Phoenix trio Injury Reserve have spent six years dropping mixtapes and EP’s in the lead up to their self-titled debut album, but has the album proved to be the crescendo in their discography that they wished for?
Injury Reserve are comprised of producer Parker Corey and rappers Ritchie With a T and Stepa J. Groggs. An unusual trio with an even more unusual discography, Injury Reserve are aiming for a coveted and barely-attainable position within musical artistic qualification, the position where an artist or group can create experimental music with a pop appeal. So far over their existence, the group has proved they’ve got the versatility to achieve this status. Starting with the jazzy alt-rap that defined their breakout mixtape Live From The Dentist Office (2015), to aggressive and defiant cuts like Oh Shit!!! and Girl With the Gold Wrist off Floss (2016) and finally to the emotionally charged Drive It Like It’s Stolen (2017) that features the heartbreaking North Pole, Injury Reserve have covered most bases in their pursuit of rap notoriety. The question is however, what does the album Injury Reserve do for both progressing the groups sound simultaneously into the experimental and pop fields?
Koruna & Lime opens the album with its infectious yet unpredictable beat that entices the listener to instantly broaden their expectations for the rest of the album. There are some heavy features on the album, with some placed right at the beginning. Rico Nasty absolutely cuts through the twinkling beat of Jawbreaker, whilst JPEGMAFIA’s dominating hook on GTFUmakes the song as aggressive as the title suggests. Sadly these features appear to have been detrimental to Ritchie and Stepa’s status in the tracks as they are overshadowed by their contributing peers. It’s not just the JPEG and Rico features this applies to, with the two Injury Reserve boys struggling to compare to Aminé and Freddie Gibbs who appear later on the album.
Lyrical content aside, Parker’s production carries the conversation of progression within this album. Hailing from white suburbia, the first Hip-Hop album Parker listened through in full was Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. But Parker’s ingenuity and imagination shines through on this record. Obscure sampling, such as the beautiful Silver Mt. Zion sample on What a Year It’s Beenand even tweaking Teriyaki Boyz’ infamous Tokyo Drift for Jailbreak the Tesla. This, merged with innovative drum beats and synths, creates a feeling of progression and something completely new to Hip-Hop. Parker even experiments with song structure in an unseen way, creating a step by step guide in Rap Song Tutorial that is actually surprisingly satisfying when watching the song build itself up from individual drum beats step by step. Nevertheless, the aforementioned feeling of progression carries the album in the absence of more traditional hooks and melodies.
The album starts with the distorted and heavy vinyl crackling of IGOR’S THEME. The ominous opener features vocal support from Lil Uzi Vert and Solange and I could definitely see it being used for some sort of horror film. From the start, Tyler blends the sounds of Cherry Bomb and themes of Flower Boy; and continues to do so throughout the project. The album follows Tyler falling in love, starting and ending a relationship and attempting to remain friends.
EARFQUAKE is a clear example of Tyler falling in love, featuring backup vocals from Charlie Wilson and a short but sweet verse from Playboi Carti. The song encapsulates the exciting and anxious feelings of gaining emotions for someone however already hints to relationship problems. I THINK builds upon this feeling and hints to the effect his significant other has on his mental health. The track gives off a strong Kanye West vibe by interpolating Stronger. Like West, Tyler’s production is always something to be commended, matching the incredible work of Flower Boy while reintroducing sounds reminiscent of Cherry Bomb. However, each song as I went through it got more and more boring, becoming repetitive and not offering the excitement I hoped for.
The short spoken word EXACTLY WHAT YOU RUN FROM YOU END UP CHASING foreshadows the later emotions of the album and the toxicity that love can bring to you. RUNNING OUT OF TIME continues to play into the topic of running and alludes to the often inevitable and ominous ending of a relationship. Tyler’s use of back up vocals and amazing production work really gave me a sense of falling, whether into love or into peril. The project starts to become more clearly Tyler’s with songs like NEW MAGIC WAND, A BOY IS A GUN and PUPPET. This leads to a large issue throughout the album, that it doesn’t feel like his own. He doesn’t allow himself to shine as bright as I think he could but perhaps that could be the creative direction the artist is heading, focusing more of curating and production.
Tyler’s voice struggles to shine through past his production until the back half of the album, but even when it does, the themes explored seem repeated from Flower Boy. Nevertheless, Tyler has added another beautiful album to his discography that fits its narrative. I think people are harsh to quickly criticise IGOR in fear that it won’t live up to his previous work. While I do agree this isn’t his best, its an album with amazing curation and production work that hints to the continual growth of Tyler as an artist.
Kota’s music has always showcased a nostalgic blend of New York boom bap and Chicago styled type beats (the production work of Youtuber/Producer Origami no doubt contributed to this). FOTO is no different and is a smooth project with plenty of wordplay and an overarching message of conquering adversities to reach mental clarity.
Right away Kota sets up this journey with Richard Parker’s intro, hinting to the albums title saying “Make sure you taking some photos, man.” In his verse, he nicely introduces himself and sets up the neighbourhood that raised him and played an important role helping his garden reach Full Bloom. Church explores one of the key lyrical themes of Kota with many biblical references over a bass and hi-hat heavy track. One of the more energetic songs, it fits well overall but I wonder if it could’ve been more exciting with a bigger build up and better execution of the chorus.
Birdie is the first single we are reintroduced to but Kota added an extra layer of saxophone that definitely gives it a grander feel to this lazy love song perfect for a Sunday. Hollywood is another great song, probably my favourite on the album based on the beat alone. Not sure if its the same sample from the song Tribe by Bas featuring J. Cole, but either way I enjoy Hollywood in the same I loved Tribe. Then follows Alkaline, another highlight of the album, however its one of the first that reuses a lot of other song elements, and was the first hint of the albums repetition.
