Why Rappers Can’t Stop Rapping About Violence, Women, and Money

JustinTimberlake

This morning as I was getting ready for work, I took my phone into the bathroom to play music as I showered. I put the phone on shuffle and the first song up was Justin Timberlake’s Spaceship Coupe off of his latest, 20/20 Experience. I’ve been playing the 20/20 Experience a lot. I don’t think there’s a track on there that I don’t like. My favorite songs are Pusher Love Girl and Mirrors. His album is a breath of fresh air as far as R&B is concerned. Singers like Usher and Chris Brown seem to be moving more towards R&B/techno mashups.

No sooner did Spaceship Coupe finish playing, the next song started, which was I Luve Dem Strippers by 2Chainz ft Nikki Minaj. To say there was a glaring difference in the two songs would be an understatement. Not to say that I don’t enjoy ratchet songs because it was in fact on my phone but I started to think, “Why don’t rappers rap more about love?”

In my opinion (and I’m assuming the opinion of many others), it seems that the topic that rappers rap most about are sleeping with lots of women and not caring about them, how much money they make and freely dispense, and their propensity towards violence. What rappers are selling are fantasies. Rappers like T.I., 2Chainz, Jeezy and Pusha T are all above 30 years of age. I’m pretty sure they have either wives or long time girlfriends (I’ve considered the possibility that they may or may not cheat with reckless abandon). Rappers also don’t stay rich by spending their money thoughtlessly. Those bottles they’re popping in the club? I guarantee the owner provided them free of charge for making an appearance to draw customers to their establishment. Most likely they have an accountant and/or a financial advisor.

When I asked my timeline why the majority of rappers discussed the subject matter that they did, I was told that it was because talking about committing to one woman and financial responsibility isn’t cool. I thought that most rappers took pride in being trendsetters and setting themselves apart from the crowd. Rapping about jewelry and liquor accomplishes neither. You want to really win my respect? Rap about something more powerful and uplifting and don’t fall for the trap of discussing subject matter that do nothing but sell false dreams and false bravado.

So why don’t rappers talk about love? Hypermasculinity and need for approval from other men. Have you ever heard that women don’t get dressed up when they go out to attract men, but to compete with other women? This is the same theory when it comes to rappers. Rappers do their best to one up each other to prove who can be the most virile and macho. The longing for acceptance by other males makes the act of loving a woman not acceptable. It’s seen as a weak emotion that only weak people fall victim to. Love isn’t for the weak. Love is for the strong. It’s not an easy emotion to deal with.

What about what hip-hop consumers want want? Arguments could be made that rappers are just giving listeners what they want. Outside of rap music, our society has a fascination with violence, easy money and sex so I can’t realistically put this all on hip-hop but that is a different conversation for a different day.

Have you noticed that monotony that is rap music? Why do you think rappers don’t rap about more diverse topics?

Tunde

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  • MaggK

    I think hip hop is so diverse… You want ratchetness? you want conscious lyrics? you want love? you want politic? Everybody can be happy…
    The question is more why ratchet rap songs are the ones that sell more? Why those songs are so easy to find, why you have to dig a lil more to find the other ones? Why are the rappers that sing that songs more popular?

    • starita34

      Uh oh.
      This sounds too much like right!

      Who told you to come in here makin sense MaggK?

    • http://biggerthomas.wordpress.com/ madscientist7

      good questions. i think we all know the answers to.
      My recent post What’s Next?

  • Smilez_920

    Well a lot of mainstream popular rappers lack diversity. Not that the dope underground or up and comers like K.Dot don’t touch on the misogyny a little, but it’s their whole M.O. This rap generation is about the next quick dollar and doing what’s hot. I mean half the rappers from down south use the same producer or engineer for the hottest records. Heck if you turn it to MTV jams all of the videos look and sound the same.

    I think there is diversity in Hip-Hop you just have to dig for it. You won’t find it on the radio or TV because Payola is real, if anything you’re the main tool you have to use to find diversity in hip hop is the internet. Hip hop has always had some sort of fantasy element to it, rappers raping about things the hope to have in the future, women they hope to get at and places they hope to go. It’s just that this generation it seems that rapper sonly choose to portray “king pins”, gangsters, and players.

    • Smielz_920

      Sidenote: Anyone heard this Rick Ross line in “U ain’t Know”, where he talks about slipping a molly into a womne’s drink and taking her home and her not being aware. Yeah he’s kind of pushing. I mean look how many young people started popping molly this summer because of a few stupid songs. I can only imagine the A-holes who would follow this lyric.

