There is a stigma in which hip-hop music and hip-hop culture are mocked and have a poor reputation.
But the reason for this lack of appreciation is rooted in what is not generally seen as rock music and rock sub-culture.
Rap music and hip-hop culture originated in New York City, a city with many African-Americans. Music journalist Chuck D believes rap originated in NYC around 1979.
“It was recorded by guys that were into R&B and soul music in the South Bronx. When they came up into the Northside [Brooklyn] area, they started doing a form of rap music where they rhymed and played their instruments.
It was almost more like gospel music, and it was a revolution in music because it was driven by people that were into soul music, like the musicians and gospel singers of the South Bronx,” Chuck D says.
While many people associate rap music with the West Coast, Chuck D’s stance is that this is not the case and that most rap music developed in NYC.
“We didn’t go out to the West Coast to try to imitate the flow and the cadence of rap. We were coming up with our own flow, cadence, style of music.
You gotta go to the source. It all comes from the West Coast. Rap originated in the South Bronx,” says Chuck D.
How hip-hop music is seen as underground
Since most rappers are black and poor, they have not risen to the level of fame that many mainstream rock music artists have.
Chuck D says that “many rappers are poor and [this is] where their problems come from. The East Coast is just the place to go if you’re a rapper or trying to break into this industry.
The bars are lower; the court system is lower, there’s less of a violent record, you have to go out to the East Coast to do stuff, to get signed. That’s why that whole East Coast scene is so hot right now.”
Rappers have also been portrayed as angry, illiterate, and being involved in drugs and violence. According to Chuck D, rap is at least three times more literate than most other music genres.
“[Rap] has always been more of a high-level art form. A lot of hip-hop and rap is based on street culture.
Hip-hop has been writing stories about the street since 1979. They wrote raps about the streets before anyone else was writing raps.
They’ve always been talking about the underbelly of the society and the reality of the society,” says Chuck D.
While rappers are generally considered underground, Chuck D believes that many people still do not know about rap music.
“Rap is kind of like rock music or blues music, but it’s underground. It’s not viewed in the same light as rock music or blues music.
People see rap as violent and destructive, but it’s not. People think it’s violent and destructive because the media portrays it that way.”
Because rap music was born in New York City, Chuck D believes it’s because rap music is mostly accepted in NYC, but not in the rest of the country.
“When you think of hip-hop, New York is the first place that pops into your head, right? Rap has a big following, and I believe it’s because it’s more accepted here than in other parts of the country,” says Chuck D.
One of the biggest criticisms of rap music is that it’s essentially for gangsters, drug dealers, prostitutes, and thieves. Many rap songs contain explicit lyrics, including descriptions of sexual activity and marijuana.
Chuck D says that “all of this stuff is good because that’s life and what you are trying to depict in your music is the real thing. People know about drug dealing and dope dealing.
People know about prostitution. People know about money.
People know about money. They don’t know about all the rest of it.”
Chuck D believes rap music should not be censored.
“If you come to my house and you think I’m not cool, then I don’t give a fuck. You have to come and see that we’re cool.
You have to see the imagery. You have to see the attitude.”
Chuck D thinks that there are hundreds of hip-hop music artists
Chuck D’s comments make it sound like Chuck D himself is a hip-hop artist, not the case.
“No. No, no. I’m just one of the cats in the group. I’m not a professional musician. I’m a musician because I sing,” says Chuck D.
“I sing. That’s what I do for a living,” he says. “I’m not a professional musician. I sing. I don’t play an instrument. I can’t really play an instrument. I’m not a professional anything, but I sing.”
Chuck D hopes that rappers take his message to heart.
“I think what’s gonna happen is that rap artists are gonna stop with the dirty things and the drug references and the language. I think it’s time to stop and sing. I think it’s time for hip-hop artists to sing and move on.”
If rappers continue to sing, Chuck D says that he thinks rap music will grow.
“I really do think so. They have to change. They have to have a spirit of mind. It’s all the hype and all the hype that has caused this, but what if they go back to the music?”