What’s in a verse? (Eminem – Renegade)

To shatter the picture in which of that as they paint me as

A monger of hate, a Satan, a scatter-brained atheist

But that ain’t the case, see it’s a matter of taste

We as a people decide if Shady’s as bad as they say he is

Or is he the latter? A gateway to escape

Media scapegoat; who they can be mad at today?

Eminem reflects the frustrations of any hip-hop fan who has ever had that conversation with friends. There is a misconception about rap fans that we are unaware of the genres failings or, worse still, that we like the music because of its shortcomings. It was in spite of the misogyny and homophobia that most serious fans fell in love with rap, not because of it. Of course there are those who Lauryn Hill exposed on Zealots (‘After all the logic and theory I add a motherfucker so you ignant n*ggas hear me’), but to tar everybody with the same brush is to undermine the integrity of a culture that is far more sophisticated and socially aware than its detractors will ever admit.

Now an international, billion pound industry, it’s easy to forget that this all began, 40 years ago, as a party. Somewhere down the line the haters forgot that this was entertainment, and what we’re left with is a listening public with double standards. So whilst Al Pacino is immortalised for his portrayal of a drug-dealing, gun toting gangster, rappers are vilified for talking about the same issues in their songs. But it’s just a movie right?

Rap musics’ love affair with controversy is a problem, but not on the scale that many people want you to believe. Anyone who acts like gun crime and drugs didn’t exist before hip-hop are just looking for excuses. Art imitates life, not the other way. Misogyny is prevalent in rap, but people who blame music for sexism often ignore the wider, deep rooted problems that exist in society on a global scale. When 50 talks about being shot 9 times he does so because he was shot 9 times. And until something is done to change the conditions that many young black people grow up in, artists will continue to tell the story of life in the hood.

Given its close links with the idea of blackness, hip-hop is in the privileged position of being able to both reinforce and reject racial stereotypes, as well as creating new ideas of what it means to be black. Without the very real circumstances from which hip-hop was born, the genre wouldn’t even exist.

Don’t blame hip-hop, it was given this world, it didn’t make it.

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