      • http://biggerthomas.wordpress.com/ madscientist7

        yeah i heard that foolishness. people are just gonna accept it as "just music" and let it slide. not me though. he can take that bull somewhere else. young men already have issues with rape without someone like ross feeding them advise like this.
        My recent post What’s Next?

  • Gravity

    i agree wil MaggK Before Drake blew up. ( im talking about his Degrassi days when he was Aubery Graham) his music was amazing. He used to rap about love, being heartbroken, difficulties with his biracial identity, wanting to be able to provide for his mother, etc. But now his stuff is superficial and I think he's exaggerating at how low his bottom actually was. But annyhoo once again Thank you SingleBlackMale for thought provoking topics.

    • starita34

      and now his name is synonymous with emo and b!tch and light in the loafers….no wonder more people don't brave the deeper topics….

    • http://biggerthomas.wordpress.com/ madscientist7

      i liked drake too before he signed with young money and got corrupted. no problem. glad you enjoyed.
      My recent post What’s Next?

    • MissLia

      LOL @ you bringing up Jimmy Brooks. I miss the old Drake too…

    • Kaori

      Here's the funny thing tho, his MOTHER IS STINKIN RICH! But I agree with the rest, after I listened to Started From The Bottom and 2 chainz came out with that song with Kanye, I knew it was over…gosh, I can't stand 2 chains (oops, I mean, 2 CHAAAAAINZ), Kanye used to be so smart 'till he started hanging with those young baboons…

  • http://uphereoncloud9.wordpress.com Wu Young

    I’ve wrestled with this for a minute, Tunde and I just cut down on the amount of rap I play. I chalked some of it to my tastes changing, me getting old, but the subject matter of mainstream rap is stale. I guess many artists take the easy way out when it comes to subject matter.

    • http://biggerthomas.wordpress.com/ madscientist7

      yeah my tastes are definitely changing as well.
      My recent post What’s Next?

  • Streetz

    I think as Hip Hop ages, you will see the lane for many different types to be successful. We have our legends Jay and Nas making more "grown" material. Soon that will be a genre of rap all its own. Rap is embedded in the hearts of youth and will always be a young persons music genre at its core, but as it matures, you'll see artists diversify without fear of failure (it helps if theyre already successful too).

    Theres a lot of hip hop out there. Just gotta find listen and support it.

    • http://biggerthomas.wordpress.com/ madscientist7

      oh yeah i listen to a lot of stuff that you can't or won't find on the radio. the thing is that i wonder how people (mainly young ppl) are molded by what's out there.
      My recent post What’s Next?

  • AnGe

    Jay Z as of late has started to change up the lyrics. Talks about his wife and business ventures. But the whole overall goal of the entertainment industry is to create and sell a fantasy. JT isn't being anymore honest and forthcoming on his love songs…

    Rnb music is usually bloated with fantasy and concepts from the wonderful world of make believe. It's rare to hear honest raw music in any genre. But when it pops up it usually dominates ie Tupac, Adele, Amy Winehouse, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu – when they broke out they really left a mark on peoples minds

  • Rox Fontaine

    They don't rap about anything else because they have no sense or respect of any greater responsibility than self. When faced with the struggle they knew and the fortune in front of them, they choose self over any collective. It's nothing more than desire for money. Labels are paying and these rappers are soft shoeing along to receive.

    • http://biggerthomas.wordpress.com/ madscientist7

      "Labels are paying and these rappers are soft shoeing along to receive."

      in the end this is what it is. modern day minstrel shows.
      My recent post What’s Next?

  • Uncle Hugh, BP

    "I thought that most rappers took pride in being trendsetters and setting themselves apart from the crowd. Rapping about jewelry and liquor accomplishes neither."

    This. Look at when College Dropout came out. People were overdosing on gangsta rap. Kanye wasn't trying to be hard. That wasn't anything new that Tribe or Redman wasn't doing, but in addition to being good music, it was refreshing because he wasn't trying to put forth a fake street persona and related to 99% of the consumers out there.

    Not everyone is rapping about women and violence, but it's mainstream. That points to us as consumers, because that is all we will collectively support. The suits only care about making money. When we start financially supporting artist that have a more uplifting message, trust me, they'll start pushing and promoting them. I'm guilty myself. Jean Grey's Jeanius is probably the best album I've heard from a female artist. And I burnt a copy of her CD from my brother instead of buying it.

    • Uncle Hugh, BP

      "Have you ever heard that women don’t get dressed up when they go out to attract men, but to compete with other women? This is the same theory when it comes to rappers."

      I'm stealing this one. Proper credit will be given.

