Never had I stopped and thought about why it is that I find myself watching shows more than once, or listening to the a group of songs in a cyclical pattern. After listening to this podcast, I strongly believe that I have been in a cultural rut for the past 3 years. As I write this post, I’m listening to Joey Bada$$’ Summer Knights; an album that has been in my music library for 3 years and that I’ve only recently begun listening to again. It’s my favorite rap album to date, which is definitely a reason why I keep coming back to it; however, I also think this happens because I have a hard time finding new music that I like. The main aspect of rap that attracts me is the instrumentals; I love a good lyricist, but I live for the songs with a great use of instruments, computer generated or not. I’d like to believe a lot of the music out there sucks, but in reality I think I’m horrible at being open minded about the music that makes it into my library. If the instrumental doesn’t make my head move to the rhythm, I usually skip it immediately, especially if it sounds anything like the new rap that relies on heavy bass and unintelligible lyrics.
I have decided to listen to the EP “You are Forgiven” by MadeinTYO because it falls under the category of trap, a branch of hip-hop that I pretty much despise. I believe most of the songs that fall in this category all sound the same; heavy bass to make the room shake, and lyrics that share a large number of “buzz” words to make it sound “badass” and “gangster”. While I could rock my head to some of the beats, the music is too upbeat and shallow for my liking. Most artists in the trap music industry rap about how they make a lot of money, are better than everyone else, get all the bitches, and all the drugs they consume.
The first time I listened to it, I did so with the intention of analyzing the beats. I wanted to note the range of diversity in the beats throughout the EP, since I only ever notice the heavy bass in this kind of music. I did hear some interesting use of string instruments in songs like Uber Everywhere, but the heavy bass drowned it to where it was barely audible. I could see this song being something that can be played in a party setting where high energy is needed. The song Kelly Rowland also featured a funny use of computer-generated sounds; they reminded me of some 80’s video game sounds. However, the heavy bass persisted and drowned all the other sounds that the beats were comprised of. As for the lyricism, it was just as egotistic and plain as I expected it to be, not much to analyze. Overall, I know I won’t be listening to this album with the intention of enjoying the music anytime soon. I don’t think the music is bad, I just prefer chill music with a great story and diverse range in instrumentals.
A big thing I believe this particular album appeals to, just as much of trap hip-hop does, the fact that guys need to get all the girls to earn status and never show some emotional attachment to them. Raymond Williams would say this is part of our generation’s “structure of feeling”. According to Williams, it is “the culture of a period” (Williams, 1961). He also mentions that this structure of feeling is most noticeable in the arts of the period, which makes sense since the mass media is meant to appeal to the values shared by the masses. Trap hip-hop songs share motifs of vanity, sexism, drug abuse, and money. This is something that is huge in today’s hip-hop industry; countless music videos portray women as sexual objects, rappers surrounded by expensive jewelry and cars, and drug consumption as the best way to enjoy life. The hood aspect of hip-hop has remained, but the hood is now all about who the alpha male is and how well he can show off to others. Hip-hop used to be music for the people who grew up in the hood, it would tell stories of a rapper’s hardships and the lessons they learned that helped them get where they were. Nowadays, hip-hop has hit an all-time high commercially and it is showing.
The commercial aspect is definitely prominent in the beat making. “You are Forgiven” had the same basic beat elements: heavy bass, high tempo high-hats, and a lot of auto tuned voices. The heavy bass contributes immensely to the high energy; after that, the high hats keep the tempo upbeat. A relatively simple method of beat making ensures that record companies can produce high volumes of music in a short period, thus increasing their profits.
Williams, R. (1961). The long revolution. London: Chatto & Windus, p. 37.