Rap and hip hop music, as a genre, has a long history of addressing controversial topics, including drugs, sex, and violence. This stems from the cultural and social context in which rap and hip hop originated, as well as the artistic expressions and the objectives of the artists.
Rap and hip hop originated in the South Bronx, New York, in the 1970s as an offshoot of funk and soul music. The genre emerged from the African American and Latinx communities, which were facing social and economic challenges, such as poverty, unemployment, gang violence, and police brutality. As a result, rap and hip hop served as a means of social and political commentary and protest, as well as a form of self-expression and empowerment.
One of the main themes in rap and hip hop music is the reality of inner-city life, which often includes references to drugs, sex, and violence. Drugs, such as crack cocaine, were prevalent in the inner-city communities, affecting many people’s lives, and hip hop artists used their music to document and comment on the devastating effects of drug use and drug-related crime. Similarly, sex and violence are also widespread issues in inner-city life, and hip hop artists use their music to address these topics, often from a perspective of personal experience.
Moreover, some hip hop artists use their music to glorify or romanticize these themes, as a means of asserting their masculinity, rebellion, or toughness, and to establish their street credibility. They view these themes as part of the “street code” that governs inner-city life, and they use them as a form of self-expression, as well as a way to connect with their audience, which often shares similar experiences and values.
In conclusion, the prevalence of drugs, sex, and violence in rap and hip hop music can be traced back to the cultural and social context in which the genre originated, as well as the artistic expressions and the objectives of the artists. Rap and hip hop artists use their music to document and comment on the realities of inner-city life, as well as to assert their masculinity, rebellion, or toughness, and to establish their street credibility.
- Chang, J. (2005). Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
- Forman, M., & Neal, M. A. (Eds.). (1998). That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader. New York: Routledge.
- Toop, D. (1991). Rap Attack 3: African Rap to Global Hip Hop. New York: Serpent’s Tail.