      • http://biggerthomas.wordpress.com/ madscientist7

        lol do your thing. thanks!
        My recent post What’s Next?

      • Peter Parker

        Yeah dope quote. Never though about this.

    • http://biggerthomas.wordpress.com/ madscientist7

      yep. that's why i'm a fan of j cole. he doesn't try to prove how hard or street he is. i can relate to a lot of his subject matter.
      My recent post What’s Next?

    • MaggK

      All your 2nd paragraph is the truth!!!
      I'm mad at you though for not buying that Jean Grae's album lol!
      BUY MUSIC PEOPLE!

  • Mr. SD

    That 20/20 album has been in heavy rotation on my ipod..best album of the yr thus far..

  • http://iosos-creatingbuzz.blogspot.com Io§o§

    This post is Nonsense…. the problem is, that you only hear what the radio is playing… do u have Nas – Life is good album on your tracklist… i bet you dont… you can speak about the 90% of the non-sense thats out…

    Real life artist never loses themselves and never crosses over to the B.S. side of things. check out "Nas – Life is Good" album and make another post… i mean the labels aren't promoting him and Real Material. it has to begin somewhere.

    • gemmieboo

      this comment makes no sense.

      your ONLY example is Nas's Life is Good album??? cuz Nas NEVER before was caught wildin out being mainstream and on some ignorant sh*t huh?? and so he therefore is the gold standard of rappers who rap about something other than violence money and women.

      oh ok.
      My recent post Religiosity (Part 1)

    • http://biggerthomas.wordpress.com/ madscientist7

      this post is nonsense? word?

      i was told not to react so i'll try to address this comment without doing so.

      1. i don't listen to the radio. 2. nas is one of my favorite rappers. life is good stays in constant rotation so you can miss me with that. as thought provoking as nas is he is still very much capitalist as many other mainstream rappers.

      i listen to a variety of rappers. from nas to kdot to gucci mane. from jay-z to talib kweli to budden to asap. so before you try and insult something try asking instead of assuming. a$$.
      My recent post What’s Next?

    • Uncle Hugh, BP

      I'm a huge Nas fan. But when he has the nicknames "Nas Escobar" and "Nasty Nas", you have to admit he glorifies drug culture and $ex also.

  • gemmieboo

    i listen to a lot of different music – all for different moods and mindsets. so im aware of the more mainstream rap culture as i am the notsomainstream hip hop culture. and i dont begrudge any one group their schtick.

    i think rappers who rap about money cars hoes [for the most part] dont have anything else to rap about. most of them are from the streets and sing about what they know or what they wanna know (many of em dont have a pot to piss in when they first hit the seen and their "riches" usually come after their "hit"). many arent rapping about their circumstances, how to change them, or any other social justice issues because they see their hood life as a standard they wanna keep up with – just with money. even the ones that get rich quick, dont try to elevate past their circumstances. they wanna be hood ninjas doin hood things. and so rapping about anything that requires thought and progress is disloyal to who they are and who they wanna be – a hood ninja. *shrug*
    My recent post Religiosity (Part 1)

    • Smilez_920

      Unfortunately the "hood standard" has become a general representative for mainstream hip-hop and even parts of black culture. When did we become so obsessed with being “hard”, “ghetto” , “hood”?

      I mean look at Drake with young money. While he hasn’t gone off the deep end there where times that I tough they were going to try to turn him into some kind of super thug. I even know a few people who were nervous that Wale would lose his original sound when he joined MMG.

    • Young Heaux

      The thing is, I think the hood has a lot more to offer musically than that. But there is this standard set now in hip hop, that all the storytelling or art in general somehow needs to be filtered through this lens of "money cars hoes." It's stunting creativity.

  • h.h.h.

    *turns on Jay-Z – Say Hello*

    rap is quite diverse. but what moves, has dope beats. if you had Lecrae spitting over a MikeWillMadeIt beat, it would be in your favorite club this summer. but so long as it's out of balance (club music exclusively played on the radio, by club djs that moonlight as radio personalities) then i think that's what we'll continue to see.

    and yes JT's album is going to win Grammys. too bad Timberlake makes Soul music and Usher makes Vogue music.

  • Treday

    Maybe its the type of music you listen to…..you give power to that type of music when you listen to it….i appreciate you for bringing awareness to some of the issues with hip-hop music, but i think you should also think about/include solutions to the problem.

  • Dr. J

    Lil' Wayne raps about his girl in like everyone of his songs now but nobody points that out like never… I think a lot of rappers do rap about the women they date, but we just don't agree with the dynamics of their relationship so we dismiss it. If TI/Tiny, Wayne/Drea, or Will/Jada want to go around sleeping with other people in threesomes and have open relationships, then so be it, doesn't make them any less in love than anyone else.