Sedona hints to this also, and presents one of my biggest fears going into the album. Kota has near mastered his style – the laid back sunny vibe is something he owns – but eventually it starts to seem recycled. Though its not necessarily anything bad, I still loved Sedona and Chicago Diner but for an album experience it personally hindered the journey. Same can be said about the four interludes that while they added to the storytelling aspect, I’m personally not a huge fan of skits in albums. However, in between an interlude sandwich, Kota welcomes one of Chicago’s best up and comers, Saba, to join him on Solar Return. Keeping Kota’s ability for catchy hooks, Saba’s feature maintains the albums themes but brings a much-needed refreshing voice.
KOALA has a harder hitting beat and a more Trap styled flow and reminds me that Kota is capable of versatility, something he should explore more to ensure his brand does not become stagnant. The album ends on a high note with For Coloured Boys, Good To Be Home and FOTO (feat. Hello Oshay), and really hones in on Kota’s journey to clarity. It’s on FOTO’s upbeat call and response chorus, that we realise how Kota’s music has helped us on our own journey. His music is warm, optimistic and essential for relaxing and taking time for yourself.
Kota The Friend hinted to my worries of repetition with the long track list and interludes, but in the end FOTO proves to be a fantastically smooth album for easy listening, showing us how Kota The Friend has overcome his adversity and inherently helped us do the same.
Logic has been on a slow ascent for over a decade now, and after reaching mainstream popularity through his third studio album Everybody, I have felt his appeal to me quickly descend. Content wise, Logic has started off 2019 with a bang – releasing Supermarket (a soundtrack to his debut novel) and now, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.
Beginning the album with two of his singles, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Homicide (feat. Eminem), we already get a taste of the two sides of the same coin. A lot of Logic’s work in recent years has either featured a strong message of love and equality or his playful and impressive pace of word play. While Logic’s fast ability cannot go unmentioned I think its use on this album is underwhelming and in a way, cringe. I think a better example of Logic utilising this flow is on songs like Gang Related, but at least he shows his self awareness through the Chris D’Elia outro of Homicide.
The album largely tackles how Logic has dealt and is dealing with his fame. This theme is most present on Wannabe and clickbait, both catchy songs but are a little too painfully satirical for me. Mama / Show Love (feat. YBN Cordae) is one of the better tracks of the project, and is another example of how the fast rapping can work well. Logic is blessed with one of the most underrated producers in the game 6ix, who is one of the major reasons I come back to check out Logic’s new work. YBN Cordae is also a highlight, and one of the best features on the album. The other being Icy (feat. Gucci Mane) which is my favourite track on the album with a catchy chorus over a tip toeing beat and Gucci nicely compliments the songs bravado.
Coming back to satire of this album, COMMANDO (feat. G-Eazy) feels like a poor attempt for a strip club anthem with G-Eazy being the perfect candidate for a song like this. He also makes attempts for a trap banger through Still Ballin’ (feat. Wiz Khalifa), but falls short of anything noticeable. The rest is more or less forgettable (I don’t even want to acknowledge the Will Smith feature), but he ends the album on a high note with the smooth Lost in Translation.
All in all, Logic is lost in the caricature of himself by either being his preachy self or name dropping and delivering empty brags. The production work is great though and for big fans of Logic and his style, I think this provides some redeeming fan-service.
DISCLAIMER: This is a ‘favourite’ list based on personal opinions and should not be confused as a ‘best of’ list. If you disagree with any of the views expressed, sound off in the comments and recommend me some of your favourite artists from Chicago.
In no particular order, a list of The 2Thousand’s favourite artists from Sydney, Australia.
Unlike a lot of up and coming Australian rappers, Chillinit embraces his Australian accent and upbringing; and there’s everything to love about him. Charismatic, motivated and genuine. He has the lyrical talent to keep up with artists like Nerve and Wombat through some great Aussie culture references, but his 2018 album demonstrated his seriously skilled versatility.
The biggest artist on this list, and for a reason. Manu has incredible talent catering towards the auto-tuned Trap wave and has been recognised globally, set to perform at Rolling Loud 2019. Had the pleasure of seeing him live as support for Stormzy in early 2018 and I can say with confidence he has an increasingly big fanbase in Australia already. Won’t be long before he’ll be expanding this overseas, if not already after Rolling Loud on May 11th.
Yibby is the most recent Australian artist I’ve discovered, and I’m thankful for it. Been described as Australia’s Joey Bada$$, I think Yibby provides a much needed different flavour to Australian Hip-Hop. He only has two songs released thus far, so I’m hoping for more great content from him in 2019.
Youngest on the list and one of the youngest in rap currently, Kid LAROI has the biggest potential to break into the American scene (already slowly doing so, being announced for 2019 Rolling Loud). Though he only has one song on Spotify, he has some huge hidden gems on Soundcloud and I’ve noticed the amount of time he has been spending in the studio of late. His next project is going to be huge, make sure you’ve caught on the wave before then.
A favourite of Triple J, Kwame‘s Hip-Hop began after jumping on stage with A$AP Ferg. His work since then has paid off immensely through supporting acts like the Migos and Skepta. After having a huge year of touring in 2018 and releasing his Endless Conversations. EP, I hope Kwame continues to be a new leader in Australian Hip-Hop.
DISCLAIMER: This is a ‘favourite’ list based on personal opinions and should not be confused as a ‘best of’ list. If you disagree with any of the views expressed, sound off in the comments and recommend me some of your favourite artists from Chicago.
In no particular order, a list of The 2Thousand’s favourite artists from Chicago, Illinois.
Saba was my MVP artist of last year, delivering my favourite album of 2018, CARE FOR ME. His collaborative work with Pivot Gang leaves a lot to be desired but his solo projects are consistently and undeniably great. Hopefully he can continue to produce such work.
Chance The Rapper demonstrated a ridiculous amount of potential with his 2nd mixtape, Acid Rap. While I personally think Colouring Book was a let down in comparison, Chance’s musical talent cannot go unmentioned in a list about Chicago. I think his next album, set to be released in July, will cement him as a big name within today’s Hip-Hop.
