What I Learned from Listening to Rap
Let me start this out by saying: a) there will probably be swearing in this post and b) I originally came from a family that mostly felt rap = crap – except Lauren Hill and Missy Elliot.
I grew up listening to whatever was on KROQ. This included Blink 182, Eminem, Limp Bizkit (don’t tell me you didn’t listen to him, you did), Reel Big Fish, whatever. Later on, my tastes were sculpted a bit by a short-lived musician boyfriend who made a lasting impression on my life with his musical preferences. He got me into Death Cab for Cutie and the Decemberists. He introduced me to a plethora of great artists who I still love today. Right now I’m into Lindsey Stirling, Mumford and Sons, and more. I’ve always been in love with the Beatles. John and Paul can serenade me eight days a week.
Enter my husband. A man who listens to TI, Andre Nickatina, Kanye West, Jay Z, Mac Dre, and more. A man who has fond childhood memories of “The Thizzle Dance” and listening to 2Pac and Dr. Dre. This is the man I love.
So, in the spirit of understanding what this fascination was all about, I decided to listen to some of his music. The only caveat was that I would avoid songs about exploiting women or encouraging drug usage. This will make me sound like a stuffy, middle aged woman, but I didn’t understand half the slang, so I found out later that some of what I listened to actually was about sex, drugs, and other unpleasantness.
When my husband and I were first going out, I had to make a couple of road trips to California. The first was actually the day after we officially decided to go out. He must have loved me then, because he let me borrow his ipod (known as the “Rypod”) for my two week trip to Los Angeles. In this illustrious device were many a song I had never heard of and never want to hear again. Some of which are songs he loves, so I won’t mention them by name. BUT, while driving to San Francisco (I was stopping the night there) on my way to LA, I listened to a lot of rap. I listened to rap all the way to LA, and I listened to rap on my way back to Portland. And there was one thing I learned.
What was this lesson? Well, it came from a conglomeration of rap songs, but mainly from one that I actually encourage anyone to listen to. It may not be as inspirational to all as it was to me, but I hope at least some take something good from it. It’s the song by Aesop Rock called “No Regrets”.
This song epitomizes the attitude that all rappers portray. That is an attitude of extreme self confidence. I realized, while driving over Mount Shasta, windows down and music blaring (I was actually listening to Girl Talk at the time – a fantastic remixer), that rappers, like the honey badger, don’t give a shit. Or at least they want us to believe that. Not only that, they respect a girl with ‘tude. If you have self confidence in anything, you are part way to making it.
This was an epiphany for me. I had been an uncertain writer, hating some of my work, unwilling to share it, and almost pathologically unable to submit it, or to finish anything significant. Since then, while I still have insecurities about my writing, I am at least willing to put myself out there, get rejected, and then put myself out there again. In fact, there is really only one piece of imagery in my first published story that I like, and that’s the one I stole from reality. However, it’s not the image my editor said he liked. Go figure.
So, what can we take away from rappers? They can at least put up a front of self confidence. You may think they are the worst thing since moldy bread. But they could give a shit what you think. Or at least they act that way. Or, as my grandfather once told my mom: “If you can’t dazzle them with your brilliance, baffle them with your bullshit”. He was on to something, and so are rappers.