    I can't think of any examples of what you're considering trendsetters either. I would love to use Jay-Z as an example but from his beginnings until American Gangster most of his music talked about spending exuberant amounts of money, selling drugs, and violence. He's no different. He basically rapped about what people wanted to hear and that's what makes you mainstream.

    Now if you want something else, it's there. There's Kendrick Lamar, Big KRIT, J. Cole, and others who are young artists who are rapping about different things. But also consider that a lot of times people confuse their personal network for the larger population. As much as some people think hip hop is dying, it's actually not, it's still an industry that grows every year. What they really mean to say is, "My peoples and me aren't feeling hip hop anymore." That's perfectly fine, several people grow out of things throughout life, but that doesn't mean they die. For example, The Club.

    But overall, i'll say that rappers don't really dictate what they rap about or what gets play. I haven't heard a Lil' Wayne album that came out that didn't have the gambit of material. Lil' Wayne always has songs that aren't about violence, drugs or objectifying women on his albums. Nobody pays attention to them or listens at a high rate. That doesn't mean he doesn't have those songs there, it means that the majority of people don't want to hear that. If hip hop dies, it's not because of the rappers, producers or executives, it's because of the people who listen to hip hop. Music is and will always be a reflection of the people and what they want.

  • India

    I think the consumer impacts a lot of the content present in the music industry; artists deliver what sells. For example, 2 Chainz and Plies are way more intelligent than the seem in their music, but have both pretty much stated that they create the music that their fans support. I know plenty of people, like you and I, that think the content is getting pretty old; however I know just as many, if not more people who love every ratchet song out, as if money, cash, and h*** is a new theme. Many may not agree, but I think we can only look at ourselves when it comes to the content we are presented with; if "we" didn't buy it, they'd be fools to keep selling it.

  • Young Heaux

    Maybe another thing that adds to the monotony is that there isn't really a diversity in the people in hip hop at all…. it's pretty much all young, urban, black men. Like when you do venture out and listen to a female rapper, white, asian, country, etc., you find some weird shxt (in a good way). But it makes sense, we all have different experiences and perspectives and therefore different stories to tell.

    So is the young black male from the hood's story one predominantly entangled in violence, women and (fickle)money? I don't know. It's hard to tell because it feels like this is one of those "art imitates life / life imitates art" dilemmas.

  • http://www.opinionatedmale.com cortonio

    they rap about it because its what they're told to do. Notice the conscious rappers aren't featured in the top 10, getting the most radio play, getting the most exposure video-wise. I'd say at least half of the male rappers out there today have NEVER grown up in the "hood" or "the mean streets" it's a dictatorship to keep black men in a certain light. period. Why haven't the Jay-z's and Lil wayne's of the world rap about anything else? Think about it. And please don't tell me that's all they know.
    My recent post Shacking Up: What It Really Means When A Man Is Considering Moving In With You

  • http://www.opinionatedmale.com cortonio

    When I was growing up although you had poor righteous teachers, guru, tribe called quest, de la soul, and others but on the flip side also had onyx, dre, snoop, scarface, ice cube, BIG, and to an extent 'Pac (although he had some positive tracks) and they outweighed the conscious rappers.. They were the ones prominently featured and thats when 'gangsta rap' hit its peak.
    My recent post Shacking Up: What It Really Means When A Man Is Considering Moving In With You

  • Peter Parker

    Good post Tunde. I feel so left behind because i still haven't heard 20/20, but I have been told by many music heads it's good. I really have nothing more to add then what has already been stated. Rappers who rap about those superficial things just do it because it makes the most money and it's a good way to stay relevant. I think the keyword here is rapper. MC's, who get less rotation on radio, don't rap about those things, but are more conscious of what they put into the universe. This is where the debate between rappers and MC's come into play.

  • J

    I write hip hop/rap songs. And I have a song called, “She Likes It”.

    The song talks about how this one particular female I knew liked performing oral on me.

    It’s real. It’s good. It’s conscious.
    I’m a rapper and an MC.

    After reading everyone’s post, all I can see is kids arguing over toys.

    So, why can’t rappers stop talking about sex, money, and violence? It’s the Lifestyle. It’s our Culture.

    Culture = Past. Present. Future.

    Why we talk about sex, money, and violence? Because that’s what we just got done talking about.

    Always following the Black struggle in America though. That more and more people are interested in, beginning to relate to, and help to evolve.