One of Chicago’s greatest musical acts, Ye has never been a stranger to controversy. That being said, he has also never been a stranger to GOOD music (excuse the pun). From producing to rapping, West has one of the best discographies of any rapper and is expected to continue this with the soon to be released Yandhi.
My favourite female rapper, Noname encapsulates Chicago’s soul and jazz influence in her work. While Room 25 didn’t quite satisfy me the same way that Telefone did, she still has a short, sweet and promising discography. Definitely one of the more under appreciated Chicago artists.
Probably the hottest artist on this list, Juice WRLD‘s fame is more than deserved. Though he has the weakest discography of everyone on this list, I think Juice WRLD still shows an amazing amount of potential and will continue to dominate the charts like he has in the past year and a half.
The first disc starts strong with Dreamin’, I Need More and Deez Streetz (feat. Lil Durk), all portraying his rise to fame and the connection he’s maintained with his trap lifestyle. I Need More’s chorus is a noticeable highlight on the first disc along with the storytelling on Nowadays and the XXXTENTACION feature on MIDDLE CHILD. MIDDLE CHILD is one of the only posthumous songs I’ve heard from X that feels genuine and doesn’t come across as a cash and clout chase. It really shows the artistic friendship between the two and that this track wasn’t one of X’s leftover verses but actually a product of their studio time together. PnB Rock’s songs with Tee Grizzley and Quavo respectively are two of the weaker joints on disc 1 but he manages to finish off strong with Now Or Never 2.0, a great reflective ender that clearly divides the two works.
Similar to disc 1, disc 2 starts off with a similar bang with Swervin’ (feat. Diplo), I Like Girls (feat. Lil Skies) and All These Bandz (feat.Tory Lanez). PnB nailed the popstar intro with production work from Diplo and continuing with an even brighter and more upbeat style. While I thought the popstar side of this album would be an excuse for endless bragging and over used lyrics of flexing, he explores a more lustful and troublesome side on tracks like My Exand Put You On (feat. A Boogie Wit da Hoodie), which brings some questionable lines from the guest verse. Don’t get me wrong, the album is still littered with lyrics about designer clothes and fast cars on forgettable songs like Penny Proud and Stage Fright but PnB Rock has definitely showed a more creative side that I think really sits him a part from his contemporaries.
PnB Rock is an underrated artist who, in my opinion, will experience great career longevity if he continues with works like this.
TDE veteran’s fifth studio album CrasH Talk, is a solid album to say the least, but does it live up to the wait? Honestly, I don’t think so. I feel as though Q has toned his sound down a bit in exchange for a dull combination of trap and pop. The first two tracks create my first problem with the album, the shortness of the tracks. While I think Gang Gang and Tales is a strong way to open the album, I think they were both cut way too short. I was left wanting more from almost every track, and not in a good way. It was either I wanted more content or I wanted the content to be better. The features of the album are unbelievably underwhelming, starting with Travis Scott’s feature on CHopstix. While I like Q’s verses, the song is so painfully boring and doesn’t seem to work with the chorus and if you’re going to get a Travis Scott feature, I’d expect him to say more than one word.
Other features include 6LACK, Lil Baby, Kid Cudi, 21 Savage, Ty Dolla $ign and YG. Either ScHoolboy tries to cater too much to the featured artists style with songs like Floating (feat. 21 Savage) or the features are just weak and left me expecting so much more like Drunk (feat. 6LACK). However, Dangerous (feat. Kid Cudi) is still one of my favourite tracks on the project. I think his more introspective songs like that and Black Folk are the highlights of the album and provide some seriously redeeming qualities. Aside from that, 5200 and Numb Numb Juice are also great examples of Q’s talent, showing that he can definitely do more on his own than with features. ScHoolboy Q’s verses throughout are really commendable and his emotions come through each track as he changes flow effortlessly throughout.
Waiting 3 years for CrasH Talk definitely left fans with high expectations coming off the back of the Blank Face LP. Unfortunately the wait was met with what feels like a forced commercial album with really only two songs that will be put in my weekly rotation. While I do commend Q for experimenting with his sound, I’m hoping the criticism he’s received on this album will help him bounce back with another project as strong as his previous ones. Fingers crossed it doesn’t take 3 years either but I do understand that with the passing of Mac Miller and Nipsey Hussle, he had to postpone his work to properly cope with the loss of two of his peers.
This study is an edited version of my Personal Interest Project that I completed during my senior high school year that investigated Hip-Hop as a medium for minority groups. If you’re interested in seeing more like this, follow The 2Thousand.
In 2017, Hip-Hop/R&B exceeded Rock for the first time, becoming responsible for 25.1% of music consumption in the United States (McIntyre, 2017). Fusing elements of jazz, blues and dance music, the genre began in the 1970’s and enabled the African-American community to respond to the systemic silencing by institutional powers including the government (Deshazier, 2017). Over time, Hip-Hop has come to serve as a reflection and embodiment of environments and social realities in a globalised world. Upon personal reflection, the impact of the music on my identity became evident and prompted the direction of the research to examine Hip-Hop as a medium of social change (Personal Reflection, 2017). Through investigating Hip-Hop as a social commentary, the hypothesis denotes that Hip-Hop has and continues to benefit social change for minority groups. The globalisation of Hip-Hop in different environments and societies have created sub-genres that adopted the genre’s social activism, allowing change upon societal beliefs and values.
