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Hip hop can contain some of the best metaphors and stories while still keeping an enjoyable flow, delivery and beat. Much of this goes unnoticed by mainstream music consumers causing a stigma around rap music. Not all tracks need to have a message, some of the best Hip Hop songs have no real meaning. When music sounds good, and also produces certain emotions. It can create a really powerful language.
Childish Gambino: This is America
Quite possibly the most shocking and viral Hip Hop song for a while. Donald Glover’s (aka Childish Gambino) song “This Is America” shines light on the American culture and how something so traumatic, like a shooting, can be mourned one second and then either memed or forgotten about as soon as pop culture kicks in. The jarring visual used in the video also help strengthen this point. If you watch the video some pretty bad stuff happens in the background, but you never notice as your attention is on the dancers.
J. Cole: The entire KOD album
Cole’s 2018 album is a superb piece of work. The album title K.O.D can be interpreted as Kids on Drugs, Killing Our Demons or King Overdose. Every song on the album tackles addiction to a different substance, ATM with money, Photograph with social media, FRIENDS with drugs etc. While these tracks tackle specific issues, songs like BRACKETS asks questions that get the listener thinking such as “Where do my taxes go?” and “Why can I not choose what to fund?”. The track above, titled ATM (which means addicted to money while also being the term for an American Cash Machine) explains how everyone wants physical money. This could be a house, a car, clothes or something else. People spend money on what makes them look rich, instead of what makes them happy.
Token: One Like Equals
As the title suggests, One Like Equals follows a girl’s pursue of likes on social media and how it may start off small, but it can corrupt self-confidence to such an extend it ruins lives. This track is perfectly done, it hits hard and brings up a lot of legitimate points as to why social media can be so influential on young minds. The message here is learn to accept yourself, rather than accept what people think of you, this message has translated into one of Token’s best songs.
Legacy is something truly unique. The saying normally goes “What do you want to be remembered by?” but on this track Logic explores whether a legacy is a waste of time. Logic believes that being happy with his life and being happy with what he is remembered for are different things. The 5 minute long track cycles through emotion after emotion, bar after bar to bring a song that says just live your life. Don’t worry about what you’re remembered by, do what you want to do and your legacy will come naturally. My favourite point on this track is how so many people spend money to be a better person when they should have spent something much more valuable, time.
Hopsin: Ill Mind 5
6 years on this song is still relevant, that proves a point itself that nothing has changed. This is most likely the best song Hopsin has ever produced and it tackles so many issues from racism, drugs, influences in Hip Hop and more. In the song Hopsin talks to, no destroys three different groups of people by identifying their problems, breaking down any argument they could have and then offering suggestions on how to become a better person. Hopsin shows frustration for the stereotypes of rap that trickle down to his listeners, he does not go easy on them.
These songs may have no specific message, but make you think about how the world works: