success may also invite those who pretend to be friendly, parasites, who want to reap the rewards of the seeds that you sow with no attempt to give anything back in return. This is exemplified in Wiki’s ‘Patience’ that presents a case of people turning around from mocking to admiration as a result of an increase in richness: “In the physical they laugh at me / I spit spiritual they grab at me” then “Live proudly, you did doubt me / Now you can’t live without me”. Subsequently, one ought to keep their circles close and without people who drain resources, as in the words by Earl Sweatshirt in ‘Grief’: “Cut the grass off the surface / Pray the lawnmower blade catch the back of a serpent nigga's shit”. However, some hip-hop music exemplifies a scenario wherein peers join together to form a stronger cohesion. This may be seen in hard times as in Milo’s ‘Zen Scientist’: “We broke so its lawn chairs, long stares / Gloomy, never forlorn”, constituting a cooperative will for expansion despite financial hardship. An increase in affluence may also result in a responsibility to help out the friends who have been good to you in the past, rewarding those who have been loyal for the sake of loyalty: If he ain't dying for me, then I ain't riding with him / There's no time for that / Making sure my man wallet's straight / Like a collar when you iron that”. In conclusion, do things your own way because it may lead to untold riches and as you travel may your companions be reliable and trustworthy. Remember: you won't stay young so keep changing for the better. Bless up!