As Hip-Hop lyrics are the social commentary that this Personal Interest Project (PIP) investigates, content analysis was chosen as a primary research method to identify how an artist’s ethnicity, approach and choice of platform varies the impact the song can have within society. A questionnaire investigated the public perception of Hip-Hop, gaining qualitative and quantitative data from sixty-two respondents of differing genders, ethnicities and generational cohorts. Personal reflection provided original and contemporary insight on Hip-Hop’s growing popularity and influence within Australian society from my own meso level experiences as a Hip-Hop artist. Secondary research gained insight into the media’s perception of Hip-Hop’s social commentary and contribution to the social inclusion of minority groups. Genius.com provided detailed analysis of lyrical content to deconstruct the message in the songs and remove bias from and validating the content analysis (Genius.com, 2018).
The research examines generations as the cross cultural component,
exploring the generational response to Hip-Hop as a social commentary on a
micro, meso and macro level. Ethnicity was explored as an additional cross
cultural component, investigating how the globalisation of the genre has
allowed for differing ethnic groups to use Hip-Hop as a medium of social commentary.
The continuity and change aspect was incorporated throughout by investigating
the influence of technology on changes within Hip-Hop and society over time;
and the continuation of Hip-Hop’s social commentary. Completing this PIP
allowed further exploration of the role of macro institutions and artists in
their ability to influence change on meso and micro levels of society. In a
changing global world, the role of music in commentating on social issues has
been paramount. Addressing these issues and the societal change the commentary
can have, enhances social and cultural literacy and creates greater awareness
within society and culture.
CHAPTER 1: DEFINING HIP-HOP AS A MEDIUM
“Hip-Hop is inherently political; the language is political. It uses language as a weapon — not a weapon to violate or not a weapon to offend, but a weapon that pushes the envelope that provokes people, makes people think.” – Dr. Todd Boyd (Simons, 2003).
Hip-Hop derived from the influx of Caribbean migrants in the 1960’s and politically driven gang culture in the Bronx during the 1970’s. Pinpointing the exact origin of rap is dependent on when one acknowledges a particular cultural expression or product as rap but one event that is collectively agreed to be a significant contribution to Hip-Hop’s origins, is DJ Kool Herc’s 1973 back-to-school ‘bloc party’ (Dyson, 2004). Hip-Hop’s beginnings unified many of New York’s minorities and created interracial harmony on a meso level before becoming a global commodity that allows for the expression of different standards of life. Globalisation and technological developments contributed to the marketing, accessibility and creation of Hip-Hop music present within society (Kopycinski, 2017). A minority group can be defined as a group of people with common characteristics which distinguish them from the majority of the population (International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioural Sciences, 2001). While Hip-Hop music began as an outlet for the African-American and Latino community, it has now evolved across generations, gaining a global audience and providing a social commentary for minority groups of differing ethnicities and sexual orientations.
The commercialisation of Hip-Hop culture and paraphernalia led to the globalisation of the genre which, over time, introduced various sub-genres and artists that adapted Hip-Hop’s self-expressive nature. Due to the differing environments and contextual social issues, the themes discussed within the lyrical content of Hip-Hop have expanded. During the mid 1970s and early 1980s, Hip-Hop represented an alternate form of social recognition and status for African-American and Latino youth and was a vehicle for collective uplift and social critique of policies and politics that disadvantage minority groups (Petchauer, 2011). Primary questionnaire results indicated, 92% of participants supported that the themes of Hip-Hop have changed since its birth 40 years ago with 40% indicating the themes have become less meaningful, focusing on money, drug abuse and sexually charged themes. 38% of the aforementioned 40%, identified as female from either Generation X, Y or Baby Boomers stating there is an “under representation of [female] artists” in a genre that “conveys sexist and misogynistic ideas of women” (Primary Questionnaire, 2018). This indicates the negative perception of Hip-Hop from females of older generations and the change in perception over time to Generation Z. These changes may have occurred from the commercialisation of Hip-Hop music for profit, shifting societal expectations, artists’ attitudes, or a combination of this (Basham, 2015). Nevertheless, 89% of questionnaire participants agreed that Hip-Hop positively contributes to social change, with one respondent identifying the continuity of this throughout time, “Hip-Hop has always been a platform for minorities to express and raise awareness to social issues within their society.” A member of every generation, aside from Baby Boomers, selected that they strongly agree that Hip-Hop positively contributes to societal change. Though Hip-Hop was birthed around the 1970’s, its dominance within mainstream society became prevalent in the 1990’s, therefore Baby Boomers may be unfamiliar to the genre. Another participant detailed that despite the evolution of Hip-Hop, “there is one commonality throughout time, the struggle faced by groups in society”, further explaining that “it’s just what that struggle is has changed as society has changed.”This refers to the changing of themes that generationally mirror the cultural and social issues to incite and continue conversation for different minority groups of a particular time and environment (Primary Questionnaire, 2018).
The continuity of
explicit themes in contemporary Hip-Hop, has created a stigma surrounding the
genre’s impact on society, powered by the media’s portrayal of Hip-Hop. 61% of
questionnaire participants claimed that the media portrays Hip-Hop negatively,
with respondents stating that it is “heavily
stereotyped within society” and described “as a bad influence on the youth.” Although, 35% of participants
expanded on their response, with a Generation Z respondent expressing that the
media is becoming increasingly
receptive as a result of the genres increased discussion of social issues and
the inclusion of featured Hip-Hop artists in Pop music (Primary Questionnaire,
2018). This indicates the rapidly changing media portrayal of Hip-Hop in recent
times and suggests that while the media has the power to influence persons
perception of Hip-Hop, the intention of the music may not be met due to
generational differences in understanding the music’s purpose. The growing influence of social media
within Western society has consequently contributed to the media’s portrayal of
Hip-Hop. Similarly, both social media and Hip-Hop possess the ability to create
fast-paced change by breaking down social and racial barriers (Simmons, 2010).
While 68% of questionnaire participants selected ‘yes’ as to whether they
frequently listen to Hip-Hop, 79% of all respondents identified as being within
the Generation Z cohort. As the questionnaire was predominantly distributed
online, the results signify the prevalence of Hip-Hop and social media in the
socialisation and the positive perception of Hip-Hop by Generation Z that
reflects the constructive impact that Hip-Hop can make within youth culture and
wider society (Primary Questionnaire, 2018).
