Really, no matter who you are, you have to admit that the rap industry is unique. Kenny Chesney doesn't go on MTV and tell people about how Garth Brooks shot him in the chest. It just doesn't happen, and that's why I'm intrigued by rap, and as of late have even taken to occasionally listening to it. Here are the lessons I have learned; may they be a guiding light in your own pitiful existence:

Lesson One: If you don't like someone, it's acceptable to kick in their bedroom door, shoot them repeatedly, and watch their wife cry.

That's what DMX taught me through his heart-touching lyrics. Rap's all about ego, and when someone steps on yours, you don't necessarily have to go about rectifying that through legal means. Seriously, DMX is out there. He's walking around on the street somewhere. Does that not scare you? 50 Cent, rap sellout of the century, whines constantly about how he was shot 9 times, and he's fine. Ja Rule is also into capping people he doesn't like, too, from what I hear. It's just the accepted way of the streets, and, in fact, earning a few bullet wounds is usually seen as an admirable thing. Rappers don't die easily (much to my annoyance), and if you can show people how hardcore you are by pointing to the 9mm rounds that are still implanted in your ankle, girls will put on bikinis and strip in your music videos. I've heard they'll even let you kiss them, but only if you take them out for a nice dinner first.

There seems to be a corrolation between how easy it is for you to kill people and how popular you'll eventually become as a rapper. You can take the easy route and lay down a rhyme about riding in your lowered car with some strippers, but about halfway through your second verse the guy rapping about back-alley drug deals is going to pull up beside you and end the song with a clip of ammunition. They'll call it business, and the kids on TRL will love them for it.

Lesson Two: If you're white, stick to your designated musical genres.

I don't care who you are; if you've never experienced a gang fight, you probably shouldn't be rapping about it.

This mentality sums up most of the problems with the industry's lesser-known white rappers. The most notorious of white rappers, Eminem, may have some clever lyrics, but at some point he's required as an artist to grow. There are only so many songs you can put out about how you're a rebel, and how you hate your mother. Seriously, I got all this out of my system when I was in elementary school while watching The Wonder Years.

A secondary issue with white rap is that is usually takes on the form of rap-core, bad rock mixed with bad rap. Take Fred Durst, for instance, who writes incredible lines like, "Watcha gonna do? Rap is not afraid of you!" To directly address the Limp Bizkit front man: Honestly, Fred, nobody meant to start anything with rap. Please don't get defensive about this. There's no reason to harbor a grudge or anything, and I'm not even sure where this aggression is coming from. Besides, rap may not be afraid of your listeners, but you know who's not afraid of you? Bluegrass. Snap.

I'm extremely hesitant to toss Linkin Park into this classification, but since they claim to be a hip-hop/rock collaboration, I suppose they brought it on themselves.

Linkin Park does for angst what Stonehenge does for rocks. Their blazingly hot mixture of overdriven distortion, power chords, and stellar vocals creates a listening experience that can only be reproduced by driving a truckload of dairy cows into a low-rider blaring Ludacris's "Move" with the bass turned up to a bone-jarring level. Chester's songs look like something copy/pasted from a Geocities site constructed by an angry 8th grader who listens to too much Korn but in reality has really pleasant, supportive parents, teachers that care about his future, and friends that he can rely on. It's the reason Linkin Park has a feverish cult of 14 year old fans, all of whom really feel like they can relate on an equal level. Because they can. Chester Bennington's stone cold stare seems to scream into the camera, "Hey, I'm going to hit you, as soon as I adjust my wire-frame glasses. Yeah, I borrowed them from Rivers Cuomo."

Lesson Three: Musical talent is a luxury, not a necessity.

Most rappers don't understand anything about music. They know that they can say things on beat and that their producers will use computers to make other sounds, and if they put all of that together on a CD, people will buy it, they'll get money, and if they're lucky, they'll get to co-star in a martial arts movie as the edgy, witty, slightly-sarcastic sidekick that can hold his own in a fight, but still needs to get bailed out by the hero pretty often.

Blackalicious is where it's at. Those guys have an actual band, and have a real love for wordplay. It's the only rap I can say I've ever fully enjoyed. Give most rappers a guitarist, though, and they'll just ask him how to get the guns out from the inside the guitar case.

This node has been reproduced on by the same author, and is not plaigarized.

Yes, I see the humor in this node, and yes I understand that it isn't intended to be taken as a serious commentary on rap music or the industry, however, I thought I'd lend some perspective.

Although it's quite easy to view the entirety of popular music and culture through the filter of MTV (and VH1 or E! when Celebrity Deathmatch re-runs are on again), you're really only seeing a tiny fraction (and the worst fraction, at that) of the entire spectrum of life out there. If 50 Cent represented the forefront of hip-hop music today, I would readily concede that "Most rappers don't understand anything about music"; if Eminem was the most innovative rapper out there, I'd cave in to the mantra: "If you're white, stick to your designated musical genres." However, that simply isn't the case.

Underneath the apparently creatively inept rap mainstream is a thriving underground scene that produces art on par with its non-rap counterparts. The issue here isn't the musical style, it's the portion of it that is getting exposure. Pop, rock, country, jazz, and every other type of music have examples of mysoginistic, trite, sappy, violent, insincere lyrics. It's an institutional problem that stems from the fact that the average listener merely cares for a catchy melody or sample, not a lyrical depth bordering on literature. Eminem, 50 Cent, and DMX aren't products of rap music, they're products of the music industry. They know what sells, and that's what they deliver.

Just as Blink 182, Sum 41, and Good Charlotte misrepresent punk music, so do the above mentioned rap "artists" merely share a passing sonic resemblance with good hip-hop. The best of the genre is deeply entrenched in the underground scene, performing at small clubs, putting out cheap CDs, and setting the examples that the mainstream can then defile in the name of airplay and record sales. Artists like Sage Francis, Atmosphere, Del the Funky Homosapien, Aceyalone, Eyedea, Sole, The Roots, and countless others are making records far exceeding the quality of anything you'll see on MTV, rap or otherwise.

No way of playing music has an intrinsic moral bent or artistic value. Every new genre has had its puritanical naysayers and its bandwagon hoppers, but neither would be possible if there wasn't an underlying quality to it. Hip-hop is just a newer way of getting across the same feelings for which mere words will never suffice. We can stereotype and dogmatize until we convince ourselves that what we enjoy is the only "real" music, but that will only serve to impair us until even our internal arguments are falling on deaf ears. I dare anyone who believes the "bitches, guns, and bling bling" myth to actually listen to one of the artists I mentioned. I promise, there is good rap out there. Even if you're not an immediate convert, it might shed some light on the issue.

For more on the subject see: Hip-hop quadrant system

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