Freedom of Expression and Hip Hop

It occurred to me that the popularity of Hip Hop is not necessarily the subject matter of the music but, rather, the fact that the subject can be expressed; especially in the raw form that is Hip Hop.

After all, at the height of the success of Public Enemy, probably most of their fans were white. The group focused on Black Nationalism and issues relevant to the black community. While I realize that white people can be interested in those issues, I think the main appeal of the group was the fact that they could express things in such a straight-forward and even aggressive way; intentionally getting under the skin of the listener.

public enemy chuck d flava flav [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Same goes for gangster rap. By any standard, the subject matter of gangster rap is detestable, if we’re honest. But that such an expression of real life, the worst or best of it, can occur at all seems to be appealing to the average person.

nwa ice cube dj yella dr dre eazy e

urban_data, Flickr. Some rights reserved.

What further confirms all of this, for me, is the fact that now that rap is mainstream and commercialized, and also found in underground settings – pretty much all over the place, among many different kinds of people of both genders and all races – you find that many different subject matters are expressed. Which means, that the important thing is not particular subject matter but, rather, that it can be expressed so freely, uniquely, by anyone; and anything can be expressed.

People don’t care that much about a difference of opinion. I’m sure many Ali fans don’t agree with his politics, don’t follow the same religion he does, but they appreciate the man, the fact that he stands his ground and that he has an indomitable spirit. Same for great comedians like Richard Pryor or Redd Foxx: They can be offensive, they can say things we don’t agree with, but we admire their audacity and the fact that they can say what’s truly on their minds and reveal things previously unknown to many people.

Featured image: Dizzy DROS, Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.

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