Changing themes in the lyrical content of Hip-Hop have altered
as an outcome of the diversity of artists within the genre and the changing and
evolving issues within society. Recently, there has been a developing
discussion of the LGBTQIA+ community within Hip-Hop through artists like
Macklemore, who was frequently named as an artist who comments on social change
(Primary Questionnaire, 2018). The conversation of discrimination towards the
LGBTQIA+ community has used Hip-Hop as the medium to advocate for social change
in the acceptance of LGBTQIA+ community, targets Hip-Hop’s core audience of the
youth and distributes the artist’s message on an international stage (Personal Reflection, 2017). This demonstrates the change
across generations, commentating on the social issues of the time and
environment. Contributing to this, communication technologies have increased
the marketing of Hip-Hop through social media, the accessibility to music
through streaming services and allowed artists to add powerful visuals through
music videos, televised performances and cover artwork to further support the
artist’s political and social messages (Vella, 2016).
In response to Hip-Hop’s success in the mainstream media, television shows such as the Late Night Show withDavid Letterman have given artists a platform to further the impact of Hip-Hop as a medium. J. Cole’s performance of Be Free in 2014, a year where Letterman achieved 2.8 million total viewers, enabled Cole to send a political message about the police brutality in the U.S.A. on a platform outside of his demographic, allowing him to reach a larger audience and increase Hip-Hop’s the potential impact (Nielsen, 2014). The aforementioned majority of Hip-Hop listeners belonging to Generation Z are also recorded to watch the smallest amount of live television (Primary Questionnaire, 2018; Nusca, 2009). Therefore, the use of Hip-Hop is a powerful medium, but even more so when utilised with a platform outside of the Hip-Hop culture, such as television.
A more contemporary example of Hip-Hop utilising television can be seen during the 2018 BET Awards where Meek Mill delivered his first performance, Stay Woke, since being released from jail earlier that month. During the performance, Meek Mill discussed police brutality and violence within the African-American community alongside moving visuals of a Philadelphia neighbourhood, where a young girl is shot by police officers (Yoo, & Wicks, 2018). Furthermore, Meek Mill wore custom paraphernalia associated with the deaths of XXXTentacion and Jimmy Wopo, both rappers who were shot and killed that week. Communication technologies can assist the impact that Hip-Hop can have for minority groups by providing the opportunity to depict visual representations of social issues, on a macro platform, with a demographic outside of the usual Hip-Hop listener.
Hip-Hop has always by virtue of its creation or by purposeful choice, included social and political messages (Rocha, 2017). Hip-Hop has become the most popular genre in the worldfrom its growing popularity and online culture created through social media, allowing the social commentary to have a larger impact on society. As society and communication technologies progress, the approach of Hip-Hop artist change to benefit the influence of Hip-Hop in creating social change. Although, the chosen approach can influence its impact and the success of the social change created. The variations of artist’s discussion of social issues can be attributed to the genre’s globalisation allowing for the birth of sub-genres; and technological advancements that have evolved marketing techniques, created further artistic expression and allowed artists to reach a larger demographic.
CHAPTER 2: RAP LYRICS AS SOCIAL COMMENTARY
Rap’s reign in popular music culture is more than just commercial. Its style and cadences are everywhere in new music (Guan, 2017). As Hip-Hop music is near inescapable in contemporary society, artists have utilised their power in popular culture to create change like never before. While 50% of Generation Z participants concluded that the themes of Hip-Hop have become less meaningful, this may only refer to the commercial rap that today’s mainstream society is exposed to (Primary Questionnaire, 2018). This has expanded due to the increase in advertisement through online media platforms. Peter Rosenberg, a prominent Hip-Hop radio DJ, argued that “If you hate today’s commercial Hip-Hop, fine, but guess what? We don’t remember the 80’s and 90’s for Ice Ice Baby and Bust a Move. We remember it for Fight the Power and Protect Ya Neck.” Today’s criticism on rap as a result of commercialisation, should not detract from the impact the Hip-Hop has as a social commentary (Rosenberg, 2018).
The art resists the overarching themes of racial discrimination inherent in American popular culture and affirms the racial status quo while simultaneously offering alternate perspectives (Ogbar, 2007). Although, the impact that Hip-Hop as a social commentary has on creating change is dependent upon an artist’s ethnicity, gender, approach, choice of platform and the society and culture in which the social commentary is being made. Content analysis of the lyrics within White Privilege IIby Macklemore and Kendrick Lamar’s album,To Pimp a Butterfly (TPAB), investigated how Hip-Hop artists differently discuss racism and how this is received within society (Content Analysis, 2018). The continuity of social issues such as racism have remained prominent throughout rap lyrics, as evident in 27 questionnaire participants who answered “racism” as a social issue discussed within Hip-Hop (Primary Questionnaire, 2018). This highlights the awareness of racism being discussed in American Hip-Hop that is transferable to the societal issues within Australia, however, it is arguable that people are not socially aware of the contextual racism within Australia.
Kendrick Lamar, an African-American contemporary rapper, was referred to by 38% of respondents, as an artist who discusses social change (Primary Questionnaire, 2018). TPAB, released in 2015, explores the trials and tribulations of an African-American man in modern America through the metaphorical growth from a caterpillar to cocoon, to butterfly (Molina, 2016). In The Blacker the Berry, Lamar deals with racialised self-hatred and directly targets American society, questioning the place of African-Americans within modern America. Qualitative analysis of the lyrics within the content analysis, Lamar refers to himself as a “proud monkey,” highlighting a racial slur and appropriating the term as a means of empowerment. Furthermore, analysis of Lamar’s lyrics suggests an accusation towards American culture of “hate” towards his ethnicity and attempting to “terminate the [African-American] culture” (Content Analysis, 2018).
Lamar’s aggressive delivery and language is used to create a social commentary that demands change, highlighting the negative history between African-Americans and American society and culture. Contrary to the content analysis findings, Marshell (2018) suggests that mainstream American society has accepted “black excellence” in popular culture through the representation of minority groups within the entertainment industry that allows for greater representation. Additionally, the article argues that awards such as the Pulitzer Prize do not “legitimate him [Kendrick], his work, or his art form,” but more so demonstrates the macro acknowledgement of Hip-Hop as a medium for minority groups to create a social commentary (Marshell, 2018).
TPAB was a beautiful reflection of Lamar and others circumstances. Understanding the socio-political climate of the time, amidst the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, Lamar delivered a work that deeply resonated with his audience (Singleton, 2015). Diversifying his approach throughout the album, Lamar’s Alright, became an anthem for BLM activists and was used to demonstrate the collective identity of the minority group (King, 2016). The authenticity of Lamar’s adolescence, being raised in Compton, California, where 96.6% of the population are of African-American and Latino descent, allows listeners of the minority group to connect with him through the racial injustice faced (Statistical Atlas, 2015). Listeners could feel the authenticity of Lamar, as he demanded societal justice and equality, through the varying artistic approaches that were symbolic of the minority groups relationship with America. The macro acceptance of TPAB is evident in the album’s eleven Grammy nominations, the most nominations for a rapper in a year (Fallon, 2016). This encompasses the institutional recognition of TPAB’s impact as a contemporary album that authenticates the impact that rap lyrics can have as a social commentary to promote change. The meso recognition of Kendrick Lamar as a socially conscious artist is evident across generations with 32% of Generation Z, 30% of Generation X and 38% of Generation Y identifying him as an artist who discusses social change (Primary Questionnaire, 2018). Persons environment and society can impact on the change an individual can make over time. In contrast to Lamar’s impact and positively received approach to racism within modern America, Macklemore, a Caucasian Hip-Hop artist has been criticised for his own discussion.
The historical relationship between Caucasians and Hip-Hop is a
complicated one, stemming from the historical appropriation of African art
(Ogbar, 2007). Featured on his album This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, Macklemore’s
White Privilege II provides a unique perspective on supporting a
movement and protesting to something he, as a Caucasian male with white
privilege, has never experienced (Genius, 2016). Macklemore acknowledges the
criticism he has received in the lyric “you’ve exploited and stolen the
music … the culture was never yours to make better,” demonstrating his
understanding of cultural appropriation of African-American culture through his
Hip-Hop career. Although Macklemore’s White Privilege II was poorly
received within the Hip-Hop community, his Same Love song resonated with
the social climate of the time and gained international acclaim as an LGBTQIA+
rights anthem from people inside and out of the Hip-Hop community.
Same Love by Macklemore discussed the same-sex issue within America and was
released during the campaign to legalise same-sex marriage in Washington State.
Despite the rarity of the issue being discussed, and Macklemore’s
heterosexuality, he reflects on his own opinions and experiences with the idea
of non-heterosexual sexuality. Macklemore discusses the homophobic nature of
Hip-Hop and the role that communication technologies, specifically YouTube,
plays within the continuation of this. In the lyric, “our culture founded
from oppression, yet we don’t have acceptance for ‘em,” Macklemore
acknowledges Hip-Hop’s origins and challenges the social exclusion faced by
LGBTQIA+ community despite the genre being created as a social inclusion for
other minority groups such as African-Americans. As Macklemore digresses, he
explains that the use of technology and the online culture has perpetuated
homophobia through the use of term ‘gay’ in a negative connotation (Content
Analysis, 2018). Same Love received a Grammy nomination for Song of the Year,
demonstrating its critical acclaim from macro institutions and its
acknowledgement as a socio-political statement. Reaching the Top 100 charts in
over eighteen countries, specifically reaching Platinum five times and a peak
position of number one in Australia. The success of Same Love can be
attributed to the unique themes of marriage equality within the song which are
uncommon within Hip-Hop. The success of this song and the contextual events
that occurred after, reflect that Hip-Hop is an ever dynamic force with
potential for social change (Ogbar, 2017). In reflecting the song’s success and
its creation of further conversation of same-sex marriage, over fifteen
countries have since legalised marriage equality, demonstrating the macro
change of evolving inclusivity by governments (Winsor, 2017).
Australia have particularly embraced the song and the social inclusion of the LGBTQIA+ community on a macro level. The amendment to the Marriage Act 1961 to include the “union of 2 people” demonstrates a change in societal values, and the role of Hip-Hop in generating this change (Australian Government, 2017). Macklemore performed as the pre-match performance for the 2017 National Rugby League (NRL) Grand Final and exhibited the macro power of Hip-Hop music. A large debate arose behind the controversy of mixing sports and politics, with former Prime Minister Tony Abbott posting to Twitter demanding Macklemore’s Same Love not to be played at the Grand Final (Anonymous, 2017). Contrastingly, specific radio stations such as 2GB and 3AW refused to broadcast Macklemore’s performance in support of Tony Abbott’s statement that “footy fans shouldn’t be subjected to a politicised grand final” (Carmody, 2017). This macro rejection was challenged by the NRL’s demonstration of social inclusion and acceptance by continuing to televise Macklemore’s performance. Acceptance on a meso level is evident with the song reaching a number 1 position on the iTunes chart days prior to the Grand Final, 6 years after the song’s initial release. Through globalisation, local Hip-Hop scenes have developed in many countries which has created social commentary surrounding the countries own minority groups and social issues (Errey, 2017). Though Australia specifically has had only a short 20-year history of Hip-Hop, its impact upon the Australian culture has been significant, glocalising the genre to provide applicable social commentary to their social and cultural context.
CHAPTER 3: AUSTRALIA’S ADAPTION OF THE GENRE
Hip-Hop’s social critique and protests roots have now globalised across the world, allowing artists to provide thought provoking and articulate responses to the social issues of their society and culture. Australia particularly, has birthed a subculture to powerfully commentate on the socio-political climate of the culture and time. Australian Hip-Hop began during the 1990’s in the Western Sydney Suburbs, an area traditionally regarded as working class, underprivileged and crime-ridden, with a large proportion of immigrant inhabitants (Mitchell, 1998). Richard Guillatt (1994) suggested that the Australian youth was being subjected to “an unstoppable geyser of American pop culture” which threatened the hard-won Australian cultural identity (as cited in Mitchell, 1998). This is reinforced by the 67% of respondents who answered ‘no’ to whether they listened to Australian Hip-Hop and the 53% who were unable to list themes discussed with the sub-genre. Across generations, Generation Z consumed the largest amount of Australian Hip-Hop, with 38% of Generation Z participants responding ‘yes’ along with 25% of Generation X respondents (Primary Questionnaire, 2018). While the Americanisation of Hip-Hop culture has arguably lessened the authenticity of Australian youth identity, it is an inevitable by-product of Hip-Hop’s globalisation.
While Hip-Hop has brought American
culture further into the Australian society, Australian artists have
capitalised on the genre by using their power to discuss Australia’s contextual
social issues. A common topic discussed within Australian Hip-Hop is the
prejudice and discrimination faced by Indigenous Australians (Primary
Questionnaire, 2018). Australian rappers Briggs and Trials recently
collaborated as A.B. Original, to deliver what they describe as Australia’s “N.W.A. moment.” Referring to the
political American rap groups, N.W.A and Public Enemy and their overtly
political tracks F**k Tha Police and Fight the Power, Briggs further explains
the only reason they could make this album now was because “Australia didn’t have its Public Enemy.” Believing Hip-Hop to be a
perfect modern vehicle for Indigenous Australia’s tradition of oral history,
A.B. Original’s song January 26
intended to revamp the conversation of the Australia Day date (Stafford, 2017).
This indicates the difference in cultural environments and development of
Hip-Hop’s ability to commentate on social issues, although similar themes of
discrimination and racism can be correlated between the two societies.
Many Australians perceive Australia Day,
held annually on January 26, as a chance to celebrate the country’s culture but
for Indigenous Australians, the day represents the genocide of Indigenous
people and their culture (Westcott, 2018). In A.B. Original’s January 26,Trials raps “F**k celebrating
days made of misery. White Aus, still got the black history.” Referring the
continual rejection from the macro institution, the government, to change the
Australia Day date to be inclusive with the identity of Australia’s
multicultural society (Content Analysis, 2018). The song’s impact, representing
Hip-Hop’s ability to provide social commentary, is evident in Triple J’s
changing of the Hottest 100. Amidst
the 2017 debate over the Australia Day date, Triple J announced the official
moving of the Hottest 100 from
January 26th to the following day. Triple J stated that their
decision to change the date was to maintain inclusivity and ensure the
countdown could be enjoyed by everyone listening in Australia and around the
world (Sargeant, 2017). Additionally, the city of Fremantle shifted their
Australia Day celebrations to January 28 in the same week that A.B. Original’s
album Reclaim Australia was released,
further demonstrating Hip-Hop’s ability to provide social commentary and
although it arguably did not directly create the macro change, it undeniably
contributed to the conversation (Cheer, & Kallios, 2017).
Mirroring the African-American use of the genre, Indigenous Australians also use Hip-Hop as empowerment by providing a macro platform to continue their Indigenous culture in contemporary society. In doing so, Hip-Hop has created an inclusive social environment for people in which they use to create a social inclusion for their ethnicity’s culture within society. Arnhem Land rapper, Baker Boy, demonstrates the extent of Hip-Hop’s globalisation across the world and can relate to the struggles discussed within Hip-Hop (Howie, 2017). In an NT news interview, he pointed out similarities between the life portrayed by his Hip-Hop idols and his own, Baker Boy argues “there was a lack of communication, a lack of education and also less opportunities” (as cited in Howie, 2017). Baker Boy’s success can be attributed to his involvement with Indigenous Hip-Hop Projects, a program visiting young Indigenous people in remote, regional and urban communities to deliver Hip-Hop performances and workshops that promote relevant campaign messages (Indigenous Hip-Hop Projects, 2018). This demonstrates societal change and the increase of opportunities on a meso level for Indigenous Australians through the use of Hip-Hop. Baker Boy gained significant exposure from the Triple J Indigenous Unearthed High Initiative, a competition for the Best Indigenous High School act. While not explicitly limited to Hip-Hop, the competition is a macro recognition of Indigenous talent and enables Baker Boy to educate Australia on the adversity faced throughout his Indigenous heritage (Watt, 2017).
As societies change over time, so do the
technologies that assist with this change. Within Hip-Hop culture, the spread
of cultural identity has been aided by technologies signaling a shift in
society. Baker Boy’s uncle, said that his nephew “was achieving things they’d only dreamed of back in the community –
this is the late 80’s,” explaining the growth of Hip-Hop and its ability to
spread Indigenous Australian culture through the use of communication
technologies, something that was not accessible to previous generations (Vanovac,
2018). Communication technologies within contemporary society has allowed macro
institutions such as the media to report on current affairs faster than ever
before. In doing so, the socio-political climate of today is increasingly discussed
and prevalent in multiple facets of society. As a result, the globalisation of
Hip-Hop through technology has enabled artists to use the genre as an outlet
for artistic expression and to convey their political beliefs and values. In
support of this, 96.4% of questionnaire respondents believed that technology
has assisted in creating social change for minority groups which indicates a
commonality among generations regarding the use of technology for the benefit
of social change (Primary Questionnaire, 2018). Hip-Hop allows for an
individual’s cultural identity to be strongly expressed throughout their music,
that can explore issues within the individual’s society and environment (Personal
Reflection, 2017). Baker Boy expresses his strong cultural identity by
incorporating English and his native Yolngu Matha tongue in his rapping.
Blending both his Australian and Indigenous culture throughout his music,
continuing the Indigenous culture in the rapidly changing society (Watt, 2018).
Australia’s multicultural society is home to a diversity of ethnicities, that display their cultural identity through several facets of their environment and society. Though Hip-Hop is a relatively new genre within Australia, minority groups have used it as a powerful medium to create a social commentary on the social issues regarding the relationship between minority groups and Australia. Australian society has responded positively to the change that Hip-Hop artists are creating, evident through the changes in society on a macro level that has inevitably created discussion on the meso and micro levels. In recent years, Hip-Hop has created a significant change within Australia such as revamping the debate of January 26. Its impact is probable to continue in relevance of the socio-political climate of Australia with the up and coming generation of social activists and artists who maintain their strong cultural identity to empower and continue the culture of specific minority groups.
The research undertaken successfully proved the hypothesis that Hip-Hop is a powerful medium as a social commentary for minority groups. My PIP explored how Hip-Hop has been used across generations and ethnicities as a vehicle of social change and how the genre will continue to be utilised. I learnt the significance of the music for minority groups is larger than a commodity, but instead an essential platform to continue their culture and provide a macro voice to discuss contextual social issues. Communication technologies share a similar ability to Hip-Hop, in relation to providing a contemporary social commentary and I found that combing the two mediums allowed today’s generation of artists to reach a larger audience and deliver visuals that parallel the music.
The research tools I used effectively accomplished primary data from a variety of genders, generations and ethnicities that were able to efficiently be triangulated with secondary sources. By correlating the findings of my primary and secondary data, my hypothesis was validated that Hip-Hop is an effective medium as a social commentary for minority groups. Striving to achieve a larger sample size for my questionnaire would further validate the hypothesis. Questionnaire participant’s identity remained anonymous to adhere to ethical research practices. I found it interesting within the responses the acceptance of Hip-Hop on a meso level across generations which was different to my initial thought. Personal reflection highlighted my interest in the topic and whilst it could not comment on the usefulness of Hip-Hop for minority groups, it could examine Hip-Hop as a form of expression and social commentary. Additionally, content analysis correlated with secondary research assisted in analysing the lyrical content and the social commentary being provided within Hip-Hop and removed bias from my findings.
Wide reading of secondary sources in the initial stage of the PIP journey provided a richer understanding of my research’s direction enabling me to create a more definitive hypothesis earlier in the process. The PIP experience established the significance of organisational skills and weekly excerised my abilities as a researcher, thereby enhancing my social and cultural literacy as I frequently synthesised primary and secondary research to present the influence of Hip-Hop as a social commentary. A greater understanding of Hip-Hop’s ability to bridge social gaps within society and generate discussion surrounding the prevalence of social issues that affect the macro, meso and micro environments allowed me as a researcher to enhance my social and cultural literacy skills. The topic of research was chosen out of an longstanding admiration for Hip-Hop and its thought provoking power. Throughout the PIP journey, my respect and appreciation for Hip-Hop only increased as I began to further understand the potential societal impact that the music can have through changes that are occurring within society, as a result of Hip-Hop as a medium for minority groups.
Dyson, M. E. (2004). The
Michael Eric Dyson Reader. New York, United States of America: Basic
Ogbar, J. (2007). Hip-Hop Revolution: The Culture and Politics of Rap. Kansas, United States of America: University Press of Kansas.S
Mitchell, T. (1998, March).
Australian hip hop as a ‘glocal’ subculture. Paper presented at the Ultimo
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One of UK’s finest Loyle Carner has returned with his second album, the beautifully vulnerable Not Waving, But Drowning. His debut album, Yesterday’s Gone, was a candid entrance exploring his upbringing in South London and introducing us to his youthful and melancholy bravado. However this time round, Not Waving, But Drowning portrays his not so straightforward growth into adulthood through a more optimistic and mature, laid-back jazz aesthetic.
The song’s opening track, Dear Jean, is an emotional letter to his mother as he moves out of home and moves in with his girlfriend. It establishes what the whole album is really about, him showing appreciation to the people closest to him – his mother, his girlfriend, his late father and his close friend and collaborator, Rebel Kleff. The album has a noticeably succinct sound compared to his previous work although this has its own pro’s and con’s. While it helped him create a more whole project, I found myself getting lost into the soulful chill vibe of the album but with Yesterday’s Gone, it had a more playful and somewhat triumphant feel to it. Although, we do see glimpses of this in tracks like Ice Water and You Don’t Know (feat. Kiko Bun & Rebel Kleff. The two singles, Ottolenghi (feat. Jordon Rakei) and Loose Ends (feat. Jorja Smith), remain my favourite from the album however Still and Krispy were also huge standouts.
Krispy is an open track about his relationship with Rebel Kleff from childhood friends to nothing more than business partners. This song gave some of the album’s most frank lyrics, such as “Give a f*ck about money or an e-track, I just want my G back”, and ended with a pensive flugelhorn solo, replacing the Rebel Kleff verse after he didn’t turn up to contribute to the recording. I would say the biggest disappointment from album is Desoleil (feat. Sampha) but only because I think they could create some truly incredible tracks together. I just felt that it was lacklustre and drearily dragged out for longer than it should’ve.
It’s hard to not talk about every track, as I found Caluccio and Angel (feat. Tom Misch) really enjoyable but in the hopes to keep this concise, there’s only one track I wish to discuss further. The closing poem by Loyle Carner’s mum Jean is titled Dear Ben and is a heartfelt response to the opening track. The captivating imagery is placed over the top of her late husband’s unreleased work – a theme that was present on Loyle Carner’s previous album too – and slowly closes the album with the end line“For I’ve gained a daughter, I’ve not lost a son.”
Truly another beautiful album from UK’s confessional Loyle Carner.